Qantas is Australia’s largest airline and the oldest continuously operated aircraft service in the world, but don’t confuse age with archaic. The famed ‘flying kangaroo’ is busy making changes to staffing and in-flight operations, as it propels toward implementing a new and improved iOS-driven system.
Macworld Australia spoke with Qantas to find out more about the processes involved with incorporating iDevices in the day-to-day running of the business and why the company has enlisted Apple to help pilot the course.
iPADS FOR PILOTS
Qantas is teaming up with Telstra to provide its pilots with iPads for use on the flight deck. The new system is said to substitute the company’s in-flight paper archive to offer pilots quick and easy access to important information.
“The iPads will replace many of the charts, forms and manuals that pilots currently carry on board”, Qantas spokesman Thomas Woodward told Macworld Australia.
“They will effectively function as a streamlined information resource.”
Beyond convenience, Qantas says the digital update is also environmentally mindful, reducing the company’s mammoth print run of 18,000 pages of paper for flight operations every day to 3000, subsequently dropping the weight of in-flight documents by a staggering 20kg.
The iPad replacement program will see more than 2200 64GB iPads distributed to all domestic and international Qantas pilots on all fleet types. The implementation process began last month, with the airline projecting three to four weeks to equip each fleet type, with a transition period when certain paperwork is still carried on board as the new systems take effect.
Telstra will integrate the iPads as part of its broader relationship with Qantas. Additionally, on the ground in Australia, Telstra will connect pilots using its NextG network, and international on-ground connectivity will draw on Telstra’s global Wi-Fi partner network.
Installed on each iPad are two native apps, specifically designed for cockpit use, the company says. The first will provide access to charts and was developed by Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen. The second – built by Qantas – contains additional forms of critical flight data. The airline also worked in consultation with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to ensure the programs were up to scratch.
Training guides will be given to the pilots to help familiarise themselves with the software, the company says, with additional IT support on hand if needed.
Qantas Technical Pilot, Captain Alex Passerini, says the iPads are a welcome addition among the crew, who believe the technology will help overhaul dated resources and practices.
“This initiative is a response to strong demand from our pilots for a simpler, more efficient system,” Passerini says.
“The capabilities of iPad technology, combined with the powerful customised apps, give our pilots the ability to replace cumbersome hard copies – saving time, resources and costs.”
Group Managing Director of Telstra Enterprise & Government Paul Geason agrees, saying that companies who embrace the latest technology, such as the iPad, will reap productivity benefits and cost savings.
“At Telstra we are constantly looking for new ways to harness technology for the benefit of our customers so we’re thrilled to be working with Qantas to deliver beneficial changes to both its pilots and its business”, Geason says.
“The iPad solution we’re implementing together is the perfect example of how technology can not only simplify, but also improve both productivity and efficiency.”
IN-FLIGHT AND ON-DEMAND
From the cockpit to the cabin, the iPad is making its presence on Qantas flights known. In addition to its role as resource tool, the tablet is also being deployed among passengers to offer an intuitive, mobile portal to in-flight entertainment.
The decision was made following a trial in February that received “extremely positive” feedback from passengers. The trial provided every seat on Qantas’ B767 planes with an iPad programmed with the airline’s Q-Streaming software to allow passengers access to more than 200 hours of audio and video.
Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said that using the device as an alternative to expensive in-flight entertainment systems is an “amazing opportunity” for the company to cut costs and boost productivity.
The company has partnered with Panasonic to stream content wirelessly to the iPads from a central storage unit on the plane.
“We’re looking at ways to evolve this technology platform even further with our partner Panasonic to bring new standards of in-flight entertainment to our customers,” Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi said in a recent statement.
This could include the addition of internet access, live television and the ability to order food, drinks and duty- free goods via the iPad.
Passengers who own an iPad, laptop or smartphone will be able to view the same content through a separate application, but it is unclear when this feature will be introduced.
“Eventually we hope to allow customers to bring their own devices on board”, Woodward says.
“In terms of future costs, future development, it’s huge,” adds Joyce, suggesting that mobile devices could mean “a huge saving and increase in productivity for us”.
From October, iPads will be offered as an in-flight entertainment option on Qantas Boeing 767 aircraft.
A BLACKBERRY FOR AN APPLE
Topping off the Apple device trifecta is the recent announcement by Qantas that it will replace 1300 BlackBerry mobile phones used by staff with iPhones – a move that will save “millions” for the aircraft carrier.
Costs will be cut due to the company’s mobile carrier agreements and streamlined support, with the added advantage of heightened security features of Apple’s iOS operating system. But beyond these incentives, it seems the airline’s employees also had a say in the matter, casting their vote in favour of iPhones.
“Surveys of employees revealed a strong preference for the iPhone. The device offers a user-friendly interface and simple access to emails, contacts and calendars,” Woodward explains.
“It was a positive decision about the iPhone rather than a negative decision about the BlackBerry.”
On a day-to-day basis the iPhones are being used for voice calls, SMS and email by Qantas corporate employees. And so far, the reception from staff has been positive.
“The implementation is still underway, but feedback has been excellent from employees already using iPhones,” Woodward reveals, citing the device’s intuitive nature as the reason behind its popularity.
“User-friendliness has been the primary advantage. The iPhone is seen as a straightforward and user-friendly device and many employees are already familiar with it.”
The deployment of Apple iDevices within the Australian air service industry has already proved successful, with Jetstar introducing iPads on its planes late last year, allowing passengers to access and view content, including games, e-magazines and e-books. While these iOS systems are still in the process of being implemented at Qantas, the company projects a successful take- off with Apple by its side.