Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Can airports’ mobile apps add to their bottom lines?

December 2, 2014

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Passengers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Photo courtesy of Benét J. Wilson

Airports are jumping into smartphone apps. While they’re aimed at helping passengers get around, airports are also using them to boost their bottom lines.

The 2014 Airport IT Trends survey, published by Swiss-based air transport IT consultancy SITA and Airports Council International-North America, found that 60 percent of airports will offer geo-location by 2017. These apps offer travelers the ability to easily find the terminals, shops, restaurants, and airport services they need.

Nearly 50 percent of airports are looking at Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, which will allow customers to buy goods and services using their smartphones, according to the survey.

And another 33 percent of airports plan to deploy Apple iBeacons within three years as a way to provide information and sales offers to travelers based on their current location.

Two airports have already stepped up and begun offering some of this technology in their apps.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was an early adopter of a mobile app, offering an iPhone and Android version.

Version 2.0 of its app has features including: a voice concierge that allows travelers to speak directly into their phones to search for items throughout the app, including restrooms, shops, and flight information; a shop and restaurant finder with menu listings; and direct access to the airport’s social media channels.

One of the most interesting features on DFW’s app deals with parking, a line item in the airport’s budget that brought in $161 million in revenue in 2013.

The app allows customers to get continuously updated information about airport parking, including availability and rates for valet, terminal, express, and remote lots. A potential customer is much more likely to park at DFW if they know space at all price points is available before they arrive at the airport.

Miami International Airport recently unveiled its mobile app for iPhones and Android devices. The app offers airport customers  information about airport parking, ground transportation, dining, shopping, flights and more puts all 7.5 million square feet of the facility at the fingertips of iPhone and Android users.

This includes more than 200 shops and restaurants, along with real-time flight tracking and information covering the airport’s 51 scheduled passenger airlines.

Miami has made it easy for travelers to find things with the app’s “Around Me” feature, which pinpoints their location and offers up amenities within a five-minute walk.

The airport, working with SITA, also installed more than 200 location beacons that can be used by airlines, retailers and other partners’ apps to trigger useful content — including concessions sales and special offers — to passengers and staff. Among the airport’s top 10 revenue generators are parking at $47 million, duty-free sales at $35 million and general concessions bringing in $10 million, all in 2013.

STORY IDEAS

SITA-ACI-NA Airport IT Trends Survey

DFW Airport mobile app 

Miami International Airport mobile app 

SITA Common-Use Beacon Registry

Redefining the Airport Experience

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