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American Airlines elevates in-flight experience via iPad app

American Airlines is building engagement into its in-flight Wi-Fi with an iPad application that integrates with the airline’s loyalty program and mobile gaming.

The American Airlines iOS app has been redesigned for a tablet format and is available for free download from Apple’s App Store. Additionally, American Airlines has upgraded its iPhone and iPod touch apps to include more loyalty features.

“The main strategy for developing mobile apps is to provide real-time information for our customers,” said Phil Easter, director of mobile apps at American Airlines, Dallas, TX.

“We had a tablet app but it was not optimized for a truly rich experience,” he said. “We went back to the drawing board to figure out how the tablet is different from the smartphone.”

“Tablets are more immersive and used for exploring, which gives you a palette for interactive gaming.”

In-flight companion
Via the American Airlines iPad app, consumers can view information about their travel itineraries, including seat changes, boarding passes and flight information.

The app also serves as a virtual hub of a user’s account. For example, consumers can view graphs of how many miles they have earned and how close they are to reaching the elite traveler status.

Consumers can also pull up a digital boarding pass to streamline the traveling process.

A map feature lets consumers pinpoint two locations in the world to view flight schedules.

In addition to the basics of travel management, American Airlines is positioning its iPad app with a trivia game to entertain travelers.

The Know It All game lets consumers answer trivia questions and compete with other passengers over Wi-Fi while flying. The game can also be played when consumers are not traveling.

American Airlines claims that 91 percent of planes will be equipped with Wi-Fi by the end of the year. By the end of 2013, 97 percent of flights will offer Wi-Fi.

The trivia game ties into American Airlines’ social media efforts. Each user who “Likes” the brand’s Facebook page will be registered to win a weekly sweepstakes for 100,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Consumers who have registered to play Know It All will be featured on American Airlines’ Facebook page on a weekly basis. The player with the highest weekly score will earn one extra entry in the sweepstakes.

The bulk of airlines nowadays offer mobile services for booking and managing the traveling experience but few have tapped into how to integrate mobile into the in-flight experience.

On board with loyalty
American Airlines has also updated its iPhone and iPod touch app to include integration into Apple’s Passbook.

Users can now store their boarding passes to Passbook, which is location-sensitive and lets consumers quickly access their travel information.

Additionally, the app now uses location to help consumers find nearby stores where they can earn AAdvantage miles.

American Airlines also has apps available for Android and Windows Phone 7 devices as well as a mobile site.

When it comes to Android tablets, the market is still fragmented with lots of devices, meaning that American Airlines is waiting to develop an Android tablet-specific strategy once the space is a bit more condensed.

“Lots of users share anxiety about traveling and by giving them information at all points of the the travel journey, the better we will see mobile being used,” Mr. Easter said.

“We will start seeing more unique experiences within in-flight services with data,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York