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2 May, 2013

Survey Identifies Hurdles to Making Travel Purchases from Mobile Devices


BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–April 29, 2013  – Travelers are regularly searching for flights, hotels and ground transportation using mobile devices, yet less than half are making mobile purchases.

New research from FlightView digs into the mobile purchasing behavior of 3,186 travelers, revealing the shocker: more than 80 percent of respondents say concerns about mobile security and transaction interruptions no longer stop them from making travel purchases. Instead, issues with usability, type and timing of services presented, and underwhelming functionality are what hold travelers back from making mobile purchases.

“Traveler adoption of the mobile channel is nearly complete – now the airline industry needs to focus on converting use into revenue,” said Mike Benjamin, CEO of FlightView, the day-of-travel information company. “Our research shows that airlines are not yet effectively monetizing mobile solutions. The carriers that figure out how to do this first will have a major leg up on the competition.”

Bridging the Usability Gap – Converting Mobile Search to Mobile Purchase

Nearly 93 percent of respondents used their smartphone to search for travel-related services like flights, hotels and ground transportation in the last 12 months. However, of the 88.7 percent who searched for flights, only 36.5 percent actually booked with their smartphone. When asked what holds them back, more than half of respondents (52 percent) said it is too hard to enter all of the required information on small devices, and 55 percent responded that they would rather use a laptop or desktop.

Tablets fared better than smartphones as a point-of-sale for tickets, but not by much: 62 percent of travelers have searched for flights on their tablet over the past 12 months, and 49.3 percent actually purchased a ticket.

“Mobile has many inherent benefits – but also many basic limitations like screen size and the lack of a keyboard. Surprisingly, it’s these elements that are driving consumers back to their laptops and desktops, and forcing them to make costly calls to customer service – not mobile security concerns,” said Benjamin. “The key to driving mobile sales is improving information architecture and navigation across multiple pages and determining what information can be stored in user profiles to avoid re-entering it with each purchase.”

Driving Ancillary Revenue: What Services to Offer and When

FlightView’s research unveils that airlines have a major opportunity to drive more ancillary revenue by pushing service and upgrade offers to travelers on the day of travel. But few airlines are doing this effectively. Only 28.8 percent of travelers have purchased an upgrade or add-on via an airline’s mobile app or mobile website in the past 12 months. More than 80 percent of respondents, however, cited at least one upgrade they would consider purchasing if the airline pushed the offer to their mobile device before they boarded the plane:

  • 58.7% would consider purchasing in-flight WiFi.
  • 54.3% would consider upgrading to a seat with extra leg room.
  • 41.8% would consider upgrading to a business- or first-class ticket.
  • 40.1% would consider purchasing early boarding privileges.

According to FlightView, ancillary offers can be push to travelers via mobile devices as early as 12 – 24 hours before their flight takes off – the timeframe when the majority of flyers (51 percent) first check their flight status on a mobile device.

Travelers Crave New and Improved Mobile Functionality from Airports, Airlines

While day-of-travel mobile adoption has soared, travelers – and the people picking them up – still have a big appetite for new, innovative airline and airport mobile app capabilities. When asked which non-traditional airline or airport mobile app and website capabilities would be of interest:

  • 67.9 percent of travelers would value visual tracking of their plane’s location when it’s not yet on the jetway.
  • 65.6 percent want real-time alerts on special airport conditions like parking lot closings and emergency announcements.
  • 44.6 percent desire GPS walking directions for inside the airport.
  • 36.5 percent want insight into restaurant and activity offers for their destination.
  • 31.7 percent crave the ability to order food from terminal restaurants and have it delivered to them before they board the plane.

While airlines have made great strides to improve the overall usability and functionality of their apps, 45.3 percent of travelers are still underwhelmed:

  • 48.1% are most dissatisfied with the usability.
  • 28.9% are frustrated with inaccurate or slow flight information.
  • 22.9% want more functionality.

Another mobile capability that airlines need to improve: making it easier – and for some airlines, possible – to rebook flights via mobile apps. When a traveler needs to rebook a flight at the last minute, 45.8 percent still prefer to call customer service, compared to only 28.8 percent that prefer using a mobile device. About 25 percent still turn to a desktop or laptop.

“Mobile as a point-of-sale has the potential to be an industry game-changer, and the roadblocks to consumer adoption are now clear,” said Benjamin. “Airlines and travel providers that are able to navigate these preferences will create a customer experience that finally converts mobile searching into mobile revenue.”

For more of FlightView’s survey findings, visit FlightViewFromtheSky.com:

FlightView’s survey includes responses from 3,186 travelers. The survey was pushed to users of FlightView’s Android and iPhone flight-tracking app, and launched and completed in March 2013.

To learn more, please visit FlightView.com.