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American Airlines lets travelers book flights via mobile app

American Airlines flyers can now complete virtually every step in the travel planning process from booking to boarding using an application.

The iPhone application lets consumers purchase tickets, check-in for flights and generate mobile boarding passes all from their phone. Users can log in to their accounts on AAdvantage, the airline’s customer loyalty program, and keep track of their flight status information in real time.

 “Our customers by nature are mobile and a smartphone is one of the common travel tools,” said Billy Sanez, director of advertising, promotions and corporate communications at American Airlines, Fort Worth, TX. “From their feedback, we developed this first app, and will continue to develop more applications that give customers access to their flight information, AAdvantage miles data and other relevant information that they need.”

American Airlines previously launched a mobile Web site with much of the same functionality. This is the company’s first mobile application.

How it works
The American Airlines application is available for free in Apple’s App Store.

After launching the application, a message pops up prompting users to log-in to their AAdvantage accounts.

From the home page, users can click-through to most of the application’s features and complete a number of actions:

• Book new flights

• View flight reservations and check-in to flights

• View flight schedules

• Check that status of their flight by plugging in departure and destination locations or flight number

• Enroll in the AAdvantage customer loyalty program

• Play American Airlines-branded Sudoku while they wait for their flights to board

Here is a screen grab of the flight-booking feature:

The application’s flight-booking process uses the same WAP infrastructure as American Airlines’ mobile Web site.

Users enter departure and destination locations, and are able to sort results by price or schedule.

They can then click on drop-down menus to set the desired dates and times for departure and return flights, as well as the number of tickets desired and cabin preferences.

A tool bar at the bottom of the application lets users toggle between the home page, personalized flight information, AAdvantage account information, flight status information and a number of other features, accessible from a “More” tab.

Here is a screen grab of some of the additional features offered in the application:

The flight status feature lets users plug in departure and destination locations or flight numbers to find relevant information about their travel plans.

From individual flight pages, users can view the departure and arrival terminals, scheduled take off and landing times, and options to create notifications delivered via text, voice or email message.

Users can also customize the notifications to be sent upon departure, arrival or both, and designate that messages be sent different amounts of time in advance.

Mobile tools for customer services
Demand for mobile travel solutions is surging.

600,000 mobile boarding passes were sent out in 2009, a 1,200 percent increase over the previous year, according to Trinity Mobile (see story).

And, airlines are also looking to boost customer relations efforts via handhelds, as British Airways did with a mobile coupon initiative (see story).

American Airlines is cognizant of the growth of mobile as a customer service tool, and plans to refine and expands its mobile offerings in the future, beginning with an iPhone application to be released in coming weeks.

“Mobile technology will be key to great customer service in the future,” Mr. Sanez said. “Mobile technologies will empower our passengers and employees to be able to have a great experience when traveling.”

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York