11 ways airlines are deploying the Apple iPad

Updated December 2011
The iPad, which began primarily as an entertainment device when it was launched in 2010, has captured the imagination of many other industries in ways that Apple never even imagined. We have reported several times on airlinetrends.com how airlines have made Apple’s versatile iPad device available to passengers in their lounges, rent them out in the air, or use them as self-service kiosk, customer survey tool, and food ordering tool. As the list of applications continues to grow, here is the latest overview of how airlines and airports are deploying the iPad worldwide.

1. Book, check-in
Cathay Pacific in July 2010 became the first airline to launch a dedicated application for the Apple iPad that lets users book Cathay Pacific flights, manage their flight booking, check the status of their flight, and check-in. Similar apps are today offered by American Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, THAI, and Alitalia.

In June 2010, Malaysia Airlines, in cooperation with SITA, introduced the world’s first airline kiosk that uses the iPad. Passengers can use the ‘MHkiosk’ to search and book flights and check-in online. The kiosks are installed at the airline’s ticket office at Kuala Lumpur’s central station.

2. Airport service
Spanish airline Iberia has equipped customer service staff at its Madrid-Barajas hub with iPads to provide them with real-time access to the information they need to make decisions and to keep passengers informed. Iberia’s so-called IBPad is loaded with 30 different applications which, according to the airline, together put the entire airport in the palm of the employee’s hand. Iberia says the IBPad has improved everyday operations and dealings with customers, boosting communications and staff decision-making autonomy, while eliminating the use of paper.

Since March 2011, so-called Changi Experience Agents (CEAs) have been walking the grounds at Singapore Changi Airport, assisting passengers with special needs, and helping passengers with wayfinding at the airport. Locating missing luggage, facilitating passengers with check-in needs and assisting transit or transfer passengers with their onward connections also form part of the CEAs’ duties. Each CEA is equipped with an iPad with which they can retrieve information, such as the latest flight updates, store location, check-in gates, etcetera. The CEAs are on duty all day except from 1am – 6am when passenger traffic is low.

3. Airport lounge
To keep passengers entertained whilst waiting for their flight, several airlines have made iPads available in their lounges. Since July 2010, KLM offers 8 iPads in each of its two lounges at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Lounge guests can use the device to access the Internet, watch content from the airlines’s IFE programming, play games, view KLM images and use a series of pre-installed apps. Cathay Pacific, meanwhile, offers 21 Wi-Fi enabled iPads in its ‘The Cabin’ lounge, which opened in early October 2010. The devices come pre-loaded with apps such as newspapers, magazines and games. Other airlines, such as ANA and airBaltic, also make iPads available upon request to lounge guests at respectively Tokyo Haneda and Riga.

Furthermore, as passengers that frequent airline lounges are an interesting demographic for advertisers to reach, airlines often receive the devices for free (especially from iPad competitors like the Samsung Galaxy), a concept dubbed ‘tryvertising’ by trendwatching.com. For example,  Virgin Atlantic’s premium passengers could try out one of eight Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounge at Heathrow in November 2010.

4. Airport library
In the ‘Airport Library’ at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport , visitors can read books, watch short movies and listen to music. The 90 m2 library features several ‘reading towers’ filled with Dutch literature translated in 29 languages, laid-back reading chairs and seats with integrated listening devices, as wellas a reading table equiped with 9 iPads. Visitors can use the iPads to see the collection, or watch videos about Dutch culture.

5. Airport F&B
Delta Air Lines and airport restaurant operator OTG Management in late 2010 launched a novel restaurant concept at New York JFK and LaGuardia airports that allows passengers to order food and drinks via one of 200 iPads installed at dining areas at the gate. A server then delivers the food to the customer’s seat in 10 minutes or less. Food can also be taken to go or brought onboard. The iPads are affixed to the booths and counters at the gates and also offer other applications that allow travellers to check flights, read articles, play games, etcetera. OTG says the wireless Internet connection for the iPads is free, there isn’t a time limit on customers’ use and travelers don’t have to buy food to use the devices. Delta and OTG will also install iPad-enabled dining stations at at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport in 2012.

6. Media bar
Delta and OTG have also announced another innovative concept that is build around the iPad, called the ‘OTG Media Bar’. At what looks like a traditional magazine stand, except filled with Apple iPads, passengers can flip through the iPads to see what publications, movies, and music they like, download the content of their choice, and then rent the device for their trip. Once the passenger reaches his or her final destination, they use a pre-paid postage box received at time of rental to return the iPad. Passengers with their own iPads will be able to download material as well. The OTG Media Bar will open at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport in 2012.

7. In-flight entertainment
In June 2010, Qantas low-cost subsidiary Jetstar became the first airline in the world to offer the iPad for rent in a month-long trial on two routes out of Melbourne. As the pilot was a success, the airline anounced it would roll out the offer across its fleet, and after experiencing multiple delays the airline in November 2011 launched the device on trans Tasman flights, before rolling it out across domestic and short haul international services. Passengers flying longer than two hours can hire an iPad from AUD10-15 per flight, and Jetstar will initially roll out 3,000 iPads with plans to increase this number once the iPads are placed on Jetstar’s Asia network.

What sets Jetstar’s iPad offering apart is the airline’s cooperation with Stellar Inflight (presentation here) to develop its own graphical interface and content management system for the device, in order to make it viable for so-called early-window content (latest release movies, TV shows and music direct from Hollywood) as well as the latest generation games (provided by Gameloft). Says Jetstar CEO Bruce Buchanan, “We’ve worked with major motion picture houses to ensure that our customers have access to the latest release movies, a first for the industry. We’ve also collaborated with the industry to and will also offer next-generation games for customers using the iPad in-flight.”

Jetstar also fitted the iPads with a purpose-built case which includes a bracket that lets passengers hang the device at eye level on new ‘Pinnacle’ slimline seats from B/E Aerospace. Alternatively, a flip-stand on the case lets passengers rest the iPad horizontally on the seat’s tray table. The custom case for the iPads will also contain a second battery to allow the device to run for over 20 hours between recharges, as well as RFID tags to prevent theft. The cases will be swapped out during the aircraft’s turn-around time, so the iPads themselves will remain on board, receiving freshly charged battery packs. For an elaborate take on Jetstar’s iPad concept, see these reports from APEX and Australian Business Traveller.

Iceland Express, airBaltic, Skywork
Icelandic low-cost airline Iceland Express and Latvian-based airBaltic also rent out iPads to passengers in-flight on a regular basis. Since November 2010, Iceland Express has been offering passengers the option to rent an iPad for around EUR10 on transatlantic flights between Reykjavik and North America. AirBaltic, meanwhile, in June 2011 introduced the iPad 2, pre-loaded with movies, TV series, cartoons, music and games, for rent on flights longer than 2.5 hours. The fee for Economy class passengers is EUR9.00 per flight, while Business class passengers can use the device free of charge.Small Swiss regional airline Skywork, meanwhile, provides all passengers onboard its fleet of three Dornier 328s and two Dash 8-Q400s with an iPad for free.

British Airways
British Airways from mid-May to mid-June 2011 has been trialling iPads on a B777-200 aircraft, replacing the portable devices that are currently used by First Class and Business Class passengers. The B777-200 was one of 18 aircraft without on demand (AVOD) entertainment, which will be fitted with new AVOD systems from September 2011 on. As the retrofit will last around 12 months, BA is planning to offer premium passengers iPads with pre-installed entertainment in the meantime.

Australian Business Traveller reports that Qantas will trial Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect wireless IFE system in combination with the iPad in a six-week trial that will start in mid-January 2012, using wi-fi to stream content to the tablets from a central server onboard the aircraft. All 254 passengers on a dedicated Qantas B767-300 will be issued with an iPad 2 that runs a specialised ‘Q Streaming’ app, which provides passengers access to tv shows and movies.

The service will be provided free of charge and passengers in business class will also get a flexible stand that holds the iPad on the fold-down meal tray. The iPads will be ‘locked down’, bypassing Apple’s normal home screen for the Q Streaming app, so they don’t work outside the aircraft’s wireless network. Towards the end of the initial six week trial Qantas says it will allow passengers to view the streaming content on their own iPad by making the Q Streaming app available as a free download from the iTunes App Store. If successful, Qantas will roll out the offering on ten Boeing 767-300s, on which it likely will install seats with build-in iPad brackets, similar to Jetstar.

Singapore start-up airline Scoot will opt for iPads or Android tablets rented to customers instead of conventional in-seat video screens when the low-cost carrier launches in June next year. “We are definitely not doing in-seat screens.” “We’re looking at various IFE options including wireless streaming and including tablets, which could be iPad or they could be Android” Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson told Australian Business Traveller. Wilson’s ideal scenario is to stream movies, TV shows and music wirelessly to devices which the airline would rent out to customers, but he admits it’s “still very early days for wireless”. In the interim, Scoot may launch with content preloaded onto tablets, as currently offered by low-cost airlines such as Jetstar, airBaltic and Iceland Express.

Finnair, KLM
In another sign that tablets such as the iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab will become mainstream onboard aircraft in the next few years, Finnair CEO Mika Vehviläinen recently said that Finnair is considering outfitting its upcoming A350s (the first of which will be delivered in 2014) with tablets like the Apple iPad. “Built-in entertainment systems are quite cumbersome and expensive, and they tend to get outdated very quickly. And the lifecycle of aircraft is very different to the lifecycle of electronics, especially consumer electronics, so it’s not a very good combination.” […] “There would be central servers with wireless so you could download and stream movies and music to the devices.” Vehviläinen said that eliminating built-in, centralised entertainment systems would save fuel — and money — by reducing weight.

A similar vision is voiced by KLM’s Managing Director Erik Varwijk, who reckons that the future for IFE lies in portable tablets. Says Varwijk, “Tablets not only offer better quality and more opportunties [for IFE] but they are less likely to crash than the current IFE systems. Moreover, tablets are lighter which saves on fuel costs.”

Samsung Galaxy, Google Chromebook
Meanwhile, iPad competitors Samsung (Galaxy) and Google (Chromebook) have partnered with airlines to let passengers try their devices in-flight. American Airlines provides Samsung Galaxy Tabs to its Business and First passengers on selected routes (including international flights to and from Europe and South America) that are served by B757 and B767 aircraft (images here). The carrier will roll out a total of 6,000 Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets in the next months to replace its current personal entertainment devices.

Google has teamed up with Virgin America to allow passengers to ‘test-fly’ the search giant’s new Chromebook computers for free. Virgin America’s passengers can use the computers onboard their flight and at select airport gates from July 1 through mid-January 2012. Flyers who borrow a Chromebook also receive a free wi-fi session onboard Virgin America. The Chromebooks can be returned at the passenger’s arriving gate and Google Chrome Staff is also on hand to assist passengers.

8. In-flight magazine
In order to become more appealing to advertisers, airlines in recent years have made their in-flight magazines available to a wider audience, for example publishing the as e-magazines and dedicated iPad apps (both for free and for a small fee). Airlines such as Lufthansa, TAP, Finnair, airBaltic, Turkish Airlines, United, Air New Zealand, ANA and Malaysia Airlines, have developed dedicated iPad apps for their in-flight magazines, which often also contain extra features such as videos, photo galleries and animations. Most airlines offer their in-flight magazine apps for free, while others (e.g, Ryanair, Airtran, bmibaby, Brussels Airlines) distribute their magazines for a small fee (EUR0.79) through digital publisher PixelMags.

9. Passenger surveys
As part of its Rethink Quality initiative, Finnair in a one-month pilot in November 2010 offered passengers free use of iPads on board select flights between Helsinki and Hong Kong. In addition to entertaining content, the iPads contained a bespoke customer research application developed by the airline, which invites passengers to “explore a few ideas” and give their opinion. Passengers could rate their interest on a 1 to 5 scale on ideas such as the option to order food and drinks from the IFE system, whether they want to learn more about the background of wines served onboard, or their preferred selection of items available for sale in-flight (video of Finnair’s iPad app here).

On a similar note, from June to August 2010, KLM used three iPads for a survey among passengers on its regional subsidiary KLM Cityhopper to test the feasibility of the device for passenger research. The iPads were dedicated for the survey with no entertaining content offered.

10. Cabin crew
British Airways has armed 1,800 senior cabin crew with an iPad 2 across its entire long and short haul fleet in a move to help with on-board customer service. The move follows a successful trial over a few months in the summer where 100 of the airline’s top crew members were given the device so they can quickly identify where each customer is sitting, their Executive Club status, any special meal requirements, as well as customer service updates. The latter means that any issues can be logged with ground-based colleagues around the network prior to departure, so solutions can be delivered while the flight is airborne. The roll-out will see the addition of destination content to the iPads. BA’s system runs the in-house Enhanced Service Platform app on iPad 2 devices with 3G data service. 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 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 when the iPad is switched back on after landing.

On a similar note, KLM will also provide a group of 50 senior pursers with iPads on board as part of a 6-month trial project starting in October 2011. KLM feels it is essential that cabin crew have easy access to the latest information onboard, as personal contact with passengers on the ground is becoming rarer due to the increased deployment of self-service kiosks.

ANA, meanwhile, will provide each of its 6,000 flight attendants with an iPad tablet in a move to reduce training costs. The devices will replace the current bulky training manuals with less centralized training and more do-it-yourself lessons. Approximately 700 cabin attendants will begin trialing the iPad from October 2011 before full roll out in April 2012. ANA expects the iPads to reduce training costs by about JPY200 million (USD2.6 million).

11. Pilots
In the USA, the Federal Aviation Administation (FAA) in March 2011 approved the use of iPads in the cockpit, but not yet during all phases of flight. Alaska Airlines was quick to respond and started transitioning all 1,400-plus of its pilots to company-issued iPads, the first airline in the world to do so. The iPads will improve fuel economy by cutting back on the weight on board and also allow for documents to be updated more frequently. Alaska pilots are asked to charge up their units before arriving to work. And there are two iPads in the cockpit, just in case.

In June 2011, American Airlines (AA) started conductings the first tests of iPads for all phases of flight, and after a 6 month test period, the FAA has just granted the airline approval to use iPads in all phases of flight, making AA the first airline to be allowed to do this. The airline will begin iPad operations on B-777 aircraft, and then implement across all other fleets. AA says the weight reduction may save the airline an estimated USD1.2 million worth of fuel a year.

Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, has deployed 22 iPads to pilots for testing in flight. Each test device is loaded with Jeppesen Mobile TC charting software, a GoodReader document viewer that contains all of Delta’s manuals in an electronic format, and the Journey browser, which allows access to iCrew. A Delta Meteorology app provides access to pilot-tailored graphical weather information and real-time looped Delta radar. Each pilot will also have access to their Delta e-mail account and calendar. Once the iPad tests are complete, Delta will start testing 16 Motorola Xoom tablets.

United-Continental in August 2011 announced it would deploy iPads to its pilots in an effort to create a “paperless flight deck.” These electronic flight bags (EFBs) will replace flight manuals and deliver aeronautical navigation charts via an app. All 11,000 pilots will have iPads by the end of the year. The cost savings boil down to less weight and fuel consumption. United Continental said: Each iPad, which weighs less than 1.5 pounds and will replace approximately 12,000 sheets and 38 pounds of paper per pilot. The airline projects EFBs will save nearly 16 million sheets of paper a year which is equivalent to more than 1,900 trees not cut down. Saving 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 3,208 metric tons.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, KLM has equipped 50 pilots with iPads, while Qantas and South African low-cost airline 1Time, among others, have launched similar trials.


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