August 31, 2011, 12:25 PM

American Airlines flies a sizable mobile fleet

The carrier boasts an m-commerce site and six apps to help its highly mobile customers.

Lead Photo

The airline's tablet app features same the fundamental design and functions with its smartphone apps.

Airline passengers, it goes without saying, are a mobile lot. One can find them huddled over their smartphones and tablets sitting inside airport terminals and as they sit in a plane pulling out their devices once above 10,000 feet. American Airlines, which flies about 275,000 passengers a day on approximately 3,400 flights, says it was particularly important that it develop an m-commerce site and mobile app to meet the needs of its highly mobile customers.

“Whether leisure or business travelers, we know that our customers are mobile by definition,” says Philip Easter, American Airlines director of mobile apps. In addition to a mobile commerce web site, American’s apps are available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color tablet. The m-commerce site launched in December 2008, followed by the first app, for the iPhone, in July 2010, and the iPad app in November 2010. American developed the apps in-house. Consumers have downloaded the apps more than 2 million times, Easter says.

Offering all those apps is important, especially because an overwhelming number of the airline’s frequent fliers—92%—have a smartphone, Easter says. He would not say what percentage of its e-commerce and m-commerce traffic originates with mobile devices or one of the company’s apps. Nor would he disclose sales made with mobile devices. “However, we have definitely seen a substantial increase in the number of customers using their mobile devices to access our site,” Easter says.

The app’s home page greets the user by name and displays his frequent flier balance in his American Advantage account, if the user has logged into the app, at the top of the screen. Below are buttons for viewing reservations, checking flight schedules, checking flight status, booking flights and starting a round of Sudoku, a popular game. Along the bottom edge of the screen are five persistent buttons to return to the home page, check a traveler’s flights, view his Advantage account, get flight status and a More button to access additional features in the app.

Consumers use the apps and the m-commerce site differently, Easter says. “Shopping, booking and flight status are the top three features and functions on our mobile site,” he says. The most popular app functions are the mobile boarding pass, flight check-in and flight status. The apps generate a bar code that gate agents can scan. The American m-commerce site also can generate a mobile boarding pass, but requires the extra step of sending it via e-mail to the traveler.

“Mobile is the future of American Airlines,” Easter says. “We envision making connections with our customers throughout their day and life, not only for the day of travel, but for planning, exploring and loyalty connections. We are creating relevant and contextual apps that exist on multiple devices.”

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