Flying United? Don’t be surprised if you see more iPhones during your next flight.
United Airlines announced on Wednesday that its airport representatives will be equipped with an iPhone 6 Plus in an effort to “mobilize” customer service in the airline’s U.S. hubs. More than 6,000 service reps will be using an iPhone 6 Plus to print boarding passes and baggage tags from anywhere in the airport. These iPhone-wielding reps will also have instant access to real-time flight information, even if they’re not behind the customer service counter.
United is hoping to expand the service and turn the iPhone reps into their own mobile airport kiosk, with the ability to check in passengers as soon as they step into the lobby. The airline will start distributing the iPhones to its airport reps in 2016.
“Our employees told us they needed better tools to serve our customers, especially during severe weather and busier travel times,” United’s senior vice president of airport operations Jon Roitman said in a statement. “We have seen great success with the custom-made tools on the iPhone 6 Plus and believe expanding the use of a smart phone device with other applications is a great investment in our employees.”
The story behind the story: In the last few years, United has been integrating Apple gear to create a “paperless” flying experience. In June, the airline gave the iPhone 6 Plus to 23,000 flight attendants, who have been using the smartphone to replace bulky safety manuals and to process in-flight food and drink sales. United pilots have been using iPads since 2011. Last year, United upgraded its pilots to the iPad Air 2.
Even though United seems to be at the forefront of incorporating Apple technology in air travel, there’s one feature notably missing. United has not yet announced plans to start accepting Apple Pay, something JetBlue announced in February. JetBlue’s flight attendants will use iPad minis in NFC-compatible cases to accept Apple Pay during select flight between New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
With more iOS devices taking off on board flights, Apple has released enterprise software designed with airlines in mind. In 2014, Apple partnered with IBM to create an iOS app for pilots to access flight information and an app for flight attendants to see more information about the passengers on their flight.