Mobile is not yet performing as expected for the majority of airlines with check-ins via devices about half the anticipated level.
As part of the 2014 Airline IT Trends survey, SITA has looked back to 2010 figures when check-in via mobile was 1.2% with an expectation it would hit 9.3% by 2014.
Only about 40% of airlines say the adoption of mobile services is 'at least as expected' since the first wave of investment kicked off.
The study also reveals airlines expect growth in usage of services such as mobile check-in for the next three years to follow a similar rate with a goal of 15% by 2017.
Some airlines such as low-cost carriers are already seeing mobile check-in rates of around 9% while two airlines in the study are experiencing rates as high as 15%.
The survey, launched at SITA's Air Transport IT Summit this week, also finds that a third of airlines don't even track metrics such as related cost savings, usage data, downloads and revenue generation.
Looking ahead, 81% of carriers plan to increase awareness of their mobile services and add more capabilities.
The vast majority of airlines, 98%, plan to invest in ancillary services expansion in next three years and mobile is regarded as a huge opportunity for ancillary offerings.
While websites are currently the dominant channel accounting for 37% of ancillary sales, ancillaries purchased via mobile is expected to account for 11.6% by 2017 from the current figure of 2.4% via mobile.
A number of factors play into airlines hands such as the rapid growth in smartphone ownership, the transition from web to mobile not seen as a big leap and the fact that a mobile is with the passenger throughout the journey.
By 2017, 75% of airlines plan to make shopping as widely available on mobile devices as their websites.
And, airlines see mobile devices taking over from websites when it comes to personalisation with 52% planning a personalised experience via mobile app (13% now) using real-time data by 2017 compared to 44% who will offer personalisation via the website (28% now).
According to IATA head of passenger experience, Paul Behan personalisation via is a must for airlines with mobile enabling them to build a relationship with travellers.
"With the shopping experience on the web you are completely anonymous whereas on mobile, especially via an app, there is a relationship there already. From the mobile perspective it is my device so it should be my content so how can airlines tailor a range of built in services to me personally."
He was speaking during a panel session at the Summit and went on to say that it was almost impossible to tailor to every single passenger but that through technology, carriers could tailor a range of services more akin to certain passengers than others.
The survey also shows that ticket booking via airline websites has reached 30% globally and check-in via mobile, web or kiosk totals 38% of all check-ins, up from 28% in 2010.
Disruption and recovery
Airlines are now looking to tackle other self-service areas and disruption management solutions are top of the list with 87% saying they plan to use self-service technology for this within three years.
Almost three-quarters of carriers plan to enable passengers to manage disruption via mobile by 2017. Currently 14% say they offer the functionality via kiosk and 11% via mobile with these figures expected to reach 63% and 73% respectively by 2017.
Business intelligence systems are seen as playing a huge role in disruption management and by 2017 90% of airlines plan to invest in smart technology to manage disruptions more effectively.
Investment will be in four main areas of disruption management - communication, passenger recovery and rebooking, staff awareness and prevention.
Currently, informing passengers of disruptions via mobile is offered by half of airlines with the figure expected to increase to 92% by 2017. More than a third use social media to keep travellers up to date while 80% plan to in three years.
Interesting to note that kiosks are not slated for the scrap heap with carriers looking at what additional functionality they can offer.
Nigel Pickford, SITA's director of market insight said:
"With kiosks one of the shifts taking place is the notion of using a kiosk for information services, that will be one of the next waves.
"There is also a new commitment to provide disruption management services via kiosk and mobile and an ambition to do something sophisticated, not just improve the way they communicate but for airlines to get to a point where they can do recovery and inform staff."
Respondents in the SITA-Airline Business Airline IT Trends survey account for more than 50% of global passenger traffic and 17% are low-cost carriers and 29% carry more than 20 million passengers annually.
An infographic displaying some of the results of the survey is available here.
NB: Disclaimer - transport and accommodation for the author's attendance at the event supported by SITA.
NB2: Aircraft image via Shutterstock.