Over the next several years, it is expected that technological innovation will change the way many of us behave when we travel by air. In a recent report, SITA, a travel communications and IT solutions company, discussed several ways they believe air travel will change over the next two years. Based on our own experiences with business travel and social media growth, we agree with their ideas.

1. Web and mobile will be the way most people buy tickets and check-in. Now smartphones are commonplace, it is expected that even more customers will use mobile devices to make travel arrangements. It is also becoming an expectation that airlines and travel companies offer apps that can alert customers when flights fall below a certain price point.

Day 1: people with cell phones

People with cell phones (Photo credit: p2-r2)

2. Customers will do more things themselves. For example, it is expected that by 2015, 90% of airlines will offer mobile check-ins and flight updates via smartphone apps (as opposed to 50% today). Self-service will become the norm, as opposed to waiting in long lines for an airline staff member behind the counter to help you.

3. Smartphones and social media will dominate how customer service is delivered. It is expected that by 2015, 9 out of 10 airlines and airports will offer mobile updates on flight arrivals, delays, weather, parking, and even the location and nightly rates of nearby hotels. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social media sites will be crucial in customer interaction. Apps that help travelers plan their journey from the airport to their hotel will also become more commonly used.

4. Business intelligence metrics will be more commonly used by airports and airlines. Airports and airlines are realizing that they are first and foremost in the business of customer service, and customer loyalty is of key importance to their success. In order to keep travelers returning, airports and airlines are now determining how to shape loyalty programs and how to become more engaged with their customers.

Higher quality customer service and amenities will also be important differentiators. In a world where bad news or a customer service horror story can go viral in an instant, top-notch customer service and amenities will become crucial to the success of any airline or airport.

As the world becomes more mobile and social, air travel companies will now more than ever before use social media and technology to shape customer experiences and respond to customer needs.