iPads and Airplanes

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On the plane this morning with 3 hours on my hands, I decided to pay for another 30-day pass on GoGo and fired up the iPad.  As I continue to experiment with the iPad for day to day business tasks, I’m constantly finding great reasons to use it more.  This morning, I was admiring the great Calendar app that reminds me of an old appointment book.  It’s way better than iCal on the Mac and don’t even get me started on Outlook.

With wifi on more and more planes, I was wondering when the airlines (when I say airlines, I mean AA, since I’m locked in at DFW) will equip their planes and pilots/flight attendants with wireless devices too?

As long as we are imagining, how about putting iPads in each of the main flight attendant service areas - just slap some Velcro on them.  OK, if we have to be more professional with the installation, how about The Wallee?

Airline Uses for iPads In-Flight

What could an airline accomplish with iPads in-flight?  There are already some iPad apps for pilots. According to the June 2010 Air Travel Consumer Report, the top 3 passenger complaints are flight problems (cancellations, delays, mis-connections), baggage, and reservations/ticketing/boarding.  So, why not try to use technology to help improve some of these areas in the cabin?  Here are a few ideas:

  • provide up-to-the-minute connecting gate assignments, delays, etc.
  • note customer comments/issues for proper and fast response by customer service reps
  • keep track of weather issues and delays
  • check on/request passenger deplaning or wheelchair assistance
  • note cabin maintenance/repair issues (eg, seat 8B doesn’t recline) and stage repairs ready on arrival
  • offer frequent flyer program enrollment
  • refer to frequent flyer preferences, and update them!
  • take food/drink orders and not forget them
  • offer frequent flyer promotions and bonuses with a captive audience
  • suggestion submission for flight attendants at the point of service

Who knows what other uses would emerge once a simple, connected platform was available.  The downside of this is that without some careful thought, the flight attendants could end up spending more time with the iPad than with the customers.  To make sure this doesn’t happen, the apps could just focus on employee-passenger interaction points, keeping flight attendant scheduling systems off the iPad, for example.

What could your front-line employees do with a simple, connected device to make their customers’ lives better?

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting idea. I think this would work for customer-focused airlines (like SWA) but not necessarily for the big ones like United and American. The flight attendants have very specific jobs to do, so I agree we need to be sure the focus remains on the customers. Have fun with your iPad.

    • Thanks for your comments Jeannie. I think the airlines are all customer focused, but in their own ways! You are probably right that one of the more innovative ones would be a more likely candidate to try this.


  • Tim

    From an ancillary revenue perspective, Airlines could also consider renting them on long haul trips. A la carte bundle option (wifi and iPad). Of course there would need to be modifications to the software (user privileges) and the hardware (battery).

    I know SWA is not know for their long hauls, but they offer a Business Select product, why not a “Leisure Select”?