International Airline Carriers - Travel Apps & Mobility Readiness

Last week I examined the mobile readiness of apps developed by the 6 largest US airline carriers. This week I did the same with popular international carriers. Below is a table outlining their mobile readiness, as well as availability on and ratings across the major mobile device platforms available.

App Landing Page Responsive Web Mobile Web iPhone iPad Android Windows Phone Blackberry
British Airways No No  ★★★
 Compatible ★★★½
Virgin Atlantic No Yes  ★★½
 Compatible n/a n/a n/a
Air France No Yes ★★½
Compatible ★★★½
Lufthansa No Yes ★★★½
Singapore Airlines No Yes ★★
Compatible ★★★½
n/a n/a
Cathay Pacific No Yes ★★★
n/a ★★½
Emirates No Yes n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a

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

Feature British Virgin Air France Lufthansa Singapore Air Cathay Pacific
Book Flights   ✔ (iOS)
Check In
Flight Status Push Notifications          
Flight Status and Schedules
Multi-Passenger Check In          
Rewards Status  
Flight Details        
E-Boarding Pass    
In Flight Service Guide          
Alternate Flight Options          
Social Media Integration        
Passbook Integration          
Seat Change          
Weather Information          
In-flight Tracker          
City Guides          
Misc. Fun        
Fare Alerts/Offers          
Upgrade Offers        
Personal Travel Details          
My Trips  
Redemption Bookings          
World Wide Office Directory          
SMS Customer Service          
Virtual Club Tours          
Crew Profiles          
Multi-language support Y (25) N Y (11) Y (12) Y (10) Y (2 partial)

Similar to some observations made in last weeks post, a few things in particular stood out:

  • Like their US counterparts, none of the major international carriers have responsive web sites. As pointed out last week, with the device ecosystem continuing to fragment, and with the current state of the sites built for mobile (again equally as unimpressive as their US counterparts), responsive web design will become a standard sooner rather than later.
  • Apps are an extension of your brand, but they have to have a minimum feature set to be useful. Virgin Atlantic has arguably the most fun brand of any major airline worldwide, and while it delivers on the fun aspect of things, it does little else that can be deemed useful. Not surprisingly, their iPhone app is rated poorly and has attracted some very harsh reviews on iTunes. What is surprising though is that they are the only major carrier that we looked at that has built an app for iOS, but not for Android.
  • Unsurprisingly, unlike their US counterparts, the apps of most major international airlines support multiple languages, with British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines all supporting at least 10 different languages. 
  • Unlike their US counterparts, most international airlines continue to build and support Blackberry apps - this makes sense given that Blackberry's international sales have been their own really bright spot over the last half dozen years. That said, none of the airlines' Blackberry apps have stellar ratings. 
  • Again like their US counterparts, only a minority of the international airlines that we looked at (namely Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific) have tried to take advantage of the larger form-factor afforded by the iPad and built a native app for it. There could be some significant opportunities here that the airlines might be missing out on.
  • The most obvious observation of all: Emirates, which has consistently been considered amongst the three best airlines in the world, does not yet have a mobile app! 

In my view, like their US counterparts, popular international airlines are in the 3rd inning of their evolution to mobile - they too have gone past very rudimentary mobile web sites, 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. One example of this is Singapore Airlines doing something very interesting in combining customer service with mobile via. something called PPS connect  (now integrated into their mobile apps). Essentially with PPS connect, customers when traveling internationally, can send an SMS to Singapore Airlines' customer service, who will then call you back within 30 minutes of receiving the SMS. I think the future for providing these type of superior customer service interactions integrated into your mobile app experience offers some very exciting opportunities for the airline industry.