BA evolves in-flight iPads to more personalised customer service

By David Flynn, January 25 2012
BA evolves in-flight iPads to more personalised customer service

Following the rollout of Apple iPads to British Airways cabin crew, the airline is now looking at how the tablets can be push the ‘passenger experience’ envelope even further.

The iPads have already replaced the bulky passenger manifest for 2,000 senior BA crew, providing instant access to data such as each passenger’s Executive Club frequent flyer status, special meal requests and onward travel plans, along with timetables, manuals, fault reporting forms and more.

The next stage will tie into in-flight meals and BA’s ‘Height Cuisine’ push to improve not just the dining but the service.

“Today we know who you are, where you’re sitting and a little bit of history about you” explains Lynn McClelland, BA’s Head of Catering.

“Over time we’ll be able to build up the data, the crew might be able to welcome you and say ‘I understand you normally prefer fish, we have a lovely halibut tonight, would you like me to put one aside for you?’" McClelland tells Australian Business Traveller.

“And if the crew recorded passenger food choices we’d know if the menu ratios were right – if we need to put more fish on flights to JKF for example, if that’s what more customers on that flight are eating.”

Faster feedback

McClelland sees that fine-tuning the in-flight menu could be a key role for the iPads “because they’re an immediate communications tool for us to get real data.”

“In the future I’m certain that on the first day of a new menu cycle I’ll have hundreds of data points from the crew telling me what the customers thought of the meals, are these the right dishes and are they being loaded in the right quantity. At which point I can change things right away instead of waiting a month.”

Loading each iPad with details of the in-flight menu – photos of the foods and notes on its source – is also on the roadmap.

“That’s content we will be providing this year” McClelland says. “We should be able to say ‘this is what our menus look like, this is where our suppliers are, these are our food stories. If you what to know where we bought the cheese we should be able to tell you.”

Choose your meal before you fly..?

This content will also be making its way onto the BA website to showcase the food and wine offered on each flight.

“You’ll get to the stage fairly shortly where when you book a flight a couple of months in in advance we’ll know what the menu will be on board” McClelland says.

The next step is online ordering of meals – allowing passengers to choose their meal before they fly, which will in turn make for more efficient loading of meals and less wastage.

“We’re figuring out the logistics of this on the large scale of our network, we’re looking at where we can do it” McClelland told AusBT.

“It’s a watch-this-space, I think it will just be a matter of time. But we want to do it properly, we have to absolutely make sure we deliver on this. If your order your food, and you get on board and your meal is not there then we have failed.”


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on BA evolves in-flight iPads to more personalised customer service