Flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are testing out new mobile devices as part of their daily operation. The iPad minis have been distributed to 200 cabin crewmembers who are participating in a trial program that is expected to wrap up in the next couple of months.
Once the results of the trial are validated the company expects to begin a system-wide “dual operations” period for FAA proving purposes before eventually transitioning fully to the all-digital model, likely in 2017.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the effort is that it does not include point-of-sale operations.
The iPad minis will replace crew manuals and the “read before fly” dispatches but onboard sales will still be handled separately. The devices are also not expected to offer customer service or flight manifest details.
Southwest has less in the way of inflight sales than other carriers – only alcoholic beverages – but this still seems like a missed opportunity to take a large step forward in streamlining and modernizing operations.
Given the carrier’s near full-fleet connectivity with Global Eagle Entertainment’s Ku solution, the ability to integrate real-time customer service with the flight attendant devices has significant potential upside. Perhaps that will be offered in the next revision of the plan.