The developers behind App in the Air presented a live demo of its new artificial intelligence-powered, voice-search enabled, augmented reality booking experience during Innovation Day at IATA’s World Passenger Summit in Barcelona this week.
From the stage, App in the Air founder and CTO, Sergey Pronin, gave a full preview of what it would be like to search for the best routes to your destination with the aid of its voice-query AI assistant, ARVis, filter flights by price, or schedule, or other preferences, tour the cabin of the aircraft with AR projections in real-life scale, and even check your luggage against an AR version that optimally fits in the aircraft bins.
It’s difficult to put into words just how much advanced technology the developers packed into this app, but fortunately there is a video:
The potential benefits of these search and compare features for airlines are worth noting. First, booking with App In the Air’s ARVis assistant would give airlines a real opportunity to highlight their cabin design in ways that flat images just can’t match. This “real-life” feel gives customers incentive to consider booking up to a different seat onboard.
The bag check feature would not only avoid problems with oversized baggage at check-in, or overstuffed aircraft bins, but would also give customers a clear visualisation of how much they can fit in their free hand luggage option. No doubt, for many passengers, knowing the allowed dimensions as written on the website is not the same as seeing what those dimensions represent in 3D. The smart assistant ARVis can advise customers directly when their bags won’t meet the dimension requirements, and sell-up an added baggage ancillary product in the booking engine.
But there is one major challenge to delivering the product, and it’s not entirely technological.While App in the Air is ready to offer the full ARVis experience, gathering the product data required to give customers a view of all of this is a different matter.
Pronin says that App In the Air plans to work with airlines directly to gather this information and populate it into the app. Allowing for time to get that done, App in the Air would release the feature on an airline-by-airline basis.
The baggage feature is easier to add right off the bat. Pronin tells us: “You just go to the airline website, you scrape it, it’s not really hard.”
He expects that having the additional booking channel option would incentivise airlines to share more cabin product data anyway, and initial customers may not have complex cabin data to populate.
“We’re not doing all airlines at once. We’re going to go one by one so with this approach we believe we can gather the information [directly from the airlines],” Pronin says.
To start, App in the Air is targeting this as a booking interface for low-cost carriers and is already in discussion with Eurowings and its parent Lufthansa Group about possible applications.
“Initially, this is mostly useful for the low fares airlines such as Ryanair or easyJet. It lets you know the luggage that will fit, and for them this is crucial. For most airlines there are more easy constraints on that.
“We have contact with Eurowings, we have established a partnership with them, initially for low-cost.
“We’re going to sell tickets. We’re going to go to booking in two months, and we would partner with [Lufthansa] to provide their tickets on our app, and they are willing to do so.
“It will be personalized booking because we have more than 3 million users and we process more than a million itineraries each month. We collect all of this data, and we think that we can make it a really personalized experience.”
Asked whether he is concerned that other travel wallet apps, such as TripCase and TripIt, which are GDS products and already have close ties to airlines to obtain the data, will add the same features App in the Air demonstrated, Pronin says:
“The biggest difference is how fast and how far you go..how fast do you think they can innovate? How fast can they integrate..I don’t think they can do that in 24 hours like we do.”
He adds that these wallets are mainly focused on corporate customer needs, and that is not their target market either.
“I don’t think [TripCase and TripIt] are going to sell tickets. For corporates…you don’t really need this kind of stuff, because you get your ticket from the travel agent or the company and that’s it.”
NDC sets the standard
Pronin credits the IATA NDC program for what it takes to be an agile developer, on the scale of App in the Air, and to deliver these types of advancements so that they can come to market long before potential competitors are ready:
“Everyone can do that, if they want to. NDC really adds to that because you don’t need to spend a lot of time on integration. It’s a standard already for most major airlines.
“We only want to work on NDC, because working on NDC allows everyone to go really fast.”