United Airlines Is Giving Its 6,000 Customer Service Reps The iPhone 6 Plus

Apple has advanced its relationship with United after the airline announced plans to outfit its 6,000 or so customer service reps with the iPhone 6 Plus.

United has long been a flagship customer of Apple’s. The airline gave its pilots iPads back in 2011 and, late last year, United picked the iPhone 6 Plus as the device of choice for its 23,000 flight attendants. This latest move is designed to enable United reps to print out luggage tags, boarding passes and other information on the fly, and help rebooking customers and handle other requests. (The airline uses its own custom-built software for iOS.)

United, which says it operates close to 4,000 flights per day across over 350 airports on six continents, said its staff “told us they needed better tools to serve our customers, especially during severe weather and busier travel times.”

The answer is the iPhone, according to United SVP of airport operations Jon Roitman, who added: “we have seen great success with the custom-made tools on the iPhone 6 Plus and believe expanding the use of a smart phone device with other applications is a great investment in our employees.”

Apple has traditionally been a consumer-focused company, as now-CEO Tim Cook recalled when discussing his first interview with Steve Jobs on PBS last year. But, under Cook’s leadership, there’s been a change.

“We think we can change the way people work,” Cook told Rose. “We’ve changed the consumer’s life. We’ve changed the way students learn and teachers teach, but when you get to the working environment, the change we’ve made, to us, isn’t significant enough. So we begin to ask ourselves why.”

Apple has noticeably cranked up its focus on businesses in recent times. Not only can enterprise users do more on larger phones — like the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple’s first phablet announced last year — and power devices like the new iPad Pro, but equally, on the software side, it teamed up with IBM in 2014 to create business apps that will encourage corporates like United to buy its hardware.

As TechCrunch’s enterprise writer Ron Miller noted on the one year anniversary of that coming-together, Apple and IBM are an “odd couple” but, with over 30 apps under their collective belt, “the partnership seems to be flourishing and giving both companies what they wanted.”

While BlackBerry was traditionally the enterprise powerhouse, its presence has fallen in the same way as its consumer business although its first Android device does give its loyal enterprise users some much needed new options. Elsewhere, Google’s Android For Work program — which has 19,000 companies testing or using it — and Samsung has been making efforts to be business friendly with tools like Knox to help control enterprise usage.