Whilst most of the airline related blogosphere today are talking about the water landing of US Airways flight 1549, my mind is on innovation for airline direct sales channels, especially as I am meeting someone later today on this topic, and I realize I only have part of the answer. When I think of useful innovation I sometimes think in terms of what has given me the greatest increase in productivity. Off the top of my head, the two things I adopted in 2008 that made me significantly more productive were setting iGoogle as my browser homepage, and using a BlackBerry mobile phone. iGoogle took the concept from sites like Netvibes that pulled together RSS feeds, and by adding useful widgets/gadgets it has become a very good platform. But I believe only a very small percentage of average airline travellers are using such a homepage, so building widgets seems more applicable to platforms like Facebook where I question the overlap between frequent users and frequent flyers.  

So the real question is, what type of innovative tool or service could an airline give me that would increase my productivity and/or leave me with a feeling that I have received enough additional value to make adoption worth my while.  I am sure this will be an ongoing topic of discussion in my various meetings with airline executives over the course of this year as they try to get an edge over competitors.

The banking example I linked to above is a good start, if only the platform was more widely adopted. RSS examples from airlines referred to previously were not compelling enough, but I do like the way Technorati allows extremely customized RSS feeds, so don’t rule it out completely. With Twitter I remain lukewarm, but I was seeing a good discussion on them trying to find a business model, especially in the comments at the end of this post. Maybe Twitter could be used in conjunction with other delivery methods such as customized RSS and the old favourites like SMS and email to ensure the content gets delivered exactly as your passenger wants it. But more channels, epsecially building for different mobile platforms, starts to increase costs quite fast. So tieing a widget and/or dedicated website linked to various communication methods with relevant and customized content drawing on the vast amount of information the airline already has on the direct sale customer is a start, but there is a lot more thinking required before I’ll be backing development of the killer Web 2.0 travel app for 2009!

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