Apple and IBM team up to develop United Airlines apps

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IBM
You could say that Apple and IBM's partnership has really... taken off!
Photo: Apple

Apple is teaming up with IBM and United Airlines to create new mobile apps for use by the airline’s front-line employees.

The apps will be designed for the roughly 50,000 Apple Watches, iPhones, and iPads that United Airlines has already issued to its flight attendants, gate agents, and other employees.

“A partnership with Apple and IBM gives our app development enterprise scale, reusability, and — most importantly — speed,” United Airlines CIO Linda Jojo told Business Insider in an interview. “We’re going to be able to deliver more tools and technologies faster to our frontline [employees] than we could if we were building it all ourselves.”

United is currently taking the (sensible) move of seeking feedback from the people who will be using the apps to make sure they include all the features they want. One feature mentioned is the possibility of letting flight attendants easily communicate maintenance issues discovered on the plane back to teams.

This news — announced today — is just the latest team-up effort in a partnership between IBM and Apple, dating back to 2014. The goal of the partnership was originally to combine IBM’s enterprise data specialties with Apple’s iOS hardware and software to create a suite of enterprise-focused apps.

Apple also has a long history with United Airlines. Back in 2013, the airline made the decision to adopt iPads to replace the heavy in-flight manuals. By becoming the first major commercial carrier to introduce iPads to all of its cockpits, it saved an estimated $1 million in fuel costs every year.