A First-Person Perspective: Southwest Airlines needed help to keep our more than 18,000 flight attendants in compliance with federal regulations. Stratix had a complete solution.

By Ron Freer, Sr. Manager, Inflight Mobility and Strategy, Southwest Airlines

We have 18,000 flight attendants here at Southwest. They’re constantly on the move, flying around the country — disconnected from headquarters and what’s going on with the company.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that flight attendants and pilots carry up-to-date crew manuals. These manuals used to be paper, which made updates time-consuming and complicated. Crew members had to find and replace each page, which could take hours of (unpaid) time. On the corporate side, we didn’t have visibility into what was going on — we sent out new pages but didn’t know who was updating their manuals or when. There was a constant risk that our flight attendants weren’t in compliance.

We knew we needed a better tool to communicate with our flight attendants and looked to mobile technology as key to the solution. However, we didn’t have a strategy. Since our pilots had gone down that road a year earlier, though, we knew bringing consumer mobility to our enterprise wouldn’t be as simple as going to the Apple Store. Creating and managing a mobile solution was going to be a huge logistical challenge, and we needed an expert in the field to guide us.

Success Is a True Partnership

The choice of vendor came down to experience and relationship. Ours was a deployment of 18,000 Apple iPad units, which was overwhelming to some of the smaller vendors we considered. Stratix had the experience, knowledge and warehouse space to handle our transition from paper to digital — and we knew they’d be a true partner, which matters a lot to us at Southwest.

Thanks to their planning and strategy, we rolled out 18,000 units in less than 60 days. These electronic flight bags (EFB) provided our flight attendants with continually updated versions of FAA documentation. We coupled them with MagTek card readers for payment processing so the iPad units could serve as mPOS devices on our flights, as well.

Stratix’s knowledge of mobile device management meant they could do all the things we needed to do in a short period of time. They took care of all the deployment details — configuring, provisioning, preparing, securing, kitting, packaging, shipping, confirming receipt and providing ongoing support. Multiply that by 18,000 people — that’s a huge undertaking. But Stratix made it look easy, even though I know a lot of effort went into ensuring a smooth ride.

New Avenues of Communication

Prior to rolling out these devices with Stratix, our ROI was negative 1,200%. Try to get that approval from your CEO. With Stratix, however, we built a smarter vision of where we were going to get real value:

  • Turning the iPad units into mPOS devices has really helped with revenue and ROI.
  • By adding other apps and functionality, we’ve increased job satisfaction and can offer flight attendants information beyond the crew manuals. The iPad units give our flight attendants everything they need, and they love using these devices. I’m seeing very little loss or breakage, which is unheard of in the airline industry.
  • Being able to push information out to the crew enables us to keep them informed 24/7. Using Comply365 on our devices for paperless documentation management, we’re able to see statistics about updates and report to the FAA. This has bridged a gap in our relationship with the agency.

When it comes to ongoing support, Stratix is right on target. The 24/7 Mobile Help Desk has been phenomenal for our flight attendants and pilots. Our crew is getting first-call resolution, and the support team understands the challenges that crew members are dealing with.

We’re now working with Stratix to deploy the next version of iPad units to our flight attendants. The model we created with the Stratix team has been duplicated for our pilots, ground operations and tech operations teams. Kudos to Stratix for helping us build a shampoo/rinse/repeat process for mobility.

My goal is maintaining where we are and building on the relationship with Stratix to drive business improvements going forward. Stratix is willing to grow with us and continue what has been a true partnership, which stands out to me as one of the key factors in making this relationship a success.