British Airways Cabin Crew Are All Getting iPhones

Filed Under: British Airways

British Airways has just revealed the latest phase of their investment in improving technology and training, and it’s an interesting one.

British Airways flight attendants are getting iPhones

British Airways has announced that all 15,000 of their cabin crew will be receiving iPhone XRs.

The new phones are part of an initiative to empower flight attendants to better deliver personalized customer service.

This addition follows a successful trial of giving senior cabin crew iPads on every flight.

The new phones will be loaded with a selection of apps to help crew offer customers instant additional assistance during their journey. Crew will also have access to a range of customer information, including previous flights and meal preferences.

British Airways quotes a cabin crew member who gives an example of how he was able to use the iPhone XR:

“Recently, when a customer realised that he had forgotten to order a special meal, he was really impressed when I quickly took out the phone, logged onto ba.com and ordered a meal for his return journey – all within a matter of minutes in the middle of the flight.

It felt so rewarding to be able to immediately resolve the situation for the customer. All my crew reference guides are also loaded onto the phone, so everything I need is in my pocket throughout each flight; it really has made a huge difference already.”

My take on flight attendants with smartphones

Objectively this is a positive development, though more generally three thoughts come to mind.

First of all, while I’m all for smartphones being used to be able to deal with disruptions, I actually don’t like them being part of the overall service flow.

Call me traditional (and it’s ironic because I don’t use a pen and paper for anything), but I don’t like how on airlines like Emirates they take your meal and drink order on a smartphone. They’re basically looking at a phone screen the entire time they’re talking to you, and that doesn’t feel personalized at all. Never mind the fact that it seems to be more time consuming…

Second of all, if British Airways actually wants to improve customer service, maybe they should compensate their mixed fleet cabin crew better. British Airways has different flight attendant contracts, with the “mixed fleet” flight attendants being the lowest paid.

While the job sounds glamorous, turnover is very high, given the low wages they’re paid, which you can’t really live on in London. While mixed fleet crews are generally friendly and enthusiastic, their inexperience and lack of polish does pretty consistently show, in my opinion.

Lastly, we constantly hear travel companies talk about using technology to better personalize customer service. I feel like companies invest a lot of money in the technology, but rarely do they invest the time and resources required to make this technology useful.

Hotels are notorious for talking about “loyalty 2.0” and better customizing the guest experience. But when I check into a hotel I’ve stayed at a dozen times before and am asked if I’ve stayed there before, I have little hope of much progress when it comes to customization.

What’s your take on flight attendants with smartphones? Have you had positive service interactions resulting from this, or no?

Comments
  1. Delta flight attendants have had iPhones (SkyPro) for quite some time. They can be used to give passengers connecting flight information and also to recognize elite (Diamond, Platinum, etc) customers. They have other uses as well. No voice capability on the devices.

  2. It also adds to the further dumbing down of society where no one makes an effort to remember anything, because you can “Google” it, or in this case, “BA-App” it…

  3. agree the tech can be negative. Flew CX recently and the amount of time and clicks to document my menu selections was ridiculous. Now part of that could be due to a crappy app, but seriously I started to feel bad for the girl it was taking so long

  4. Uhh… Nearly all American airlines uses smart devices. Jet Blue and Spirit uses iPads, American uses Samsung Note 3s… How is this news?

  5. The hard part is the design, training, and execution of the device. The introduction of the hardware is meaningless. The only example they give doesn’t add much. In fact couldn’t, the special meal booking, have been passed on to the service director with the iPad so that the same thing could be achieved?

  6. I think this is another now win situation with BA. I do agree that they have many service short comings and they are a long way from being perfect. That being said when they do show investment (such as the iPhones) there is always an opinion that the money could be spent better elsewhere. The reference to MF pay I also find bizarre. I agree they should be better paid and indeed better trained but this stands on its own merit. Should the club suite or upgrades to the first soft product not have happened until MF got paid better? As I said BA have lots of shortcomings but I really do fail to see how this particular investment will harm the service provided. If anything it will empower the crew to offer better service when things go wrong, and if MF are not getting more money surely some empowerment in other areas could go a long way.

  7. @dennis and you know how many things crew are expected to remember including all the safety features This way they can retrieve connecting info, service recovery etc
    Customers often ask things the crew won’t have info on such as ground transport on arrival
    You have no idea

  8. @Lucky
    I like connectivity and the opportunities it should provide for efficiency, maybe it’s the Project Manager/6Sigma talking. The best use, in my opinion, of these i-Problems would be to have passengers order everything thru the IFE. Change the description from In-Flight Entertainment to In-Flight-Hospitality (IFH). This should, ideally, lead to dedicated FA service areas, a more personalized experience, optimized FA time with passengers as they’re no longer spending time trying to figure out, “Chicken or Fish,” or constantly repeating the options to every passenger thereby reducing unnecessary steps eliminating muda.

    Imagine Premium Cabins (1st/Business) drink & meal service beginning up to 45 minutes earlier as your order is prepared and ready because you provided your input sooner and did not have to wait for the others to ask about options. Imagine knowing in Real Time what meals are available or getting the meal of your choice because it was loaded just before the doors closed because of this “Optimised” process.

    Efficient, effective, and opportunity to exceed passenger expectations.

  9. In my last Delta flight A333 ( GRU-MCO) the FA were using Android devices. I disliked the experience because they should remember the pax name (DeltaOne class) by heart and not stopping in front of you and then typing your seat and then calling you by your name.

    And in my point of view if they are using Android, IOS, Blackberry, Nokia or other brand I don´t care.

  10. Hey Lucky, just regarding the Mixed Fleet turnover. This is exactly what airlines (and companies in many other industries) want these days.

    The last thing BA wants is crew that want to make a ‘career’ out of flying. You stay longer, you want more money, better T&C’s. You take paid time off to have kids. Later on in your career whilst in your 50’s/60’s you need time off to tend to elderly parents etc. You become concerned with things like pension funds.

    Whilst the Mixed Fleet wages are much lower than BA’s ‘legacy’ crew (almost half) they are pretty much the ‘market average’ for FA jobs in the UK now. The ‘sweet spot’ where a crew member has passed the cost phase of recruitment/training/uniform etc is 16 months. Most crew stay around the two year mark. As you say, once they realise they are fed up with sharing with four other people in a house share in London or can’t keep up the pace of their manic rosters they leave.

  11. Maybe now, British will not cancel (!) paid seats weeks in advance without telling BA Members due to “we have the right to move your $3000 seat when needed”— and without an email.

    My favorite expression to BA is = “MEH”
    Such a horrible way to fly.
    BA = Worst Airline

  12. Haha haha that ‘testimonial’ reads as pure marketing department script. The fact that it took ‘minutes’ to secure a passenger’s return flight meal is a laugh…if it was even a true story.
    The last thing I want to see when I am on a flight is service staff staring at their screens the whole flight.
    Plus, the nightmare of accounting for 15,000 devices, in use, lost, missing, stolen. What a joy!
    Anyways, I’ve kept away from BA for more than a year, and it has been wonderful. I broke my ‘only fly OneWorld’ and instead flew AirCanada transatlantic for the first time in years. It was great and I’m still kicking myself for being such a slave to one airline alliance.

  13. Haha loving your hatred for ‘mixed fleets’ – this is the second time in 24 hours you’ve voiced your disdain.

  14. As a passenger I don’t want to be made to use any kind of device not enter any data. Especially in a premium cabin I expect personal service and, to be fair to BA, I think that is where they have an edge, at least over non-Asian airlines.

  15. “compensate their mixed fleet cabin crew better”

    Would you be willing to pay more for your ticket? … didn’t think so.

  16. Honestly I think this is very useful. I have worked in hospitality before in a high-end environment. Digital Order Takers are very useful because many of our customers worked on tabs paid monthly, it allowed us to record their preferences, whether they like still or sparkling, red or white, house or top shelf, how they like to be addressed, whether they like to be constantly attended to or whether they prefer limited interaction (many of our guests came here for business meetings so they may rather not be listened to etc.). As the maître d’ it would allow me to make sure the guests were given the best service possible, it also allowed the waiters/waitresses to send me bill adjustments and comps to my main terminal for me to approve directly, without making a fuss over it (this was necessary due to the fact mains were $80USD+ and we can’t just hemorrhage money…). I thought it worked really well and I’m looking forward to seeing how well BA implements it, I can see it being used positively and negatively (well my phone says you don’t have a special meal so that’s your fault vs. situation displayed above). I’ll put a reminder in my diary to look at flying BA next time I’m doing anything long-haul.

  17. @ Tom – The only access the crew will have to your data is to the online version of the Passenger Information List (PIL). Basically the same information they have in paper form now.

    This list contains:
    – Passenger names.
    – Connecting flight info.
    – Frequent flyer status.
    – Whether they have been upgraded and whether the upgrade was a paid or ‘invol’.
    – Any special meal ordered.
    – whether a particular seat allocation has been paid.
    – if they are non rev.

    The functionality is there to take it a step further. For example at qantas all the cabin crew have iPads. They are able to make notes on frequent flyers along the lines of ‘Mr XXX likes a lot of ice with his gin and tonic’. And these messages carry over to the next crew.

  18. @turbobrick
    I agree completely – I much prefer doing everything online so I can choose my pace.

    But I have friends who want to talk to a person to do their banking.
    It seems weird to you and me, but it’s a fact.

    Therefore for good acceptance, an airline would need to give one a choice at time of booking.
    That means two processes, which you and I both see as a challenge!

  19. What a bunch of crybabies! Airlines try to do something to help crew help passengers and people bitch about it. I won’t blame Airlines if they stop trying to please the flying public, they can’t win. And please don’t point to Emirates and the like, they are losing money, so they too, will be pissing everyone off soon enough I suppose. Be happy that you are well enough to travel, and have the means to do so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *