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IBM CFS Mobility Solutions Canada

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AIR CANADA TRAVEL COMPANION

Air Canada iphone Application

Both business and leisure travellers have embraced self service solutions because of the control and convenience it provides. Travel companies, especially airlines, have rushed to enable self service to improve customer satisfaction and enjoyed significant cost savings.

The recent proliferation of 'smart' mobile devices, such as the iPhone and Blackberry, provide a logical step to extend the reach of self service. Although these devices offer tremendous potential as a self service platform for travel, there are challenges providing a great user experience while accounting for the strengths and weakness of different devices.

Air Canada has invested heavily in self service over the past decade: flight bookings, check-in, flight status, timetables are available on kiosks, standard web and mobile web sites. Turning their attention to the iPhone, it was decided to create a native iPhone application rather than a 'skinned' web-based application because the native app offers several key advantages.

Superior Customer Experience

Although the web browsing experience on the iPhone is quite good, the Air Canada native iPhone application provides a superior customer experience because it is fully optimized for the iPhone. It takes advantage of the iPhone's native buttons, controls and screen transitions. The touch areas are large and easy to use. Much of the content and logic is locally cached which reduces network data requirements and improve overall performance. Some functions are available 'offline', when there is no network access, which is not possible with a web-based solution. Customer settings can be easily stored on the device to provide a personalized experience and advanced functions such a location services, push notifications and purchases can be added.

A native application also provides brand visibility both on the customer's iPhone and in iTunes.

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Mobile Travel Portal

The Air Canada iPhone application allows customers to search for flights by flight number or city pair. Details flights times, gate and aircraft information are displayed in an easy to read table format.

The customer can subscribe to flight notifications and receive a text message or e-mail if the flight is delayed, cancelled or the gate changes.The application provides access to Air Canada's mobile check-in and prefills name, flier number and location to speed the process.

The customer's message 'inbox' is also accessible from within the application. Finally the application provides web links to some common travel services like The Weather Network and SeatGuru.com which can be viewed without leaving the application. The combination of these common travel services within a single application make the Air Canada iPhone application stand out among its competitors.

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Key to success

The success of this project can be attributed to the team's focus in two areas: architecture and user interface design. As part of the project, Air Canada's host data was wrapped and exposed as light weight, efficient web services. This reduced the complexity and greatly improved the responsiveness (and ultimately the customer experience) of the application. The development team included a user experience expert, a graphic artist and an airline application specialist. Significant effort in UI design, usability and performance testing ensured a quality finished product.

It is available free on iTunes or by searching for 'Air Canada' in the App Store. Give it a try!

Coming Soon

The Team is also working on a BlackBerry version of the app scheduled to be released shortly. Both BlackBerry and iPhone application will be updated frequently to bring new features into the hand of travelers.

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