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British Airways deploys 2,000 iPads to cabin crew; widens gaze to app development and enterprise app store

by Doug Drinkwater

January 28 2013

British Airways has deployed more than 2,000 iPads to its senior cabin crew members, in a bid to improve customer service
British Airways has deployed more than 2,000 iPads to its senior cabin crew members, in a bid to improve customer service

British Airways has rolled out more than 2,000 iPads to senior cabin crew since November, but is now focusing on mobile apps, security and building its internal app store.

The airline ran a three month trial of iPad 2s in November 2011, with 100 tablets first being handed to senior cabin crew members. That figure soon snowballed into more than 2,000 iPads, and the company has more recently announced its intention to give iPads to all 3,600 of its pilots.

Stuart McKinley, one of the business managers behind the deployment, said that the initial focus of giving iPads to cabin crew at Gatwick and Heathrow (London, UK) airports was to replicate some of its paper procedures.

“Over 2,000 of our senior cabin crew member are using iPads 2 and since March we’ve had an in-house team to develop specific apps for these,” opened McKinley.

“We started [using iPads] very simply to replicate paper forms and to give more information on passengers. The cabin crew said that the biggest benefit was just having this information to hand.”

The BA exec added that introducing the iPads has also allowed for a faster turnaround of data, from catering requirements to cabin crew liaising with ground staff in engineering.

McKinley says that most cabin crew reacted well to the iPad roll-out, and to the point where they are trying to be increasingly proactive with the device. Some staff are now using videos for product demos or even asking British Airways to push more paper procedures to their iPad 2.

Truth be hold however and the hardware is just one part of the whole story for British Airways.

As mentioned by McKinley, the firm now has an in-house team of iPad app developers in London and has also built its own internal app store, which houses the airline's own company apps and some third-party apps it recommends from Apple’s App Store.

BSafe, British Airway’s password app for all Office applications, is one of three internal apps used by cabin crew staff, while recommended third-party apps include Airport Codes 2012, Free Wi-Fi Finder, Quickoffice’s OfficeHD, Skype and Trip Advisor.

British Airways told TabTimes that it doesn’t blacklist any apps as such but can limit the features of certain apps, and suggested that lack the in-flight Wi-Fi or 3G (meaning apps are always running locally) prevents iPad misuse anyway.

That’s not to say that the airline’s mobile security measures are lax, however.

For while the firm also has no clear bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy for ground staff, all customer details are wiped from used apps within 24 hours using AirWatch’s mobile device management service.

Authentication must be passed using a company staff number and password, and staff are asked to change these passwords every three months. Lost or stolen devices can be remotely locked or wiped, once again using AirWatch.

Going forward and BA’s McKinley says that the airline will be looking to simplify some of its processes on these apps in 2013, so that staff don’t have to contend with so much data.

“In the short term we’ll try and maximize what we’ve got. We may expand to other tablets but for now we’ve got a lot of expertise on the iPad.

“We’re also trialling a handful of new features of how iPads can link information together across other departments, but nothing we can tell you any more about yet!”

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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