August 11, 2011, 3:23 PM

Mobile commerce takes to the skies

New mobile apps will let airline passengers buy more than onboard drinks and snacks.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Airlines will be able to rebrand the mobile commerce app with their logos.

Mobile commerce doesn’t get much more mobile than sitting inside an aluminum tube traveling 33,000 feet above the ground. Realizing that many airline passengers, particularly business travelers, rarely go anywhere without their smartphones, GuestLogix Inc. will introduce a mobile commerce app called OnTouch Mobile Concierge for smartphones and tablets that enables consumers to secure ground transportation and event tickets and buy merchandise selected by an airline.

That will provide a new revenue stream to airlines, as GuestLogix will share an unspecified portion of the revenue generated through the smartphone app and tablet app with airlines that offer its service. In addition to new revenue, the apps also will help reinforce an airline’s brand and encourage customer loyalty, says Brett Proud, executive vice president of new markets and products at GuestLogix, which provides airlines with onboard merchandising services. Airlines working with GuestLogix will make the apps available to their customers in mid-October. 

The apps feature the OnTouch store, access to a travelers’ itinerary, links to information about a traveler’s destination and the ability to personalize the app.

Some consumers will want to make purchases while flying, Proud says. Airlines want a way to get some of that revenue and mobile is one more way, he says.

The apps are an extension of GuestLogix’s existing in-air commerce program. Currently, passengers on select airlines review a product list stuffed into a seat pocket. When a traveler is ready to make a purchase, she calls a flight attendant who records the order on a mobile device. After landing, the attendant processes the order on a web site.

With the mobile apps, the consumer herself shops and places the order in-flight; the order is processed when the consumer reaches her destination and wireless access is regained. Proud says the app will contain a digital wallet to store payment information that would be used to pay for the transaction. Consumers can also use the mobile apps while not on board, such as while waiting in terminals, he says.

Proud says ground transportation, likes taxi and shuttle services, and entertainment options, such as shows and dining venues, are popular in-flight shopping choices now and will be among the offerings in the app.

“Our research shows that travelers want to buy ground transportation and entertainment options,” Proud says. The OnTouch mobile app will have access to more than 60,000 bits of information about 200 cities, he adds.

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