Mobile start ups ‘bigger concern’ for BA than airline rivals

British Airways is more concerned about start-ups such as Worldmate and TripIt than mobile developments from its airline competitors.

Addressing the Travel Technology Initiative’s Mobile Update, Chris Carmichael, head of and mobile innovation, said rival airlines and other travel companies were a challenge but that the itinerary planning services were of ‘bigger concern’.

“My customers are giving them all their information. There is a group of companies that now know more about our customers than any one of us. What is the opportunity for them to intermediate or start selling them alternatives? It is something we all have to be aware of.”

Carmichael added that the industry needed to watch out for Apple’s iTravel initiative which, if it gets through the patent process, could provide iPhone users with a range of travel booking services and Google’s much rumoured purchase of ITA.

Other challenges for the airline when it comes to mobile include the huge diversification in the applications market which now includes separate stores for Blackberry, Nokia, Apple and Android.

“There’s a difference between mobile web and apps. There are methods, tools and ways of building a website, without the bells and whistles, to get to a site that kind of works with a lot of phones. When you get into apps it starts to get really difficult. It’s more of usability issue. The usability and experience for the Blackberry, Nokia or iPhone user is very different.”

Carmichael also described mobile as a bigger market for it than Germany, Italy or France.“If it was a country it would be our third largest,” he said.

The BA iPhone application, launched in 2008, has now been downloaded more than 500,000 times.

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