When cellular phones first hit the mainstream, the airline industry maintained a measured distance to keep mobile use at a minimum. Since 1991, the FCC had prohibited cellular use due to concerns that they could interfere with wireless networks on the ground, as well as disrupt Captain to traffic control communication. Passengers were instructed to turn mobile devices on “airplane mode” or even have mobile phones completely powered down for the duration of the flight.
Additionally, customer satisfaction reports showed consistent resistance to cell phone use, given the concern that voice calls may be a nuisance in such small quarters. Yet since the original iPhone release in 2007, cell phone use has dramatically changed, and just this year the ban on mobile use in airplanes has been lifted by regulators. This new freedom provides pilots and airlines the ultimate decision whether or not to allow cellular phone use in-flight.
There are still agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) fighting to bring back the ban on cell phone use in flights, however the forward progress is an indicator that technology may be utilized more in the airline industry. As previously mentioned, the decision to allow cell phone use is currently up to individual airlines, and some are fully embracing new mobile technologies to add convenience for customers as well as efficiency across the board.
Yes, in-flight movie and music entertainment have been around since the VCR. But some airlines are taking in-flight entertainment to the next level, moving beyond in-flight radio and on to mobile apps.
One example is Air France, with their app Air France Music. The app is intended to help flyers discover new music given the region that they travel to. By giving passengers a “sensory” experience, Air France Music provides a unique selection of music onboard with rare and exclusive content from artists all over the world. Touted as helping passengers find, “music in the sky,” users can download and save the new tracks they enjoy to playlists.
However the app isn’t intended only for those flying – users with feet firmly planted on earth can interact with the app as well. Exclusive pieces of music are “hidden in the clouds,” and users can enrich playlists by lifting their mobile device up to the sky. Music notes appear in the app’s tracking screen, and by clicking on the note the user can view the artist, listen to the song, and save it if they wish. Every region from Paris to Tokyo to Buenos Aires have their own tracks, intended to give a nod to the cultural flavor of each region.
Games aren’t just for kids, especially during a long flight. Virgin Airlines’ mobile app comes equipped with many tools most airlines include in mobile apps – check-in capability, flight status updates, and seat selection. However Virgin also offers in-flight entertainment by providing not only destination videos, but 2 video games to play during the flight. Similarly American Airlines is also in the gaming arena, offering a trivia game that passengers can play with each other over the WiFi network in-flight, providing entertainment and engagement with other flyers.
Mobile Boarding Passes
One of the biggest changes in 2014 was the release of mobile boarding passes. As a customer checks in for their flight, they have the option for which kind of boarding pass they would like, either printed, online, or mobile. Those who select mobile no longer need to visit an airport kiosk, agent, or print a pass at home. They simply need to scan the open mobile pass at the gate. Airlines that released this feature this year include US Airways, American Airlines, Southwest, and British Airways as well as several others.
For iOS users the mobile boarding pass brings another convenience. With the latest iOS 6 update Apple released the Passbook, a multi-functional app to store reward coupons, loyalty memberships, gift cards and of course, boarding passes. When checking in for flights and selecting the mobile boarding pass, these passes can be stored in a user’s Passbook for easy retrieval upon arriving at the airport.
Real Time Flight Tracking
Those tasked with picking up a friend at the airport tend to have the concern of flight delays. This concern could be alleviated by calling the airline or checking online to see the status of the specific flight. However new apps are available that not only alert you to whether the flight left on time, but will display real time progress of the aircraft, showing specifically where the plane is in the sky. This is great news for those traveling long distances who may have been slowed by turbulent weather or sped up by tailwinds.
The airline industry has been through a myriad of changes in recent years, and it’s refreshing to see the embrace of mobile apps. In fact this year American Airlines, fresh out of their own mobile app ideas, invited 60 developers to compete at SXSW to create the latest app to be supported by the airline. This demonstrates that the future is bright for those interested in building mobile apps for the airline industry.
Do you have an idea for mobile app development? Let us know and we’ll be happy to help you get started.