Unlocking apps as powerful travel tools

by | May 16, 2023 | Airlines, Airports, Digital Transformation, News, Travel Tech

Unlocking apps as powerful travel tools


Technology in aviation apps has advanced in recent years, transforming mobile devices into powerful tools and transferring agency to passengers.

Initially, COVID-19 dealt a blow to the industry’s app evolution. In April 2020, installation rates of travel and navigation apps dropped by 40 per cent compared to 2019 levels. However, in the midst of the pandemic “mobile apps became the new interface for brands and businesses across all sectors.” During this period, they were refined throughout industries and according to TNMT,  travel app downloads surpassed pre-pandemic peak levels in the summer of 2022.

Even within the aviation sphere there are a range of apps; from airlines to airports, ground transportation to flight tracking. A recent article by TNMT highlighted the popularity of airline apps over those of airports, noting several examples of airports that publicly announced they would be discontinuing their apps. Interested in the relative popularity within aviation apps, we launched a poll to see for ourselves.



Lets take a look at some of the technology enhancing aviation apps.


Augmented Reality Wayfinding

With over three-quarters of smartphone owners regularly using navigation apps, the use of mobile phones as a navigation tool is well established. However, inside a complex environment like an airport, regular navigation tools are less effective.

Wayfinding involves locating yourself within an environment or finding your way between two points. It is known to be particularly important for more elaborate environments like airports. Augmented Reality (AR) plays a crucial role in the improvement of wayfinding, “superimposing digital information onto a real-world view, in real-time on a connected mobile device.”

Gatwick airport in London was the first to deploy AR technology, installing over 2,000 indoor beacons. These form the basis of an indoor navigation system which allows third parties, airlines, and the airport to develop AR wayfinding tools inside applications.

AR wayfinding within airports can help passengers navigate the airport with ease whilst simultaneously highlighting amenities and services. This can be particularly useful for travellers with accessibility requirements, using visual and audio prompts to help all travellers navigate the often overwhelming environment.


Virtual queuing

Queuing times have been identified by passengers as one of the key pain points in the industry. Digital queuing software can reduce the length of times spent in physical queues at airports, easing the burden on all parties.

Virtual queues have been trialled by both airlines and airports, notifying customers when it is their turn instead of joining the back of snaking queues. This helps to transform the traveller experience for passengers, opening up time previously spent waiting in line for enjoying the retail offerings at airports.

A key example of its application within the airport setting is overcoming one of the major pinch points for passenger flow: security checks. Berlin Brandenburg Airport was  the first European airport and eighth airport globally to offer the virtual queueing system describing it as a “game changer” in the airport experience. Passengers can reserve a time to pass through security ahead of time or enter a virtual queue after their checking luggage, spending their time however they please until they receive a notification on their mobile to come to the checkpoint.

Major US carrier, Delta Air Lines incorporated “virtual queuing” into their Fly Delta app in 2020, showing passengers which groups have boarded the aircraft and allowing them to relax until their seat starts boarding, not just their flight.


Improving the onboard entertainment experience

Apps can also transform mobile devices into a travel companion in the plane. Some airlines have developed their apps to enhance the overall entertainment offering; from previewing the selection of entertainment available on the flight to remote controlling the personal screen onboard.

The Turkish Airlines Companion Entertainment app can be paired with its inflight entertainment platform Planet. This transforms Planet into into an interactive platform, controlling the seatback screens with their mobile device and turning their phone into a second screen for the platform, accessing content through this extra device.


Apps represent a significant opportunity for travellers and the industry alike. As technology advances to improve the convenience and rewards passengers can unlock from their journey, the relationship will continue to be mutually beneficial to both parties.

Be a part of the discussion around apps in aviation and vote now for your favourite airline app. Votes close 26th May.



Article by Jess Brownlow