Delta CEO Ed Bastian Gave a CES Keynote: What Tech Changes Did He Reveal?

Delta has been promoting their CEO Ed Bastian’s keynote at the Computer Electronics Show as a Really Big DealTM, the ‘first airline’ to do such a thing, as though that suggested on its own that Delta is a leader in technology.

At CES you find virtual reality, 8k TVs and next gen wearable devices. And Delta has tech to unveil that’s so big it’s a keynote at the conference. Given the prominence of the forum and the buildup, what did he reveal?

  • Free inflight wi-fi someday, with no specifics. They say this is an area where other airlines have struggled although of course JetBlue offers free wifi and American has just been waiting to see what Delta announces so they can copy it.

  • Biometrics in partnership with the government to track you throughout your journey. The corporate benefit is lower labor costs, not having to check boarding passes or IDs in club lounges and at gates, and not having to direct passengers through the terminal.

    Bastian also highlighted the company’s work with Misapplied Sciences, which makes displays that can show different content to multiple viewers in parallel. You can think of it as a large display that sits in a public space (like an airport) and that shows you where your next gate is, for example.

    Delta will first test Misapplied Sciences’ Parallel Reality experience in Detroit later this year. Almost 100 customers will be able to use the display and see personalized content about their travel — including wayfinding, flight information, boarding times and — most importantly — upgrade status.

  • Personal concierge the Delta app will integrate with Lyft to give you a ride to the airport (so 2015) along with time-based prompts for getting to the gate. It will tell you when it’s time for your boarding group, not just when boarding is starting for the flight, and which security checkpoints have the shortest lines at the airport.

  • More low value SkyMiles redemptions expect to be able to spend miles for Lyft rides.

  • Delta-branded original inflight entertainment. They have a nine-figure annual captive audience on their planes, they are exploring acting as their own studio – though it’s unclear how Delta will produce better content than HBO and Amazon. They are evaluating a “binge button” for passengers to watch a show’s episodes one after the other – is this really new tech? – and entertainment recommendations based on a passenger’s past viewing choices.

  • Better choice for coach passengers for whether to take a second meal on long haul flights, with a “do not disturb” and a “wake me for meal service” setting.

  • Better seat maps along the lines of what United is doing where passengers can see inside the cabin.

Delta used CES to position itself as technology-forward but none of this seems especially revolutionary, certainly not along the lines of Bastian’s challenge that they bring the ground experience from a 1960s vision to modern day.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Let’s not remind Delta that their arch enemy Emirates has been doing many of these things for years now. All thanks to government subsidies, of course 🙂

  2. @gary – I assume you haven’t used JetBlue’s free wifi recently, it’s hardly a benefit it’s so slow.

  3. What a bunch of B.S. by Ed Bastian.
    He might as well have said they’re making “changes you’ll like.”

  4. So a lot of things that benefit the airline. The consumer, not so much. What else is new?

  5. He committed to IFE on all planes, something that no other US airline does. Very excited; after a few flights without it, I completely see its value and it’s something I look for when boooking flights (especially with the kids!)

  6. I know it’s long been happening everywhere in society, but the increased use of biometrics freaks me out. It was weird being asked to present my face as my boarding pass on a recent DTW-ICN flight. It would be preferred to ask “would you like to opt in to this service?” during check in.

  7. If Delta wants to impress me, tell me they are making the seats bigger with more space in between. Of course that’s never going to happen.

  8. This is the most ill informed poorly written article i’ve read recently. There is no airline app out doing the things he described. American just got basic boarding notifications. United knew Delta was working on better boarding notifications yet did nothing to beat Delta to the punch and they will be the first to have boarding group based notifications. His keynote was about future. He gave you a timeline in the speech he stated by 2024 their 100 year anniversary. Not one

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