Is It Takeoff Time for Airlines and Mobile? - eMarketer

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Is It Takeoff Time for Airlines and Mobile?

Mobile boarding passes expected to take flight, but airline-related smartphone usage still low

March 20, 2015

The airline industry is working toward making the flying experience more mobile. In estimates released earlier this month, Juniper Research forecast that 1.50 billion boarding passes worldwide would be delivered via mobile phones in 2019—vs. about 750 million in 2015—putting mobile’s share of airline-issued boarding passes at one in three that year.

Number of Airline Boarding Passes Delivered Worldwide via Mobile Phone, 2015 & 2019 (billions)

Growing usage of mobile boarding passes among airlines is in line with this. According to SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques) figures cited by Juniper, 91% of airlines were expected to offer mobile boarding passes by 2017, compared with 53% this year.

While February 2015 research by Harris Interactive for Switchfly found that 27% of US smartphone users had used their phones to store boarding passes and confirmation emails, results also indicated that airlines had a long way to go in establishing their mobile presence. Just 13% of respondents had booked air travel on their smartphones. In comparison, more than one-fifth had locked in a hotel room on such devices.

Travel-Related Services that US Smartphone Owners Have Booked via Smartphone, Feb 2015 (% of respondents)

Nearly half of millennial smartphone owners had made travel purchases and reservations via mobile. When it came to booking flights among this group, 18-to-34-year-old males were nearly 10 percentage points more likely than their female counterparts to book air travel via smartphones, at 24% vs. 15%. Among male and female respondents of all ages, airline app usage was relatively low, at 18% of men and 16% of women.

Airlines are no strangers to digital, though. In fact, according to data released in January 2015 by UBS, the majority of US airline sales come via online channels, at 56.0% this year. UBS forecast that by 2019, digital purchases would account for 61.5% of all airlines sales.

eMarketer estimates that this year, 110.3 million people in the US will book travel online via any device at least once, representing 52.5% of internet users. Meanwhile, US digital travel sales will reach $153.21 billion, up 5.5% year over year.

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