Travel and tourism took center stage at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with the opening keynote delivered by Delta CEO Ed Bastian. During the hour and fifteen-minute session, Ed unveiled five initiatives the company has undertaken to transform the customer experience for travelers by 2025 as a part of their “Applied Innovation” strategy.
Some of these projects might seem far-fetched but in reality, the technology is already here, some being tested in US based airports as we speak and others rolling out in select airports before the end of the year.
1) Biometric Boarding – A technology first piloted in 2015 at San Jose International Airport (SJC) by CLEAR has been leveraged by Delta Airlines to introduce the first commercially available application of the biometric experience. Initial roll outs began in 2018 for customers traveling direct to an international destination, but Delta is now “expanding the technology to 49 new gates and all international flights at ATL, MSP and SLC Airports. Learn more about how the first biometric terminal in the U.S. works.
2) Parallel Reality Displays – Through a partnership with Misapplied Sciences, Delta will be testing these new screens to target and display personalized updates and messages to each traveler at the same time from a single digital display within the airport. According to their company, the new screens “simultaneously output up to millions of controllable rays of different colors and brightness,” then “software-direct those outputs to a specific person” without the need for any special glasses or camera app to interpret the message through.
3) Real Time Bag Tracking – Delta was the first airline to use RFID technology to provide real time bag tracking and hands-free scanning, an effort that earned them the No. 6 spot on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in 2018. In Bastian’s keynote, he announced that they will build on these successes and begin rolling out similar programs for pets and children traveling alone.
4) Fly Delta Travel App – A host of new features will set the standard for customer service amongst airlines, evolving the app’s current role from just an airline app to a “Digital Travel Concierge”. Here are just a few of the things you can expect:
- Bag Pick Up/Hotel Delivery – A new service aimed at simplifying the travel experience will allow travelers to select door-to-door pickup and delivery of their bags.
- Virtual Queuing – Allows Delta customers to be notified when their seat is boarding to avoid stress and congestion at the gates.
- Lyft Integration – A new partnership with Lyft will allow travelers to schedule rides within the app and even use Delta SkyMiles to pay the fare.
5) In-Flight Entertainment – For most Americans our lives are in overdrive and perhaps one of the only places we can unapologetically hit the pause button is on a flight. However, Delta realizes that a part of disconnecting from the stresses of everyday life means binge-watching your favorite TV show or some new release movies on that long-haul flight. In fact, very soon nearly “80% of the entire Delta fleet” will be outfitted with seat back screens. To support this expansion, Delta has transitioned to a more robust cloud-based system that will allow them to exponentially grow a diverse content offering to travelers.
And they’re not stopping there – Delta’s innovation team at “The Hanger” is also spearheading initiatives that will enable and empower their employees. For example, the new “Nomad” handheld devices will allow gate agents to assist travelers on the go instead of from behind the counter. Delta’s new Flight Weather Viewer app gives pilots the ability to forecast turbulence and reroute for the comfort of their passengers. They’ve also developed a robotic exoskeleton super suit that takes the heavy lifting out of baggage and cargo transfers but was also developed as a way to help long-term, committed employees stay in their jobs as they age.