Flight attendants may soon be toting iPads in the food & beverage cart

by David Needle

March 28 2013

The Buy-on-Board app will give flight attendants the latest information on what's available to serve and help process payments.
The Buy-on-Board app will give flight attendants the latest information on what's available to serve and help process payments.

Gone are the days of free meals on airplanes for standard fares. But airlines still serve food and alcohol for a fee. Now a new iPad app aims to make that job easier for flight attendants.

Allegiant Systems says its FlyDesk Buy-on-Board app for the iPad is now available after a beta test period dating back to last October.

In the current system, flight attendants typically have to remember a few meal choices and drink orders they can jot down on paper or try to commit to memory. Not fool-proof, but you would think simpler than carrying around a tablet.

But Allegiant says its system offers a number of advantages such as helping flight attendants find all of the information and pricing on all a-la-carte food and beverage options, track inventory and process credit or debit card payments.

Another advantage: If an airline is equipped with inflight WiFi, the BoB app will be able to process payments immediately (rather than waiting until landing), reducing the risk of cancelled or incomplete payments.

While the Allegiant Systems is now making its iPad-based solution available to all airlines, it was designed for its own regional airline, Allegiant Air which will be the first to use it. 

The Allegiant Systems BoB application is fully integrated into the same iPad that houses the airline's FlyDesk EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) and cabin solutions. According to Allegiant, this integration makes it easier to offer an expanded list of a-la-carte food and beverage options, without complicating the purchase process for the customer or the flight attendant processing the sale.

iPad versus other tablets

Andrew Kemmetmueller , CEO of Allegiant Systems, said the company evaluated other tablet options including those based on Android and Windows 8.

"Ultimately, it came down to the decision that we needed a platform we could invest into for five years or more that provided required security and stability,” said Kemmetmueller.

The initial rollout will use full-size iPads, but Allegiant said “as the technology and airlines’ need evolves” it may make the FlyDesk solution available for the iPad Mini, which, given its portability would seem to be a no-brainer for the space-challenged confines of an airplane.

(Speaking of airlines and iPads, Patrick O’Keeffe VP of Airline Operations Technology at American Airlines, will be speaking at the upcoming Tablet Strategy conference in New York on April 30 to talk about his airlines' deployment of tablets). 

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