The airline industry began adopting mobile devices for pilots to use as electronic flight bags (EFBs) in 2011. Since then, the industry has rapidly deployed mobile technology within other groups supporting flight operations. Sun Country is one of the airlines fully embracing mobility across the business.

Headquartered in Minneapolis in the United States, the award-winning airline has earned a reputation for offering world-class service at an affordable price.

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Sun Country

Managing the needs of Sun Country’s multiple device user groups

Sun Country has two main mobile device user groups. The largest is the airline’s flight attendants. They use iPads to access flight attendant manuals, safety information and memos as well as corporate email for basic admin tasks such as checking their schedules. They also use iPhones to process payments on board.

The other major user group is the airline’s pilots. Sun Country, like most modern airlines, has Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) on each aircraft. The EFBs are iPads used by pilots to access navigational charts which help them to find their way around different airports during taxi, takeoff and landing. Pilots also use EFBs to view flight routes while they are in the air as well as measurement reports for takeoff, landing and predicted fuel usage.

Flight attendants and pilots have a unique work schedule. They travel constantly but they also have a lot of downtime. They aren’t always in range of a Wi-Fi connection, and even when they are, it’s often an open Wi-Fi connection at an airport or hotel for example.

Sun Country

The problem with uncontrolled mobile use

It’s important to provide employees with guidance on how they should be using corporate-owned devices. Since employees are used to having free rein with their personal devices, they tend to fall into this habit when it comes to corporate devices too. Uncontrolled mobile device usage can open up businesses to an array of risks from cyber attacks, consumption of illegal content and bill shocks.

When the airline first issued iPads to its 400 flight attendants, there was no clear policy around acceptable use. So end users didn’t know what they should or shouldn’t access and which connections are safe and which should be avoided.

It seemed like our flight attendants were slowly adjusting to the online freedom these iPads gave them and gradually becoming used to treating them as personal devices. I’m sure they didn’t intend for the overages to occur, they just didn’t realize that streaming video over a LTE connection used so much data.Nicholas Rodriguez, Sr. EFB Administrator at Sun Country.

The airline’s mobile bills had almost doubled over a very short period of time. The strange thing was, this increase didn’t coincide with the rollout of the iPads and iPhones, it actually happened about four to five months later.

We were getting huge data overages from our carrier AT&T. We had a couple of users hitting $7,000 in data overages. And the rest of them were routinely hitting about $600 over. It doesn’t sound like a lot but once you add it all up, our monthly bills were about $70,000. It wasn’t just a matter of telling one or two people to stop streaming video, we needed to centrally control what was being accessed across all the devices.Nicholas Rodriguez, Sr. EFB Administrator at Sun Country.

Sun Country

Tackling mobility challenges end-to-end

A cost management solution was needed, but data capping alone wouldn’t be enough. If the data cap were to run out and internet connection was cut off, it could cause disruption to a flight schedule.

Flight attendants need access to their electronic manuals on board otherwise they are not legal to fly. If they have to miss a flight because they’ve used too much data on their iPads, it’s not a great situation to be in for anyone. That was our biggest hurdle, figuring out how to limit data usage while keeping flight attendants connected to work-critical services at all times.Nicholas Rodriguez, Sr. EFB Administrator at Sun Country.

Sun Country looked at what various MDM providers were offering but it wasn’t possible to achieve the precise control the EFB team was looking for without data-level management.

Wandera was recommended by AT&T as a way to keep bills under control and after some research it became obvious that Wandera was the solution Sun Country had been looking for.

Sun Country

Making acceptable use policy stick

When the EFB team deployed Wandera, they used it as an opportunity to educate end users on what they should and shouldn’t use over cellular while ensuring them that access is completely open on Wi-Fi. So the deployment initiated the creation of acceptable usage policy for the company.

During the deployment, we discovered that Wandera goes beyond cost savings and data management. It’s also a really good training and policy guidance tool for end users. It worked out really well for everyone.Nicholas Rodriguez, Sr. EFB Administrator at Sun Country.

Sun Country allows its flight attendants a lot of freedom when using their devices since they spend a lot of time in hotels and in transit while not working on board. So the granular controls that Wandera offers really come into play with the whitelisting function. Especially given the FAA (Federal Avionics Administration) requirement of having constant access to work-related services on the iPad. These remain whitelisted at all times.

The airline uses Wandera’s blacklisting function to block certain services for other user groups such as the aircraft maintenance teams. The mobile devices used by this specific group don’t ever leave the office, so there is no reason to allow completely open access to personal services.

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By using Wandera in tandem with Airwatch, Sun Country now enjoys full control and visibility of how its employees are using mobile devices and can tackle security risks head on before they become a problem. Read the full story including the results here.

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