We all know that iPads make flying a happier experience as a passenger, with TV shows, Angry Birds and, yes, Words With Friends keeping us occupied. (OK, maybe some of us can’t afford an actual iPad and have a lowbrow knock-off, but who’s really keeping score). But now, the airlines appear to have caught on to the biggest new product of 2010 – they’re getting closer to present day, at least – and are incorporating them into their operations.
Apple and United recently put out a video on YouTube about the ways the airline is incorporating iPads into their business, with a focus on their pilots. It’s a smart move on United’s part to differentiate themselves: Other companies like British Airways have been giving iPads out to cabin crew and even to passengers posh enough to fly first class, but United is unique in making them a part of the pilots’ experience.
The video comes across as a cross-promotional company-on-company lovefest, and it is; it claims that iPads are making passengers safer (how?) and that United is known for bringing our troops home to their families (do they get to fly for free, then?). But there are some interesting stats that the average passenger doesn’t know. Typically, pilots and first officers on United have to carry a 45-pound bag with binders containing all the airport information they might need, on paper: gate info, maps, schedules, etc. That can obviously all be done by the iPad, and United estimates that it will save them 16 million sheets of paper a year, not to mention 326,000 gallons of fuel.
It’s almost scary to think that something as complicated as flying a plane was still being done with the aid of binders – did they use Trapper Keepers? – but it’s best not to think about that. We’re obviously living in a digital world (hello, dear reader, who’s looking at this on a screen), so we’re glad to hear the travel industry is getting on board. After all, if they can scan a boarding pass on an iPhone, shouldn’t the captain be able to easily access, oh, I don’t know, a map of the runway he’s landing on without opening a binder? We think these are good steps forward.
Our favorite claim from the video, though, is that the use of iPads “provides a better, safer, more comfortable ride for the passengers.” As soon as the captain’s magical iPad can prevent turbulence and squirt out carafes of wine for every passenger, we’ll be inclined to agree.