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.