Mobile platforms 'ideally placed to facilitate loyalty programmes' for airlines, but wide variation in adoption means airlines need to adapt strategies

15 November, 2018

There is an increasing focus among technology providers on the mobile platform. This week, Travelport revealed that mobile devices are as vital for travel as for other aspects of life in its 2018 Global Digital Traveller Research.


  • Travelport has revealed in its 2018 Global Digital Traveller Research that mobile devices are as vital for travel as for other aspects of personal and business life;
  • On a global scale almost half of the 16,000 travellers surveyed have booked and paid for an entire or part of a trip online through their smartphone;
  • But wide variations in preferences between consumers means travel brands must "adapt their mobile strategies," says CarTrawler, CTO, Bobby Healy.

According to the respondents to its survey, the top three most important features identified by leisure travellers in their travel apps are the ability to search and book flights, being able to see an entire trip itinerary in one place and real-time flight alerts throughout the journey, while business travellers also want to be able to make hotel and car bookings.

On a global scale almost half of the 16,000 travellers surveyed have booked and paid for an entire or part of a trip online through their smartphone, but China takes this to another level with close to 100% of survey participants booking and paying for travel through their mobile phone. China also has the most consolidated app experience available, says Travelport, with WeChat acting as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Venmo, Skype and Slack rolled into one, meaning for increased mobile engagement.

CarTrawler, chief technology officer, Bobby Healy believes the mobile platform is a personalised device that is "ideally placed to facilitate loyalty programmes" and the centre of changes in distributing travel is the digitisation of loyalty programmes. He says apps are capable of providing a better user experience and have access to new features such as push notifications and location-based alerts. These aspects play into the functionality aspect, which is "of paramount importance to today's customers who expect a seamless, multi-device service".

Mr Healy states that linking ancillary services with the loyalty status of a customer means travel brands can more easily personalise ancillary products and ultimately reward loyal customers. In order to do this, travel brands are "increasingly leveraging their own customer data to develop ever more sophisticated means of serving and rewarding them" says Mr Healy.

But, the wide variations in preferences between consumers in different markets means it is "important that travel brands adapt their mobile strategies to reflect the variety and differences between geographic regions," says Mr Healy. Mobile app development for smartphone platforms is a "standard strategy" for most North American, Asian and European carriers, but according to CarTrawler, the Asia Pacific region leads the way in mobile payments with 53% of connected consumers using their mobiles to pay for goods or services. This is a long way ahead of Europe (35%) and North America (33%).

Things are different in the African market, where credit card penetration is low and a number of African airlines have responded to this by accepting advanced mobile money solutions as a form of payment. Meanwhile, in Latin America, the technology adopting millennial age group is driving the trend of mobile payment adoption.

But, while Asia Pacific leads in adoption of mobile payments, CarTrawler says apps from airlines in the region are failing to capitalise on the mobile interface. It cites research from Videc, examining 51 Android-based airline apps, which found that 98% of apps from Asia Pacific airlines have an in-app search function that routes to an external browser that mimics the desktop purchase flow, rather than capitalising on the mobile interface. "Companies need to commit to fundamental change across their entire business model. It is crucially important for them to think about mobile very differently," says Mr Healy.

He says the travel industry is "embarrassingly behind" in developing mobile merchandising solutions and notes that while most travel brands provide basic services such as mobile check-in, digital boarding passes and itinerary management there is "huge scope for improvement" to deliver personalised merchandising techniques and journey-centric interfaces to travellers.