In today’s vastly competitive air travel arena, airlines always seem to be “one-upping” the competition. Offering planes that are larger, faster, more luxurious, less expensive, and every other amenity, or lack thereof, they can imagine. Many, if not most, have also come on board with consumer-side mobile apps offering airline information, and personalized access to travel itineraries, booking information, flight delay details and more. But what still plagues the airlines, as is true for so many other industries, is the massive amount of internal paper-based operations. Everything from human resources and maintenance, to flight attendant activities and pilot operations is hampered by inordinate amounts of paper. Now American Airlines has announced it is the first in the industry to completely mobilize the cockpit with apps delivered on the iPad.
Replacing heavy, bulky pilot bags with the iPad did more than just open up space and eliminate copious amounts of paper, some 3,000 pages per pilot, according to American. It reduced American’s #1 pilot injury source (transporting the bags) while dramatically streamlining access to all manner of daily operational data and even emergency procedure details. Additionally utilizing apps in the air and on the ground potentially allows mobile data capture of every manner including photographic, GPS/location, visual mapping, alphanumeric and more.
But the non-stop mobile momentum doesn’t end with iPads in the cockpit. It’s just one component of American’s aggressive, cross platform, go forward mobile strategy. Flight attendants operations are being streamlined to enhance all manner of in-flight customer interactions from food service to gate details and connecting flight information. “All 16,000 of American’s crew members worldwide have been given Galaxy Notes. ‘We’re the first airline to give a tablet to every single crew member’,” said Patrick O’Keeffe, American’s VP of Airline Operations Technology.
Perhaps an even bigger step towards global mobilization in the air, American successfully lobbied the FAA for broader use of the iPad in flight. They are currently the only airline in the world able to use iPad at every phase of flight from takeoff to landing. But winning the blessing of the FAA leaves other airlines with the opportunity to be fully cleared for takeoff in the mobile space as well.
As if streamlined operations, increased employee productivity, reduced injury and huge cost savings isn’t enough, American’s mobile app deployment in the cockpit has dramatic impact on the environment, “removing the kitbag from all of our planes saves a minimum of 400,000 gallons and $1.2 million of fuel annually based on current fuel prices,” said Campbell…“Additionally, each of the more than 8,000 iPads we have deployed to date replaces more. Altogether, 24 million pages of paper documents have been eliminated.”
With American Airlines being the first to globally embrace mobile apps for internal, in-flight operations, they have clearly stepped to the top rung of the competitive ladder. This inevitably begs the question of whether the others can be far behind. Who will get their fastest and with equally robust mobile app data collection solutions remains to be seen. One thing is clear, mobile optimization is sure to make the friendly skies even friendlier.