Air travel isn't always a great experience. Delays and other issues can cause extra stress for vacations and work trips. Delta is well aware of this, so it's using some high-tech solutions in an effort to improve the travel experience before you leave the house, inside the terminal and during your flight.
First, the airline is making its Fly Delta app a digital concierge. The idea is that the safe piece of software you use to check-in, pay for bags and access boarding passes will guide you the entire trip -- starting at home. Delta will work closer with Lyft to get you to the airport with ease. This includes linking your SkyMiles and Lyft accounts so that it's easier to earn miles using the transportation service. The two companies are also considering features like estimated arrival times when you tap Lyft to get you to the airport. You may soon be able to pay for rides with SkyMiles, too. Once you're at the airport, Delta plans to add things like alerting you when your seat -- not just your flight -- is boarding. So rather than standing in the mass of humanity, you can relax a few minutes longer.
The most interesting of Delta's new additions is inside the terminal. Starting in mid-2020, the airline will begin using opt-in Parallel Reality displays to show custom messages to multiple travelers simultaneously. Basically, when you're walking through the terminal in a group of people, each of you will see information specific to, and it will be in your preferred language. Those details include directions to your gate or to the nearest Delta Sky Club.
The initial rollout will happen in Detroit. After passing through security, travelers who want to participate can scan their boarding pass and select the language they'd like to use. Displays with multi-view pixels and "proprietary technology" to show the messages to each person. During the initial trial phase, the personalized info includes wayfinding, flight details/updates, boarding time, closest Delta Sky Club and upgrade/standby status. Delta is clear that Parallel Reality will always be opt-in, and that it never shares customer information with this feature.
Once you're on the plane, Delta wants to improve your in-flight entertainment as well. That includes adding a binge button later this year so that you can watch entire seasons of your favorite shows without interruption. The system will also make recommendations based on you've watched before. The airline also plans to test features like "do not disturb" and "wake me for meal service" for travelers on longer flights.
In an effort to reduce inconvenience, Delta is harnessing AI and its own historical data to simulate potential "operating challenges" so that the airline's employees can make proactive decisions before "large-scale disruptions" like severe weather. The system also has a post-mortem component for analysis of how the situation could've been handled better. Delta says it will launch the initial implementation this spring, and says the system will continue to improve over time as more data is collected for its use.
Lastly, Delta is partnering with Sarcos Robotics to equip its frontline employees with the Sarcos Guardian XO exoskeleton. It's easy to see the benefits here. The gear will allow employees, like baggage handlers, to repeatedly lift heavy items with much less strain and fatigue.
At CES, Delta is making it clear that it will use some of the latest technology to improve your entire travel day, reduce headaches and improve life for its own employees. Now we just have to wait until we can reap the benefits for ourselves.