Chuck Freedman | Director, Vertical Insights
February 06, 2014

Customer Satisfaction of Airlines Taking Off with Mobile and APIs


As part of Mashery’s Travel Industry Spotlight our Strategy Services team has authored a series of four blogs that describe how the adoption of APIs and API Management will transform virtually every corner of this important industry. The central theme argues that improved data flow via APIs will allow each player to better control their own destiny while at the same time dramatically improving customer satisfaction.

As travelers are continuously surveyed to determine why they choose one airline over another, customer service and satisfaction ranks as one of the highest reasons. Pricing, always a factor, fuels a battle between airlines across the web via their sites, online travel agencies (OTAs) and travel search. However, it’s the mobile app where airlines are finding a key to customer happiness and increased revenue.

A ForSee survey in 2013 found “customers using mobile apps are more satisfied with their mobile travel”. Mobile apps from Southwest, American and Delta have propelled these airlines to the top of the customer satisfaction list. A quality mobile app from an airline provides the typical busy, rushed traveler with a convenient, reliable place to check in, call up their boarding pass, change flights and more.

Keeping customers happy is one thing. Keeping them loyal in a very competitive space is another. At a recent “Mega Event” conference, where industry heads exchange topics on loyalty and ancillary revenue, executives from Expedia Affiliate Network and United Airlines demonstrated how loyalty was able to drive conversion and repeat bookings. On top airline mobile apps, customers can access reward points, use points to book flights and redeem other rewards.

All mobile apps start with the availability of data from the airline’s backend system to its internal, and often external, mobile development teams. Best practices for providing access to data for development start with API management tools. Essential functionality includes managing access by developer/application key to tracking data usage and growth through reporting.

With data flowing in a secure and scalable way through APIs, airlines can deploy new features to customers and drive the ever-important ancillary revenue. On the rise are mobile apps capable of letting travelers upgrade seats for an upcoming flight. According to FlightView a growing 29% of travelers have purchased a seat upgrade or add-on through mobile. Reports indicate even more potential for mobile-based upgrades when data and features are pushed to the customer prior to boarding.

More revenue, higher customer satisfaction and increased loyalty are advantages benefitting many airlines with solid mobile apps. The underlying strategy, with solid APIs in place, ensures better deployment and faster availability of great features where both airline and customer stand to benefit.