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Airline industry could save millions with mobile passenger tracking

Location-based mobile phones could be used to hurry passengers to their flights, cutting delays

The airline industry could save up to $600 million each year, by using mobile phones to track down tardy passengers, according to research from Cambridge University.

The report, released by aviation IT specialist SITA, suggests that mobile phones with location tracking could used to hurry passengers towards gates when their flight is due to board, cutting flight delays.

SITA also presented research on how mobile phones could serve as personal travel folders, which could be used to electronically store boarding passes, baggage tracking data, payment data and even biometric details and visas.

Location tracking could also be used for marketing purposes by airport retail outlets. In a pilot study at Manchester Airport in the UK, mobile users received vouchers via SMS for airport outlets, resulting in 45% higher spending than other passengers.

Hani El-Assaad, SITA regional vice-president, Middle East & Turkey, said: "These ‘digital travellers', will have on-demand access to a range of mobile-enabled services such as real time flight updates; self-service booking, check-in and boarding; and mobile payments.

"Some of these services are already available to passengers, for example in Norway, Japan and Germany paperless travel is a reality on some routes. But what our research shows is that these mobile services will be available to all travellers worldwide over the next five years. In fact, by the end of 2010, 67% of airlines plan to offer mobile check-in. By then 82% of airlines also plan to offer notification services on mobiles," he added.