How Virgin Atlantic is using tech to improve customer service

A Virgin Atlantic cabin crew member uses a tablet
Image from Virgin Atlantic
The Virgin logo in red text on a white background
by Virgin
17 April 2017

Flight Service Manager Katie Allan was a self-confessed technophobe until she had the chance to help develop Virgin Atlantic’s Crew PlanIt app, which has been designed to assist cabin crew in delivering an outstanding service to customers. She tells her story of technological awakening…

I’ve been part of the Virgin Atlantic crew for 30 years. I joined just as we started flying to Miami. I’m now a Flight Service Manager (FSM), and I recently became involved in the development of our Crew PlanIt tablet app.

The Crew PlanIt app has been developed as part of Virgin Atlantic’s Platform to Serve project, designed to put relevant information about our customers in the hands of our people. It enables us to understand what experiences our customers have had when flying with us, what special requirements they may have, and personal preferences. The app will eventually enable the crew to deliver an even better service to our onboard customers.

New-tech nerves

When I was asked to be a part of the project, I was quite nervous. I didn’t know anything about tablets. People just seem to pick up their mobile phones and other personal devices and instantly know how to use them. Not being one of those people can be daunting. So, although I was excited, I was also a bit overwhelmed.

I was one of just four onboard managers who were there at the beginning to advise Microsoft and explain how our jobs work, so that they could design an app that worked well for us. For example, we had to explain how our pre-flight safety briefings work, so that they could take into consideration what should happen next if any of our crew failed to answer the questions correctly.

Project pride

I was surprised at how quickly the layout of the app came together – opening the flight, information about the aircraft, briefing crew, their positions, safety. Everyone in the team had great ideas, and I felt proud to be there representing the large number of crew who may not have as much technology knowledge as others. That was my role in this project, and it was a great feeling when my ideas were taken on board. I felt like my input was of value.

So far, the tablets have only been rolled out to FSMs – the most senior rank of crew who are ultimately responsible for the crew and customers on that flight. Forty of the FSMs trialled the app, and it’s great to see that the devices have now been handed out to all FSMs. 

With information at our fingertips, we don’t need to carry as much paperwork around with us as most of our flight information and manuals are on the app, and our safety briefing documents are digital, too.

We’re still developing the apps to help us in other parts of our role, and we’ll be giving tablets to our Cabin Service Supervisors too, later in the year. Eventually all crew will have a device, which is really exciting.

As for me, being a part of the tablet project has awakened a part of my brain that I didn’t realise I had. I’m not afraid of technology any more – I know I can use it to my advantage. And finally, I’m happy to say that it’s no longer going over my head – it’s in my head!

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