It’s been a busy day for Kevin Griffiths, Senior Vice President Cabin Crew at Emirates Airline. He’s just come away from a press conference talking about Emirates adopting the new HP ElitePad 900 in a pilot program that gives pursers on their flights access to advanced passenger and crew information. It’s an ambitious project that Griffiths confesses has been in the works for quite a while, and has so far proven to be quite successful. I sat down to find out more about how this partnership came about, and how the pilot program was going.
You have a very exciting partnership happening with HP for the ElitePad. Can you tell me briefly how this partnership came about?
We started this project called KIS years ago and recognized the power of putting customer and crew information at the hands of our crew at forty thousand feet, and how they could use that information to drive the customer experience. We saw new form factors of computing emerge, particularly with the iPad coming in, and recognized how powerful it would be to get the same information onto a different form factor. It then really let us to look at all the different options and probably more formally about two years ago I started a conversation with Microsoft which was along the lines of “Look, we can see where computing is going and at some point you’re going to be doing something like this. When you are ready can you tell us?” and so through Microsoft, we then had access in major approaches to all the different manufacturers to say “We have an idea for a project, we’re looking for a partner”. And so from early last year right the way through, we started working and having conversations with HP, and then towards the summer time we formalized the arrangement. So it has been a great partnership between the three parties.
What makes an Elite Pad the preferred choice over the iPad, Android or other Windows 8 Devices?
There are two questions there: Which Windows 8 device, and why Windows 8. We chose Windows 8 because we are a Microsoft business, we know how to deploy Microsoft resources, work out how to deploy Windows 8, which was quicker and easier as well as the development cycle, and of course we could run legacy applications. We then looked at which Windows 8 devices were out, which weren’t many actually built for the enterprise and we thought the HP tablet was by far the best in terms of support and reparability. Also, it’s to be used in our premium servers delivering to our first class customers or business class customers; one of our pursers described it as ‘Sleek and Elegant’ and that’s a very good description of the ElitePad.
Now you’ve mentioned the Knowledge Driven Inflight Service App or KIS. Could you tell me how this application was developed and how everything came together?
We first started with piloting and using the technology behind KIS eight years ago and drawing it out of our corporate systems and presenting it. When we realized that we were going down the route of Windows 8 the first thing we actually did was we engaged in some user experience architects and said “This is the information we think we want to present” and then took some of our real life pursers and said “How do you use the current application, what do you wish you had, what do the management think you use all the time but you never use?” So it started backwards to first design the application, and then the architecture around that.
Now obviously people use the ElitePad on-flight but do you think there are any other areas of Emirates that may benefit from having an ElitePad?
There are whole rafts of cases in a business and certainly almost every day there are questions about this. At the moment, we are not talking about any other projects, but I’m sure there will be other projects in the future.
Do you worry about devices like the ElitePad interfering with flight regulations?
No. They are completely certified and there are a series of regulation around the use of electronic devices on board. We’re completely compliant; it’s not different to someone taking on board a laptop. The restrictions on when you can and can’t use it, we follow those same restrictions.
How do you collect or analyse the information on the ElitePad?
We get high volumes of feedback on all our crew, and it all comes back down synchronized through to Dubai. It’s then taken through to one of our crew management systems that helps aggregate the data, and lets their manager know how someone is performing, and also help the people who need some support on.
Lastly, what kind of feedback have you gotten from the crew that have been using the ElitePad?
It’s been remarkable. With some of the early crew, we almost had to cut their arms off to get the tablets back because they absolutely loved it. They fought to have it. The other thing is that the main group is still in the pilot phase; we’ve not deployed to the full number of crew, and almost daily we get questions from people asking “When can I have my ElitePad?”. So there is a huge appetite for introducing this into our entire fleet very soon.