Airlines increase IT spending to mobilise and socialise their business

Half of the world's top airlines are spending more this year on IT and telecoms, according to the annual SITA/Airline Business Airline IT Trends Survey.

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As for increased spending on mobile services, the focus in on mobile check-in, flight status notifications and electronic boarding passes. Airlines anticipate that by 2014, 15 percent of all passengers will use mobile phones to check-in.

The survey found that 85 percent of airlines either already sell (33 percent) or plan to sell (52 percent) tickets through mobile phones by 2014.

Check-in area kiosks and social networks are also joining mobile phones as important emerging sales channels, with 70 percent of airlines already selling or planning to sell tickets through kiosks and social networks by 2014.

At present, 19 percent sell tickets through kiosks, and 16 percent through social networks.

At the SITA Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels it was revealed that KLM has employed 23 dedicated social media staff at its hub at Schipol Airport to address the tweets and Facebook mutterings of its customers.

Christoph Klingenberg, CIO at Lufthansa Passage, said at the conference: "Airlines that are spending more on IT are more productive than those that are spending less."

However, airlines were warned that it wasn't just a case of throwing IT money at the business to improve it. Nawal Taneja, professor emeritus at the department of aviation at Ohio State University, said, "Airlines have to do things from the point of view of their customers, not their own.

"They have to change their culture, satisfying safety and on-time performance demands is a given, it's what they do above that that counts."

Taneja said airlines had to do more to satisfy the personal demands of their customers and that they could do that through social networks and using their company data to build systems that could truly predict business outcomes from operational events.

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