Six ways iPads and mobile tablets are used in airports

May 19, 2019

From customer check-in to the airplane cockpit, iPads and mobile tablets have been employed in airports since they first became mainstream in about 2010.

Their rollout has helped slash time spent in the queue, offer airport staff greater insight into what’s happening at any given moment and drastically reduced the paperwork involved in aviation.

Here’s an insight into six ways iPads and mobile tablets are used in airports.

At check-in

In 2015, budget Australian airline Tiger Air announced it was equipping its Melbourne check-in staff with iPads in a bid to cut time in the queue. In doing so it joined a lengthy list of carriers employing mobile tablets to eliminate lengthy waits prior to departure.

Using a purpose-built app, the iPads allowed staff to come out from behind the counter, check people into their flights, allocate seats and upgrade a passenger’s legroom or luggage allowance.

Equipped with a credit card scanner and printer, it also enabled staff to print boarding passes on the run.

Information kiosks

Vast and busy, airport terminals can quickly become overwhelming for the travel-weary passenger.

Employing mobile tablets as information kiosks has helped guide passengers through the process.

This was one of the first uses for iPads and other mobile devices in airports and continues to be one of the most popular today. Using a simple touchscreen and dedicated app, passengers can quickly source airport maps, find the relevant gates or facilities like restaurants and toilets, and stay up-to-date on current arrival and departure information.

For food ordering

In 2013, the United Airlines’ Terminal C at Newark Airport (New Jersey) underwent a major upgrade, complete with the installation of 6000 iPads in its food and beverage area.

The aim was to streamline food service, while offering an improved customer experience, as Digital Trends explains:

“For passengers, the customized iPads serve several functions. In place of waiters, customers at each dining facility can view the menu items, and place and pay for their orders (each iPad is equipped with a credit card scanner, and is secured to the table).

“As you wait for your order, you can browse the Web, maps, and select apps, though the UI is locked, so you can’t download Candy Crush to pass some time.”
Meanwhile the iPad camera can be used to scan the QR code on commuter’s boarding passes, allowing them to stay abreast of flight information.

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In the cockpit

As Wired recently noted, iPads have been a regular feature of airline cockpits for more than a decade. The simple device enables pilots to drastically reduce the volume of paper they take on board, while allowing them to access the latest information, and chart flight paths.

“Pilots can swipe and tap to stay up to date on safety notices, meet the rest of their crew, order fuel, and plot the fastest, most efficient routes,” Wired explains.

“At British Airways, which started equipping its pilots with iPads five years ago, the tablets are a tool for streamlining the many tasks that compete for attention before take-off. Passengers and baggage need loading, fuel needs pumping, flight plans need agreeing.

“Before heading to the plane, pilots use the iPads to check for operational alerts: a strike in Europe closing an airport, or a memo about de-icing in winter conditions. Before going electronic, BA’s dispatchers hung these notices from clips at the top of the escalator into the crew room at London’s Heathrow Airport.”

With flight attendants

In the hands of flight attendants, iPads and mobile tablets also serve to streamline the everyday processes of aviation, while improving the in-flight experience.

In 2017, German airline Lufthansa announced it was looking to equip its 20,000 flight attendants with iPad Minis.

Future Travel explained the project was in response to positive feedback about mobile device implementation from pilots and allowed the cabin crew to access information such as seating plans and passenger information.

Known as a Cabin Mobile Device it enabled cabin crew members to access all the data they need to work on board, including important service manuals and service schedules, and to easily view any changes in plans.

“The CMD simplifies the existing process so that staff have more time to serve customers. It also improves communication with the personnel on board.”

For entertainment

Even when iPads and mobile devices were a fairly new innovation, their potential for in-flight entertainment was being explored. International carrier Qantas was the first to implement the devices as standard entertainment options in 2012.

Since then iPads have offered streamed movies, TV shows, pre-recorded radio, and audio, across many major carriers and countless flights, while also offering in-flight information.

The final word

The aviation industry has been one of the largest to embrace the potential of mobile devices, applying their use to everything from more efficient check-in to better customer service in the terminal, and more streamlined technical and operational procedures on board flights.

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