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Airlines Missing the Boat on Mobile Travel Purchases

Less than half of travelers make travel purchases using mobile devices . / Credit: Flight information display image via Shutterstock

Searching online with mobile devices for flights, hotels and ground transportation is second nature for travelers now. But they draw the line at making travel purchases using their mobile devices. Security is not the issue, however. Rather, issues with usability, type and timing of services presented, and underwhelming functionality are what hold travelers back from making mobile purchases, new research shows.

Less than half of travelers are making their travel purchases using mobile devices, according to research into the mobile purchasing behavior of more than 3,000 travelers conducted by FlightView, a day-of-travel information provider.

Nearly 93 percent of respondents used their smartphone to search for travel-related services such as flights, hotels and ground transportation in the last 12 months, FlightView found. However, of the 88.7 percent who searched for flights, only 36.5 percent actually booked them using 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 when booking.

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," said Mike Benjamin, CEO of FlightView. "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.”

FlightView’s research shows 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, including purchasing in-flight Wi-Fi, upgrading to a seat with extra leg room, upgrading to a business or first-class ticket and purchasing early boarding privileges.

"Traveler adoption of the mobile channel is nearly complete — now, the airline industry needs to focus on converting use into revenue," Benjamin said. "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."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.Follow us @BNDarticlesFacebook or Google+. This story was originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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