Mobiles could save airlines £300m per year

Airlines should invest in technology to offset the financial impact of rising oil prices, research from an airline industry body has said.

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Airlines should invest in technology to offset the financial impact of rising oil prices, research from an airline industry body has said.

Software can deliver substantial savings to the airline industry in fuel costs alone by optimising routes, while mobile phones have the potential to save the airline industry £300m a year in dealing with and reducing flight delays, research from airline IT provider SITA and Cambridge University has claimed.

The study showed that technology such as location sensing via mobile devices could be used to track passengers or inform them of gate changes or flight delays. Mobile phones could also be used to store boarding passes, baggage tracking information and payment data, making travel truly paperless and location independent, said the research.

By using mobile phones, the number of flights delayed because of late boarding passengers will be vastly reduced, saving the industry around £300m a year, SITA said.

"Our research shows that these mobile services will be available to all travellers worldwide over the next five years. In fact, by the end of 2010, 67 percent of airlines plan to offer mobile check-in. By then 82 percent of airlines also plan to offer notification services on mobiles," said Jim Peters, chief technology officer at SITA.

Online sales and increased use of Web 2.0 technologies can also deliver savings to the industry, said Sita chairman and British Airways chief information officer, Paul Coby.

"In these challenging times with oil at over $130 (£75) a barrel, there is now an even more urgent need to deploy technology to serve airline customers, save costs and to equip airline staff with effective technology to do their jobs better.”

"The adoption of the new generation Web 2.0 technology can deliver greater sales and greater savings across the industry, and better returns from the $11bn (£5.5bn) invested annually.”

Francesco Violante, SITA's chief executive officer, added: "The air transport industry needs to embrace these disruptive technologies. The rewards will be at the bottom line with improved turnaround time, increased levels of self-service and new revenue streams."

According to SITA, the main drivers for IT investment cited by survey respondents were reducing costs, 62%; improving customer service, 54%; enabling new market offerings and revenue opportunities, 45%; and improving workforce productivity, 40%.

Top investment areas included passenger processing and services, 63%; aircraft management /operations, 44%; passenger security, 34%; and employee security, 21%.

The majority of airlines expect to have deployed onboard communciatiosn services such as SMS via mobile phone; GPRS for Blackberry; Voice calls via mobile phone; Internet access via laptop; email access via laptop; and IM via laptop, within threeto four years.