US Commercial Airline Carriers - Travel Apps & Mobility Readiness

This week I examined the mobile readiness of apps developed by the major US carriers. Below is a table outlying their mobile readiness, as well as availability and ratings across the major mobile device categories available.

App Landing Page Responsive Web Mobile Web iPhone iPad Android Windows Phone Blackberry
American Airlines No Yes  ★★★
(5K+)
 Compatible ★★
(3K+)
★★★
(200+)
n/a
United Airlines No Yes  ★★★
(1K+)
 Compatible ★★★★
(3K+)
★★★★½
(3K+)
★★★
(41)
Fly Delta No Yes ★★★½
(4K+)
★★½
(766)
★★★½
(5K+)
★★½
(819)
★★
(377)
US Airways No Yes ★★★
(98)
Compatible ★★★★
(64)
n/a n/a
JetBlue No Yes ★★½
(979)
Compatible ★★★★
(698)
n/a n/a
SouhtWest Airlines No Yes ★★★
(27K+)
Compatible ★★★★
(5K+)
n/a ★★
(123)

Next, I dove a level deeper to examine the core features supported by each airline on their primary mobile apps.

Feature American United Delta US Airways JetBlue SouthWest
Book Flights
Check In
Flight Status Push Notifications    
Flight Status and Schedules  
Rewards Enrollment          
Rewards Status
Standby List Monitor        
Flight Details      
E-Boarding Pass  
Airport Locator          
Terminal Maps      
Parking Reminder        
Club Locations      
Club Passes          
Games          
In Flight Entertainment Guide        
Alternate Flight Options        
Social Media Integration      
Purchase Trip Extras        
Manage Travel Preferences          
Passbook Integration      
Checked Bag Tracking          
Seat Change          
Public Transit Details          
Weather Information        
In-flight Tracker          
Fleet Info          
Partner Info          
News          
City Guides          
Misc. Fun          
Fare Alerts           ✔ (iPhone)
Car Reservations          

So, what are the conclusions if any that we can draw from this?  Here are a few that stood out to me:

  • The most glaring gap currently seems to be that none of the major US carriers have responsive web sites. As the device ecosystem continues to fragment, and with the current state of the sites built for mobile (click on any of links under the mobile web column in the first table), responsive web design will become a standard sooner rather than later.
  • Features matter, but its important to understand which features truly matter to the customer. Delta for example has the most features of any carrier, but their apps are not rated much higher than that of the other airlines. In fact none of their apps are rated 4-star or higher, even though they have the widest set of features, and provide them most device compatibility.
  • Apps are an extension of your brand. SouthWest does the best job of this - they are a no-frills airline, and their apps are relatively no-frills as well. Similarly JetBlue has a fun playful image, and some of the app features they provide (e.g., City Guides, ability to create custom post cards, etc.) help drive that brand image.
  • Delta and American aside, none of the other major carriers have made any significant effort to consider the possibilities of developing native apps for the iPad. There is some significant opportunity here, given the different form factors that the carriers might be missing out on.
  • Except for United, all other airlines have created landing pages for their mobile apps. As the number of apps and mobile devices supported continue to increase, I think this will become almost a necessity, as app discovery on both iTunes and Google Play can be a huge challenge in its own right.
  • The most obvious observation of all - Windows Phone and Blackberry remain at best a marginal consideration. American Airlines in fact discontinued support of their blackberry application.  

In my view, airlines are in the 3rd inning of the evolution from web to mobile - they have gone past very rudimentary mobile web, built apps, and are now starting to pack on features. The next step would be to step away from features for a bit, assess and enhance overall user experience, and then move towards some more innovative applications of mobile.

Next week we will look at what some of the major international carriers are doing with mobile.