United Flight Attendants Are Now Flying with iPhones

Aug 20, 2015

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Gawker sure loves itself a scandal, but the blog’s latest travel-related expose might not be much to worry about after all. TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig chimes in, live from a United flight.

United flight attendants recently began traveling with company-issued iPhone 6 Plus smartphones, containing key info like passenger frequent flyer status and connecting flight data, in addition to necessities like employee handbooks, email access and software to process buy-on-board transactions.

According to Gawker’s sources, the devices are “also loaded with all the personal info the airline has on its passengers.” Things like DOBs, addresses and telephone numbers. Sure, you might not want a stranger to have access to all that info, but in reality all that and more (social security numbers, for example) is available to people working in many other customer-facing roles, such as hospital employees and receptionists in a physician’s office, who go through far less training and screening than a flight attendant.

On board United BusinessFirst.
On board United BusinessFirst.

That said, I spoke to a flight attendant who happened to be sporting said iPhone, and from what she said the device should be of little concern. Personal info, such as home addresses and phone numbers, is nowhere to be found. The devices don’t contain your date of birth — rather, if you happen to be flying on your special day, a flight attendant might simply get a notification that they can in turn use to wish you a happy birthday. “We get a flag if something special is going on,” she said.

Of course, conspiracy theorists might suggest that the device informed her of my background, including a “flag” to avoid answering my questions truthfully, but I seriously doubt that. I’d love to be able to confirm this info by digging through the device myself, but, well, there’s no chance of that happening.

Now, if I’m misinformed here (and you happen to be a United flight attendant), feel free to shoot me an email to set the record straight. Until then, I’m going to return to my mai tais and movies.

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