As humans, we suffer from FOMO, or fear of missing out for those acronym averse readers. When we see a cabin crew member walking around the plane with an iPad and making faces at passengers, we inherently want to know what they know, what they can see, and basically everything that’s going on.
That intensity only heats up when you overhear that they can actually see your secret customer value score, which tells them how important you are to the airline!
Here’s what cabin crew members can see on their iPads, iPhones or other mobile devices, what they can’t, and why most it’s actually really helpful…
Every Airline Is Different, But…
Cabin crew iPads or now, even iPhones are designed to make travel great again, or at least help identify who on board is a great customer. Ideally, both happen.
It all started years ago when Apple and IBM teamed up to create a software solution called Passenger+, which identified at risk flight connections to cabin crew, which then allowed them to come and help and rebook you from the air, using what at the time was this new thing called “in flight” wifi.
In general, iPads are used to inform cabin crew about…
- Missed connections – the passenger kind.
- Elite status milestones and where frequent flyers are sitting.
- Previous customer experience issues which need rectifying.
- Identifying passenger information, such as PNR and ticket type.
- Clearly display passengers with special needs or situations.
Little do most passengers know, even if there isn’t a publicly available wifi connection, all planes have a communication system, so this has been available for a good while.
But as wifi and software have improved, the systems have taken a new turn to helping airlines personalize service, know where all the best customers are sitting, and even in providing help with onward journeys.
The most notable feature recently added is the ability to report things like a broken seat, or non functioning entertainment screen in flight, so that the ground mechanics and tech teams can prepare before the flight even lands, and quickly hop on board to fix any issues in time, for an on time departure.
This means fewer passengers will be affected by knock on delays, or seat issues. In the old days, a broken screen could fly for days. Now, many can be replaced or swapped within minutes of the first issue, sometimes even on board.
Personalising Journeys And Soft Touches
In general, a cabin crew can’t see what you paid for an airline ticket, but they can see the type of fare you’re on – in other words, if you used points. They can also see your status with the airline, or if you are earning miles with another loyalty program instead.
So what does that mean, practically?
On longer domestic flights, American Airlines uses a seat map showing where all Executive Platinum or above flyers are sitting, to disperse complimentary snack boxes.
A passenger at risk of a missed connection on Lufthansa, and virtually any other major airline can be informed on the plane of what to do and where to go – or if they indeed miss a connection, which member of staff to see, to pick up new boarding passes.
Virgin Atlantic has chosen to go a step further with a system on their iPads. If a customer filled out a survey after their outbound flight and any major issues were noted in the scores or feedback, this info is automatically populated to the cabin crew on the inbound flight.
Surprisingly, it’s for 100% of passengers, and not just VIPs. The crew is then given discretion to “win back” the customer with a variety of approved gestures of goodwill, with the aim of turning detractors into fans before their round trip is completed.
Scammers be warned: fraud monitoring is also included on these systems.
Personal Milestones Via Data
Last year, a crew iPad on my British Airways flight alerted the team that I had already re-qualified for British Airways Executive Club Gold status, but by earning 2500 tier points, I’d unlocked a new benefit. Hooray!
It automatically populated a message of congratulations for the crew member to read out, and before take off I received a nice personalized interaction thanking me for my loyalty.
For some, these are the touches that make a person actually stay loyal to a brand. For others, they can be awkward, but nice and appreciated. Having a system to keep track of these milestones and proactively alert a crew to make you aware is simply a smart use of modern tech.
Amusingly, it’s also known that British Airways and many other airlines make a customers “CIV” score available to cabin crew, which ranks a passenger on their value to the airline from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest.
Yes – with almost every airline you interact with, there’s a high chance that you have a score which identifies how valuable you are, compared to all other travelers.
It’s the ability for airlines to create these personal interactions which many see as the future goldmine of iPad and all in flight connectivity, and the way forward for airlines to make positive impressions, or recover a negative one.
You’re no longer a seat number, you’re a definable data set, with details on what you like to drink, your favourite movies and plenty more. Some people may hate it, but airlines are just using the information you’ve already given them. With any hope, the things they learn about you will bring more pleasant journeys, above all else.
All passengers benefit from proactive time and effort saved in the event of a wonky flight connection or overnight delay thanks to the efficiency of these proactive systems. They’re a win, absolutely.
The question is: how far can, and will they go?
Analyzing readily available data to highlight and celebrate personal milestones from a birthday toast in economy, to a pilot handshake after a millionth mile flown is what will make flying feel fun, unique and special – not just a way to get from one point to the next…
Next time you’re on a plane, try to take a peek at the iPad.