BA has had a torrid year, but new mobile services suggest the flag carrier’s digital marketing team has its eye on the ball
In recent years the British Airways brand has become most readily associated with strikes, snow and ash crises, and financial hardship. But the past week has reminded us of the airline’s pedigree in innovation.
Yesterday BA showed journalists around a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at the Farnborough airshow. It has ordered 24 of these revolutionary – and relatively environmentally friendly – aircraft for its long-haul fleet by 2012.
And on Monday July 19 BA begins rolling out a new generation of mobile applications, including a mobile phone boarding pass, something which could eventually improve the airport experience for us all.
To be fair, some other airlines have already introduced this techonology. In the US, Delta experimented with PDA-friendly boarding passes as far back as April last year, while in Europe Air France and Lufthansa are among the carriers to have adopted variations.
However BA has gone further: incorporating the pass into broader mobile applications that also work across BlackBerry and Android devices. Its software geeks have come up with cross-platform apps that also provide travellers with real-time flight information, which – in the case of BlackBerry – even integrate with the device’s calendar.
BA may not always be first with new technology, but as head of digital marketing Chris Davies pointed out, their focus is on ‘simplicity and ease of access’, which for me is the best kind of marketing innovation.
The problem the airline faces is trying to keep such services in line with other crucial cogs in the clunky airport wheel, such as BAA’s information systems and security staff.
You can just imagine happily strolling up the departures zone with your shiny iPhone, only for the security guard to say, ‘Sorry mate, my scanner isn’t working with those BA mobile passes. You’re going to have to queue up at that check-in desk.’
Equally, unless you have total trust in the local mobile network delivering efficiently-updated flight information to your phone, you would be unwise to organise your day around it.
But if these innovations can work, they could result in a much better airport experience, cutting the queues and delays which take the fun out of travelling in the 21st Century.
BA says its iPhone boarding pass will be ready for all domestic destinations by the end of August, and for most short haul routes within six months. By the end of next year almost all long-haul destinations may be on board.
According to the latest forecasts one billion of us are expected to browse the mobile web by 2015, potentially revolutionising air travel at the same time. Airlines are already developing technology that could enable your phone to track – via radio-enabled luggage tags – the exact progress of your bags during the journey.
But, thinking about it, knowing exactly what happens to my luggage during a long-haul journey might actually add stress to the whole experience. In some situations (wireless) ignorance may be bliss.