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Delta Air Lines makes mass Windows Phone 8, Lumia 820 buy

Redmond's claimed seat allocations deserve a bumpy ride

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Microsoft finally has something it must have craved for ages: a colossal, enterprise user of its Windows Phone platform, with a super-recognisable brand to boot. But the announcement about the buy uses the most optimistic number possible to describe the sale.

The buyer is Delta Air Lines, which has let it be known that as August 26th its flight attendants will be whipping out Nokia Lumia 820s to take orders for in-flight purchases.

Just how many is hard to say: the canned statements from Delta and Microsoft both say the airline's “global team of more than 19,000 flight attendants” will use the handsets.

That number has been taken by some to mean Delta has bought 19,000 phones.

Closer reading of the Technet blog on the matter, plus the post to the Official Microsoft Blog and the Windows Phone Blog all mention the 19,000 flight attendants but not the number of handsets sold.

The Reg would love nothing more than to spend a day looking at Delta's list of its fleet, and figuring out the carrying capacity of the 700-plus planes it operates. Once we'd done that, we'd head off to part 121.391 from Title 14 of the US Code of Federal Regulations (colossal PDF) and apply its formula that airlines must have “two flight attendants plus one additional flight attendant for each unit (or part of a unit) of 50 passenger seats above a seating capacity of 100 passengers” to figure out just how many flight attendants Delta needs to operate within the bounds of the law.

Sadly we have actual work to do, so will instead be generous and guess that half of the 19,000 attendants are on duty each day and need a Lumia, for 9,500 phones sold. With a little more real-world thinking we could assume that only 18,000 attendants show to work each day thanks to holidays and illness, giving us a need for 9,000 phones. If we factor in that flight attendants often work part time, a very helpful work pattern for an industry with insane scheduling requirements, we might assume that perhaps only 6,000 show up on any given day, taking the number of handsets MIcrosoft is trumpeting down to 6,000.

Delta Air Lines' Nokia Lumia 820 running Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 in Delta livery, with credit card widget on top

Whatever the number of flight attendants to whom Delta needs to deliver a Lumia each day, it's still an impressive sale for Microsoft and Nokia even if the 19,000 headline number is not realistic.

The news gets better for Redmond when one considers that its Dynamics ERP software sits behind the in-flight ordering app that will run on the smartmobes. Publicity pics released of the rig depict a credit card reader of some sort atop the Lumias, so Microsoft can now tell retailers it can hang with the cool kids like Square chasing the tablets-at-point-of-sale crowd. And let's not forget all the passengers who will get a look at a Windows Phone, making this sale a handy marketing exercise if nothing else. ®

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