British Airways: customer service iPad 2 + app for all flights

By John Walton, November 21 2011
British Airways: customer service iPad 2 + app for all flights

British Airways' iPad trial, where cabin crew swapped reams of printed passenger lists for an Apple tablet loaded with the same data, has been such a success that the airline will roll out the system onto all aircraft.

BA is promising "a premium and more thoughtful onboard service to customers in every cabin".

What does that mean? Well, BA tells us that their crew can "tap into data giving them customer preferences and their previous travel arrangements", and that "the iPad shows cabin crew where each customer is seated, who they are travelling with, their Executive Club status and any special meal requests. In addition, it also gives them a vast library of information at their fingertips including timetables, safety manuals and customer service updates." 

Destination guides also mean that crew can give helpful suggestions about cities on your itinerary.

BA crew and iPad not to scale. (Phew.)
BA crew and iPad not to scale. (Phew.)

The password-protected app (BA's "senior cabin crew" have access to your info) had been trialled earlier this year, with BA's head of inflight customer experience Bill Francis thrilled with the results.

"The iPads provide real-time insight into our customers' preferences across a whole range of areas, from special meal requests to onward travel plans, enabling us to deliver a truly bespoke service," Francis enthused.

How it works

BA's system runs the in-house Enhanced Service Platform app, version 1.1, on iPad 2 devices with 3G data service around the world.

Right before the doors close, the crew hit "refresh" over the iPad's 3G mobile data connection to download the latest manifest. (That's what replaces that sheet of paper pinned up in the galley kitchen so they know who the frequent flyers, vegetarians, VIPs and Z-list celebrities onboard are.)

The iPad then goes into flight mode for the duration -- except on BA's all-business class London City to New York JFK flights, where there's inflight wifi over the Atlantic. The crew on those flights can get live update over the app.

An additional benefit of the iPads for passengers -- no, you won't be able to borrow it, since the airline hasn't come to any conclusions about its separate trial of inflight iPads for premium customers -- is the fault reporting function.

If there's a problem with a seat, entertainment screen or anything else on the aircraft, the crew can note it down on the app while the plane is in the air. It'll be sent automatically to the engineers or mechanics when the seatbelt sign is turned off and the BA iPad is switched back on.

Since BA's Australia flights spend a decent amount of time on the ground at Sydney (and have access to Qantas' technical crews to fix anything that goes wrong), that means that you should be much less likely to end up with a wonky seat or a broken video screen, or for your flight to be delayed by a technical glitch.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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