There’s an App for That: American Airlines

I have an inherent fear of flying. But if I’m going to be stuck in a plane for any period of time I’ll use technology to take the edge off.

A recent trip inspired me to write this post about how smart companies are making a relatively painful customer experience more bearable one app at a time.

After searching for a deal on kayak.com and booking through orbitz.com, I ended up with a last-minute deal on a flight from American Airlines. I also remembered a quaint commercial from American featuring an iPad being used as a boarding pass. To the App Store!

The American Airlines mobile app is fairly intuitive, pulling all travel data from a frequent flier number. The standard travel app fare is offered including check-in, flight status and gate information. Check-ins always annoy me and on a personal note and the whole concept of “checking in” needs a major overhaul. Back to the app…

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After checking in on the app, the boarding pass becomes available for use. This is the fun part. With the check-in and boarding pass on the app one can walk straight to security line (assuming no checked baggage). I was concerned to try this at the Chicago security checkpoint because I knew I would be the only person in line presenting my phone and ID. Amazingly enough the security agent prompted me to scan the phone myself and prodded me along.

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It’s worth noting I had to scan again at my gate before boarding. Overall using the app to replace a paper ticket was the most hassle-free experience I’ve ever had with airport security.

An unexpected bonus occurred when I got a push notification that my flight was delayed including an updated departure time.

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Other features include setting parking reminders, playing Sudoku (of all the games?), letting you know what gate you’re coming to in the arrival airport, where the baggage claim is, and finally keeping track of frequent flier miles. You can’t solve every travel problem with the app just yet, like deciding on a whim where to stay in Tokyo, but we’re confident American Airlines will continue to add features over time.

A big takeaway here for brands looking to enhance customer experience is training. If TSA or anyone else in this equation was not properly trained to identify and accept my app scan, the entire experience would have shifted from positive to negative in seconds. Apps designed to interface with humans need education and training support to make sure all elements work in harmony.