I've just written a feature for the November issue of Airline Business about how mobile phones are poised to change the entire air travel experience. At least 90% of airline passengers carry mobile phones. But airlines are finally realizing how to take advantage of this fact for both their passengers' and their own benefit.
To help me conceptualize just how big a deal this will be, my friends over at Airbus/SITA partnership OnAir sent me the following storyline. It's about one man and his cell phone. I've embellished it just a tad. For example, I'm calling our adventurer James Bond (and in my version he looks more like Pierce not Daniel). Let's also make him married (to a gal named, oh I don't know...Mary) and willing to fly public transport. Yes, it's a sacrilege but you're reading RWG after all.
1. James is going from Geneva to Rio via London today.
2. Before leaving home in his Aston Martin, James checks in by mobile phone and receives his bar-coded boarding card on his phone.
3. He drops off his Louis Vuitton bag at the airport and the bar-coded baggage receipt is sent to his phone.
4. As he's saved time on check-in, James now can afford to go to the VIP lounge. He uses his mobile phone to gain access through a bar code.
6. On his flight to London, James sends a text message to his wife, reminding her to call the plumber (Mary jokingly tells James where he can stick the plunger).
7. Twenty minutes before landing in London, James receives a text message from the airline informing him that his connecting gate is 87 and that his flight to Rio will be delayed by 10 minutes to accommodate connecting passengers.
8. The flight crew is expecting connecting passengers and can verify that James Bond is indeed in the airport and traveling towards the right gate, thanks to the location sensing feature of his phone.
9. On his flight to Rio, James decides to purchase some duty free items (he knows his wife likes cheep whiskey and expensive perfume). The flight attendant authenticates the transaction in real time through a special GPRS device.
10. During the flight James catches up on email on his BlackBerry. He also checks the financial news on the Internet (and takes a few minutes to read the RWG blog since it hasn't yet been censored by the airline).
11. As he now relaxes, James finds voucher offers in the onboard catalogue. There are many offers for tourist events, such as reduced tickets for the Corcovado, the Tijuca etc but he'll be in Rio for business. However a voucher for a football game catches his eye and he cannot resist. He sends an SMS to the number provided, with the corresponding event code. He receives a bar-coded voucher for the game that he will redeem at the stadium entrance.
12. As James continues to read the onboard literature he finds out about the onboard concierge service and decides to spend some of his miles on a limo with driver during his stay in Rio. He calls the concierge and books the limo.
13. One hour before landing, James calls his business colleague who was going to pick him up to inform his that he has ordered a limo instead.
14. Half an hour before arrival James receives a text message from the airline informing him that his luggage will be delivered on Belt 8.
15. James has enjoyed a seamless travel experience thanks to his mobile phone (and an airline that is willing to invest in the technology necessary to put the customer first).