A reality check for airlines and the direct channelNews / Distribution | TechnologyBy Linda Fox | November 7, 2016Share This article was originally published on Look beyond websites to the digital behaviour of 16 year olds for clues to where mobile travel booking is headed.The mobile travel industry has been gathering momentum for two or three years yet many airlines don't have a mobile app or website optimised for mobile.In addition, there's now a "whole other revolution going on in conversational AI and voice recognition."These were the words of Skyscanner commercial chief Frank Skivington who says of the top 150 airlines in the world only 77 have a mobile application and of those, only 30 are native apps.He adds that only 60% of the top 150 airline websites are mobile optimised. "That's a really shitty user experience at an industry level."Share this quote Speaking during the recent ACTE/CAPA event in Amsterdam, Skivington says its refreshing to see airlines such as KLM investing in chat services but that for most the reality is different.He adds that going forward airlines need to think of the direct channel as wider than their own websites. "When distribution people in airlines speak about the direct channel what they mean is airline.com and everything else is indirect. "If I ask Siri for flight information from Amsterdam to Glasgow, I will be able to book that flight, it will grab my credit card details, drop the ticket into a mobile wallet and the reservation straight into the airline's reservation system. "What's that? It's a direct sale. I haven't touched your website. There's a continuum now of channels that the airline industry has to embrace as direct."Share this quote Skivington says while mobile is here and now, airlines need to start planning for how the 16 year old is going to be booking because he or she "is not going to be going anywhere near your website."He adds that it's not only about users, companies also need to think about technology engineers who will look to develop software based on what they use themselves.This is why Skyscanner has been investing in voice recognition via Amazon Echo and chat services.As part of the same panel on disruptive technologies, CarTrawler tech chief Bobby Healy, says that not only are consumers shifting to mobile, they exhibit different behaviour, which is challenging for airlines. "When we look at some of our airlines in Europe and Asia, the traffic shift is happening so quickly. We're ready from a technology point of view but we're a B2B businesss, the challenge is getting the airline to be an innovation partner with us."Share this quote Healy adds that chatbots will be huge, pointing to current trends in South-east Asia and China where they are already at critical mass.Related reading:Chat is where it's at for KLM as it finds customers on new platforms NB: Mobile travel image via BigStock.NB2: Reporter's attendance at the event was supported by Travelport.