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Mobile boarding passes to number 1.5 billion by 2019: report

One-third of airline boarding passes will be delivered via mobile devices by 2019, supporting efforts to drive mobile ticket purchases, according to a new report from Juniper Research.

Juniper Research is predicting that consumers will soon see the evolution of airline ticketing, with mobile becoming a significant channel, as it often acts as both the means used to enter the airport or venue and the payment receipt. The company is predicting that by 2019, more than 1.5 billion boarding passes will be issued via mobile to travelers, as opposed to the 746 million mobile passes expected to be delivered this year.

“Airlines often use their mobile boarding pass facility as a stepping stone to mobile ticket purchase and further mobile service features,” said Nitin Bhas, head of research at Juniper Research, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Britain. “For mobile app-based boarding passes to really fulfill their potential they must be designed totally from the user perspective, rather than adapted from online or mobile Internet incarnations.

“Specifically, arduous sign-up procedures and frequent requests for PINs and passwords can easily damage the user friendliness and ‘turn-off’ a potential customer.”

The move to mobile
Juniper’s research has displayed that more frequent flyers are increasingly turning toward mobile boarding passes, although they are used less often by leisure travelers that may not be as familiar with the technology.

However, according to airline information technology firm SITA, 53 percent of airlines are already integrating mobile boarding passes within their smartphone and tablet applications. The number is projected to reach 91 percent by 2017.

There may be an infrastructure challenge in ensuring that airlines worldwide agree to the new form of boarding passes, and also decide to allocate funds and investment in the venture.

The airline industry in the United States, Europe and Far East is seeing rapid adoption rates, although this means that the transition to contactless NFC will be delayed. Eventually, the industry may get to a point where tickets, identification materials and boarding passes will become entirely instinct, and all pertinent information will be stored on smartphones and read by NFC readers.

Great benefits
Mobile boarding tickets offer fantastic benefits for airlines as well as consumers. While travelers will no longer need to carry print copies of their documents and worry about misplacing or losing them, airlines often tap mobile tickets as a gateway to further mobile service features and additional ticket purchases.

Meanwhile, guests can easily change seats, view up-to-date arrival times, manage booking summaries and more via mobile.

Digital tickets also are a stepping stone to loyalty programs, which all marketers, regardless of sector, must be leveraging to stay competitive.

More airlines are going mobile, with companies such as JetBlue offering customers the ability to purchase onboard snacks and upgrades via payment solution Apple Pay (see story).

“The onus is on marketers to demonstrate the financial benefits – primarily cost savings for organisations when they implement mobile ticketing solutions,” Mr. Bhas said. “The reduced cost of printing tickets, the reduction in staffed ticketing office costs and reduced need for ticket vending machines with their associated maintenance, are 3 areas where savings can be made.

“Marketers also have the opportunity to communicate the value proposition that NFC presents, both in ticketing and elsewhere.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York