United To Equip Flight Attendants With iPhone 6 Plus

United Airlines plans to distribute 23,000 iPhone 6 Plus devices to flight attendants to improve customer service and communications.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

December 11, 2014

3 Min Read

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United Airlines plans to equip 23,000 of its flight attendants with the Apple iPhone 6 Plus beginning next year. The airline believes the deployment will help its in-flight staff better serve customers by placing safety and service information at their fingertips.

United said it will start distributing the handsets to its 23,000 mainline flight attendants beginning in the second quarter of 2015.The company didn't say how quickly it expects to get the smartphones passed out. At first, flight attendants will be able to use the iPhones for basic tasks such as accessing corporate email, United's website and intranet, and policy/procedure manuals. United didn't specify if its staffers will have access to all these resources when airborne. (United trails its major competitors in terms of in-flight WiFi access, though it is slowly catching up.)

The iPhones will also handle most onboard retail transactions, though United did not detail how the iPhones will be used to swipe passenger credit cards or what software will be used. United already requires credit cards for all onboard purchases for items such as food, beverages, and Sky Mall products; flight attendants currently use dedicated credit card terminals to process those transactions.

[Do you check your phone first thing in the morning? You're in good company. Read Americans 'Obsessed' With Their Devices.]

Going forward, United expects the iPhone 6 Plus to replace the flight attendants' printed safety manual with an electronic version. Further, attendants will be able to use the devices to better follow up on cabin issues and repairs as well as provide real-time information on events that occur when airborne. United is also developing customer-focused tools for the smartphones.

"We are thrilled to make this investment in our flight attendants," said Sam Risoli, United's senior VP of inflight services. "iPhone 6 Plus will enable them to deliver an even higher level of flyer-friendly service and will offer our flight attendants simple, one-touch access to valuable work information, enabling them to better serve our customers."

United already uses Apple's iPad in the cockpit: The tablet replaced bulky flight manuals in 2011. United said it is already looking at the iPad Air 2 to replace its original batch of iPads.

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Apple released the iPhone 6 and its larger sibling, the 6 Plus, earlier this year. The iPhone 6 Plus features a 5.5-inch 1080p HD screen, extensive battery life, 8-megapixel camera, and LTE 4G.

Last year, Delta Airlines equipped 19,000 of its flight attendants with the Nokia Lumia 820 smartphone. Delta's Lumia phones are running customized software from Avanade that runs on the Microsoft Dynamics for Retail mobile point-of sale platform.

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About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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