Apple app threatens to put ‘gateway’ between airlines and passengers

Apple Passbook, a forthcoming app for iPhones announced this month, threatens to put “a gateway” between airlines and air passengers, says a leading industry analyst.

Travel research analyst Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, told the Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels: “If passengers use Passbook you will have to deal with Apple and pay Apple.”

Harteveldt warned: “Apple could become a gateway between airlines and customers.”

Apple announced the new app for its iOS6 operating system on June 11, with the launch to come later this year. Passbook will allow users to store tickets, boarding passes and loyalty cards on their iPhone.

When checking in for a flight, users will be able to select Passbook as an option for delivery of their boarding pass. It will then appear automatically at the airport.

Harteveldt said: “Apple is giving you [the airlines] a crack [cocaine] deal. Look at the music business and iTunes. Do you want Apple to have that control over your passengers?

He added: “My concern is not Passbook the product. It is the relationship between airlines and their customers.”

Francesco Violante, chief executive of aviation IT group SITA, said: “How can we stop Apple doing that? We can’t control everything.”

Virgin Atlantic director of IT David Bulman told the conference: “Apple may start taking parts of our relationship away, but we have to make sure we keep our data.”

SITA chief technology officer Jim Peters said: “Not everything Apple does is successful, but a lot is. If Passbook succeeds, a significant number of users will be using it very quickly.”

However, Peters suggested Apple is more interested in enabling transactions via iPhones through near-field communication (NFC) technology and its iWallet app.

Peters said: “There is a lot of debate about whether NFC will take off, but it is coming. By the end of the year a majority of smart phones will have NFC, allowing credit card transactions. The banking industry will lead on this and we have to follow.”

He said: “It is iWallet Apple is after, not iTravel [Apple’s iPhone travel app] – though Apple has patents on both.”

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