Upgrade adds personal touch to Delta crew app

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SkyPro gives flight attendants a prioritized list of customers to recognize based on details like Medallion status, corporate traveler standing and SkyMiles milestones.
SkyPro gives flight attendants a prioritized list of customers to recognize based on details like Medallion status, corporate traveler standing and SkyMiles milestones.

Analysts say a new feature on the Delta SkyPro app, which is used by the carrier's flight attendants, could be an important step forward in airline customer service.

The feature, which the airline rolled out in December, mines Delta's storehouse of data ahead of each domestic flight and gives flight attendants a prioritized list of customers to recognize based on details like Medallion status, corporate traveler standing and SkyMiles milestones.

More significantly, according to analysts, the feature informs flight attendants which passengers have experienced significant delays on recent itineraries. They are then able to approach those passengers to offer recognition of the frustration they endured. The feature is only applicable to SkyMiles members.

"Sometimes all people want is an acknowledgment and an apology and a promise that the crew will help them have a better journey," Atmosphere Research Group analyst Henry Harteveldt said.

Other airlines also have apps for flight attendants that mine company data. Alaska flight attendants, for example, use mobile apps that, among other functions, tell them the names and seats of elite Mileage Plan members as well as which passengers have special service requests, such as unaccompanied minors.

British Airways arms senior cabin crew, pilots and customer service agents at busy airports with iPads equipped with proprietary apps that are refreshed just before the departure of a flight. Apps and software offer access to data showing customer preferences and previous travel arrangements as well as special meal requests and connecting travel plans. The app also shows cabin crew where each customer is seated, who they are traveling with, their Executive Club status and any special meal requests.

Delta says that SkyPro is using big data on a larger scale than competing airlines. The new features augment SkyPro functions introduced beginning in 2015 that gave flight attendants information on connecting flights as well as passenger names and their SkyMiles loyalty status.

The new functionality, for example, enables flight attendants to congratulate a customer who is crossing the million-mile threshold.

Still, Bob Offutt, senior technology analyst at Phocuswright, said the big breakthrough with the SkyPro upgrade is that it's not just focusing on the trip at hand but is looking at experiences passengers have had during previous Delta flights.

"It's cross-journey, it's cross-trip, which is very passenger oriented, and that's what airlines need to do these days," he said.

Offutt praised Delta as a trailblazer in passenger innovation within the airline industry. He said that, for example, it was the first U.S. carrier to actually display a flight's standby list on monitors at the gate.

"I think this is another example of pretty great leadership and recognizing that they have to do other things for their passengers," Offutt said.

Delta spokeswoman Ashton Morrow said that in some cases flight attendants would be empowered to use SkyPro's information on who has suffered recent delays or other inconveniences to offer some sort of service during the flight, such as an upgrade or perhaps free food service. 

"The secret sauce is that Delta is going to empower those flight attendants," Harteveldt said.

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