Between additional fees, carry-on restrictions, and security measures that require partial disrobing in public, the modern airline experience has become one of necessity, a means to a hopefully more pleasant end. So when an airline declares it intends to make travel more pleasant, it raises interest, and skepticism.
With the launch of its Fly Delta iPad app, Delta Airlines is looking to fulfill its goal of improving the airline travel experience for its customers through digital customer experiences. Part of a $140 million investment in technology that includes a recently rebooted delta.com and revamped service kiosks, the iPad app, created by Delta’s portability agency of record AKQA, offers a bevy of new features that makes it part mobile check-in, part location-based intelligence, part travel guide.
Users can explore Delta destinations, book and view their travel plans, download entertainment such as music and movies for their trip, connect with social networks in-flight, and explore the ground below with the Glass Bottom Jet feature—a real-time answer to the age-old air travel question, "I wonder what we’re flying over now?" As part of the launch, AKQA also redesigned and ramped up the Fly Delta mobile app for iPhone with an Android update coming in early 2013.
AKQA creative director Jon Reiling says that with this digital investment Delta’s got its sights set on becoming the travel brand of the future. "They don’t just sell seats. They’re deeply invested in the entire experience of travel, from deciding where you want to go to making sure you’ve got a good place to stay." Fly Delta for the iPad, he says, "is an opportunity to reach out to people at a specific point of the travel journey where they naturally use tablets—at home looking for inspiration, picking out movies to watch or books to read on the plane, or figuring out what they’re flying over."
Delta’s recent investments in in-flight Wi-Fi (its fleet includes 800 Wi-Fi equipped aircraft) make many of the new features possible. When online in-flight, the Glass Bottom Jet reveals photos, landmarks, and messages connected to the places you’re flying over. "You open it in-flight and you’re looking at a Wikipedia article for the Rockies or browsing trail photos on Panoramio," says Reiling. "And if a friend has been there, you’ll see that, too."
Already lauded for it’s digital leadership—such as innovative tools like its baggage tracker and having more in-flight Wi-Fi than any U.S. carrier—Delta’s mission for the iPad app was to create functions suited to the device.
"Fly Delta for iPad is not meant to be a website replacement. In fact, no Delta channel is meant specifically to replace any other," says Reiling. "Instead, they’re crafted to function in concert, each one focusing on its natural usages and on different moments in your travel cycle. So while the mobile apps are designed to be used when you’re running down the terminal, the tablet app really shines when you’re sitting on your couch at home or logging onto the in-flight Wi-Fi. Recognizing and being true to those moments is paramount."