Smart Airline Apps Need Smart Databases

By Hélène Dubos | Technology

Mar 25
Airline app

Smart database, the secret to success when building airline apps

Did you know that more than 70% of airline passengers use airline apps to book flights, gather information, store real-time boarding passes and make ancillary purchases? An airline’s app is an incredibly powerful marketing tool and allows you to create a direct link with customers. In a world where airlines must compete ever harder for revenue and where online ticket agents are many customers’ first choice when booking flights, having the kind of direct connection with passengers that apps provide is invaluable.

However, while most airlines today have some kind of app offers, it is not enough just to provide a tool which is essentially a mobile-based ticket booking platform. If you want that app to be ‘sticky’, for it to be something that your passengers use regularly, it needs to provide real value to them.

So, what’s the secret to success when building airline apps?

While there’s no doubt that market research, testing and an attractive UI are important, the thing that really sets great airline apps apart from the rest is personalization. This is when the app’s content, layout, and services really match up with the end user’s needs. It’s the difference between an app that offers a ticket booking service, and one which is able to alert the user to specific discounts for flights on their regular routes.

Personalization is a complex subject, but at its core is passenger data. For most airlines, that data is held in multiple silos which makes it very hard to use in airline apps. However, this is changing and some airlines are becoming increasingly skilled when it comes to personalization - and their customers are benefitting too.

Read more: Learn about passenger profiling techniques

Let’s look at what the world’s leading airline apps are doing to personalize their offerings and how you can use your existing data to drive personalization and customer value.

Airline apps personalization example

So what would an airline app that was truly personalized look like? Many leading airlines have introduced some personalization features but we are especially impressed by upcoming features of Delta’s airline app that were announced in early 2020.

The app will soon include a range of innovative features that truly take the notion of personalization and run with it. Some of the app’s forthcoming personalization features include:

  • Giving the user real-time travel information about their route to the airport, so they can be aware in advance of any possible traffic delays, train cancellations and similar transport problems that could slow their journey down
  • Stress reduction features. Delta announced that they were working with passengers and employees to use FitBits which would allow them to tell when people were feeling stressed at different stages of the travel experience
  • Biometric identification which could be linked to the app and make boarding and checking in significantly quicker for each customer
  • Managing expectations about turbulence by feeding data about meteorological conditions into airline apps

These are just some of the ways that airline app personalization can materialize - in the future, we can expect innovations in everything from real-time boarding passes to tools for navigating airports and health and wellness information stored in the app.

But, if your airline is to offer this kind of personalized service, one thing will be crucial: data. And, this data should come from 2 sources - your internal systems, and external platforms. Let’s look at each of these factors in turn.

1. Internal data. Turning data silos into rich traveler experiences.

For most airlines, their data legacy systems have grown organically from an inward-facing IT strategy going back 20 years, where databases were created to meet the specific needs of specific teams of people. These silos of data were right when the airline was simply using data as a way to support its operations.

But now that databases are fast becoming the enabler for new services and apps), silos of information can hold an airline back. To be able to create truly personalized airline apps, the aviation industry needs to begin using its data more coherently and comprehensively, and it must find ways of breaking down silos.

This is where solutions like the ConztanzOne data platform can help. As airline IT specialists we have seen how silos of data can limit a company’s potential, so we developed ConztanzOne as a way of gathering data from various existing databases & systems into a centralized asset. The benefits include enabling diverse initiatives like introducing personalization into any digital interfaces, easy enablement of IATA NDC schemes, implementation of accurate and real-time business analytics and driving the next generation of airline apps.

Learn how it works: ConztanzONE platform presentation

2. External Data. Developing a personalization mindset with APIs

Airline apps have the potential to transform from useful to compelling when they expand beyond the core business of the airline and extend their functionality to what the traveler does before and after the flight.

So the latest generation of apps, such as those from Delta as described above, include managing parking at your home airport through to getting a Lyft ride at your destination airport. That extends the airline brand experience on each side of the actual flight and makes your app an authentic ‘go-to’ for the customer.

We’ve dedicated a blog post to the subject of How An API Strategy Can Revolutionize Airlines & Airports, but the bottom line is that airlines who want to move their app to the center of their marketing need to give customers a wider experience and, ideally, monetize that experience. Hotel bookings, multimodal travel, shopping experiences, airport maps for navigating airports, real-time boarding pass features, entertainment - these are all part of the wider travel experience.

When airline apps expand to incorporate these additional features they become significantly more personalized and much more useful to the end passenger too. And, the more useful an app is, the more likely that passenger is to use it to pay for products, flights and extra services.

To be radical, airlines could even re-think the core flight as merely being the trigger for all the other experiences a traveler will have. And as the flight is the likely the first component of a journey that the traveler will book, that gives airlines a potential head start in booking the other components too.

But, to do so, airlines will have to acquire adequate and powerful technological means to intelligently collect and use those external data sources. Developers will face the challenge of correlating external data (such as geographic location) and internal data (such as progression through the sale cycle) in order to display only relevant information.

A logical way to enable this is by developing APIs, even for internal databases. The airline then has a flying start if it chooses to share those APIs with other players in the value chain at a subsequent stage.

As a specialist in data management for airlines, Conztanz can help airlines to commoditize their data.

Deep dive into personalization: Read about Travel Data Agility Platforms

Airline apps are evolving - are you ready?

As the example of Delta shows, the world’s leading carriers are investing heavily in next-generation airline apps which offer incredible levels of personalization. While catching up may at first appear challenging, the good news is that many airlines already have the most important ingredient for creating personalized apps - customer data. As long as you are able to bring that data out of silos - and use APIs to connect it with external data and tools, creating cutting edge airline apps is totally feasible. To begin your journey, talk to Conztanz about our experience helping airlines personalize their apps today.