Apple wants to be the ultimate travel assistant with iTravel

If it wasn’t enough that Google is rumoured to buying travel technology company ITA Software, then this next move by Apple may just finish a few people off completely.

itravel patentlyapple

Above is a screenshot from, which has gone through a patent filed by Apple this month for iTravel, a suite of functionality for the iPhone that includes, well, almost everything for traveller.

iTravel was a patent filed originally in Q3 of 2008 but has since been heavily updated with a terrifying range of options that would sit within the existing handset suite of user options.

At its simplest the service is a series of user options including the ability to make reservations, reservation management, airport and hotel check-in and identification tools.

But read that line again, and you really get an idea of what Apple is trying to do.

The en-route elements are something any tech-head would expect Apple to pioneer – indeed, mobile is a logical area for identification and ticket handling for a smartphone device, especially when RFID capability becomes a norm rather than something from Minority report.

But the tool that will allow a user to browse and select a flight, hotel, car rental, train, cruise or bus, book it and then receive the ticket or confirmation, is where a service such as iTravel gets very interesting for the user – and the rest of the travel sector.

[NB: Curiously, in-resort activities such as tours and activities are not included at this stage, perhaps signifying the disparate and complex nature of how they are distributed digitally]

itravel patentlyapple2

Because iTravel is only at the patent stage it is impossible to understand how each of the pieces of functionality will work in terms of partnerships, but least to say that there may well be a mad scramble to become the provider that runs the flight or hotel search and booking capability.

The ticketing function would also need to be handled by a technology partner – something that a GDS, for example, would be keen to support.

In fact, a GDS could in theory handle the entire thing for Apple. Such developments like this at Apple Corp begin to shed some light on why a company like Google is potentially interested in a company like ITA Software.

But the point to make here is that whatever Apple does with iTravel it potentially changes the landscape once again.


A single piece of functionality like iTravel pretty much puts the search, buy, and trip management (such as check-in, security) experience direct into the user’s hand through one entry point.

It would be attractive to many users and therefore significant amounts of travel distribution would start to go through such adevice.

To be a part of that search and booking ecosystem is attractive to those involve, but not for those that are squeezed out.

It is now possible to imagine a digital travel sector dominated (even controlled) by just a handful of powerful players – those that run the devices and/or the distribution.

The final point to make here is that, once again, it will be the outsiders that disrupt the travel sector, not those already within it.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. thinkfeeldo

    eeeek! If you ask me folks..this is getting very creeeeepy! RFID capability!!!

    The mobile is your passport!
    The mobile is your identity!

    Proof of where you’ve been or are going to!

    Security: “Let him pass, he’s already heading in that direction”

    You: “Sorry officer, as you can see I came from the other direction so I couldn’t have done it!”

    Soon you won’t be allowed to travel without having a device (iPhone) on you!!!

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  3. Adrian

    I work in the business travel sector – and yes, we’re certainly taking Apple iTravel very seriously.

    Depite the potential competitiion, I think this is a great first step to enriching the traveller’s experience; being in line with Apple’s philosphy of keeping it simple (and beautiful), it will be particularly impressive on the new iPad.

    But it is only a first step. Aimed more at the leisure traveller, it won’t be able to reflect a corporate travel policy which often mandates the use of specific airlines and hotel to achieve volume based negociated rates, and the reporting / MI that this brings. That said, I think it will ultimately drive (force) corporates to re-think how they will service their internal customers (travelling employees), otherwise face a backlash away from the policy of preferred suppliers and into Apples open arms.

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  8. Martino

    I agree with Stephen: Apple will get the info from all the same resources as the rest of us. So, in terms of data, they don’t have an advantage. In terms of functionality, they may do a really good job, but there are other creative wizz-kids out there. However, they have such a reach and such a brand that they will quickly gain dominant market share and very few of us will get sufficient ROI with what market remains.

    But, although you can buy any tune on iTunes, does this mean you don’t have any other music app installed? I know I do, including radio stations and Shazam (where they offer to buy music via iTunes).

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  13. Stephan Ekbergh

    Definitely interesting.

    Does this also mean that the app store will stop featuring other travel applications?

    I think the actual search process will be done brilliantly but see two major problems:
    1/ Apple will need travel info. So they need to work wth a GDS + some LCC content provider like Travelfusion. This means that they will be locked into the same type of info everyone else.

    2/ Apple will need content, fares. This means that they will have to partner wth someone with global reach, which there is noone or it will be open for local suppliers to bid. Fares is by far the most complex part and it is still up to most local airline sales organization under each BSP area.

    Many people already have an iTunes account and Apple can probably use this for billing, which is really a winner.

    In any case people love Apple. If they do travel better than anyone else who cares then they will take massive market share.

  14. Dipal

    Hi.. it is really a nice article.. and it will revolutionize the Travel Industry.. Apple is really ahead of time..

  15. Olivier

    I believe this will be a huge change for the travel industry. There will be a before and an after the release of such a tool. Somehow, they will all have to deal with this, whether it’s an Apple product or else. But maybe especially if it’s Apple, as Joe Buhler said.

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  17. Fred

    Although mobile is getting a lot of buzz right now there are a few fairly fundamental questions to consider … before being ‘finished off completely’.

    The SmartPhone penetration rate
    3G network coverage
    Roaming rates (ie cost)
    The actual speed of apps/internet access .. especially for something like a low fare search returning huge amounts of flight choices
    Customer behaviour … during the inspiration/research phase many people will use multiple sites (often open simultaneously) to gather and compare information before forming a choice, I don’t see this happening on a mobile device (in its current form …. an iPad would be a different story).

    I think that mobile booking in the near future will be more attractive to a corporate road-warrior: effective for on-the-fly changes … rebooking or alternative booking when things go ‘wrong’ on the road. In this case many of my listed concerns are no longer so important.

    • Martin Rusteberg

      couldn’t agree with you more, although there used to be an ‘app’ that was alread doing exactly that: – now unfortunately defunct 🙁

  18. Ophir

    It seems to me Apple is really good at filling voids. Whether it’s Steve Jobs himself or some really smart people working over there – they just have this nack of realizing a void and filling it with their mobile and other technologies. And the travel industry is, IMHO, one giant void which is screaming for some sort of global technology unification.

  19. sebastian

    Joe has a good point.
    The music industry was revolutionized by Apple.
    The convenience of the mobile phone and the act of travel is a no brainer convenience.
    The only question is who is going to perform a system with the experience everybody deserves?
    Apple has obvious advantages on this field due to the respect it pays to industrial design.

  20. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Has anyone ever tried to contact iTunes with a billing problem? Just saying:)

    Very interesting point, Kevin, about travel industry disruption to come from outside the travel industry.

    Is that where innovation comes from too?

    • Joe Buhler

      Haven’t had a billing problem with iTunes since day one – just saying 🙂

      Anyhow, never underestimate the potential disruptive effect Apple can have on an entire industry – just ask anyone in music and movies!

      Can’t wait to see this appear on the market for real.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @dennis – no problem with iTunes billing either. 🙂

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