American Airlines flies high with two tablet industry firsts

April 30, 2013

American’s well-publicized replacement of bulky kit bags that include flight manuals for pilots using iPads will become available to all of the airline’s 8,600 pilots by the end of May. 

The iPad replaces 40 pound kit bags with over 3,000 pages that include terminal charts and flight manuals that can now be updated digitally. It’s little surprise then that the change is being welcomed on all sides.

“We’ve reduced the single biggest source of pilot injuries, carrying those packs,” said Patrick O’Keeffe, VP of Airline Operations Technology at American during his Tablet Strategy keynote. “And we are now able to save $1 million in fuel costs and stop printing all the page revisions.” 

But American is not locked in to being iPad-only; O’Keeffe detailed the airline’s unprecedented distribution of the ultra-portable Galaxy Note tablets to its flight attendants to help manage food service, seating and other customer interactions, like giving the most current gate information for connecting flights. 

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 O’Keeffe.

The other American “first” goes back to the iPad. American got on the iPad bandwagon early and has since, in partnership with Apple, lobbied the FAA for broader use in flight. 

 “American is the only carrier in the world with permission to use iPads at all phases of a flight, including letting our pilots use them below 10,000 feet,” said O’Keeffe.

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