Delta is arming its employees worldwide with a new digital application to improve communication, save time and deliver more meaningful information to customers — all while getting even more flights out on time.
The innovative and proprietary Flight Family Communication platform ensures employees, or flight family members, working an assigned Delta flight have the ability to communicate directly with one another about the status of dozens of tasks and customer service items required before departure – think catering, cleaning, fueling, accounting for carry-on and checked bags, inspecting aircraft, etc.
"Our goal is always to develop tools that makes our employees' jobs easier," said Dave Holtz, Senior Vice President — Operations & Customer Center. "When communication is better, the departure process is smoother and employees are freed up more often to share timely information and engage with our customers."
The real-time digital conversation stream is visible to pilots on electronic flight bag tablets, to flight attendants via handheld SkyPro devices, and on desktop platforms for gate agents, flight dispatchers, system operations managers and Airport Customer Service Tower personnel. It provides each with shared awareness from their own work spaces in the airport or around the aircraft about the status of pre-flight activities, instead of relying on word of mouth, radios and jetway phones to relay information through multiple people — an antiquated process that airlines have been beholden to for decades.
Initial tests of Flight Family Communication resulted in a 45 percent decrease in the amount of time employees spent traversing the jet bridge to talk with one another during pre-departure. The drop is attributed to the platform's role-specific, two-way texting options and the infusion of critical flight related status changes that have given Delta people greater team awareness of customer-impacting challenges. Flight attendants and gate agents, for example, are now able to message directly with each other about whether overhead bin space is reaching capacity for carry-on bags, or if there are two people with the same seat assignment, and address each more quickly with minimal disruption to customers.
Since Flight Family launched this summer across Delta's network, about 50 percent of all Delta departures have benefitted. In that time, Delta has seen an astronomical 65 percent jump in its ability to depart on time when a team has less than the minimum allotted time to push out a flight — less "turn time," as the industry calls it, can be caused by a number of variables including an aircraft arriving late due to weather at the departure airport.
On an average day, approximately 11,000 messages are sent using the platform. During days when the operation is impacted heavily by weather, for example, usage has jumped to more than 14,000, signaling the tool's value to front-line employees.
"Flight Family is another way Delta is taking care of our people so they're better able to take care of our customers," Holtz added. "That's the Delta difference."
Over the past two years Delta has invested in developing several proprietary digital tools for employees to deliver the Delta Difference, including its handheld Nomad tool for gate agents to assist customers on the go with seat changes, rebooking, and more. The global airline has also harnessed big data to arm its flight attendants with customer insights via their handheld SkyPro devices to drive thoughtful customer service on board, while the industry-only Flight Weather Viewer app provides a visual cross section of the air space on pilots' electronic flight bag tablets so they can better navigate turbulence and other weather hazards for a safer, smoother ride.
Delta's innovative employee tools are developed by cross-divisional teams of employees and business groups that collect input from front-line employees, and often collaborate with Delta's Global innovation center, The Hangar.