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iPhone 6 Plus recruited to ease travel troubles for United Airlines customers

Customer service reps will be equipped with Apple's big-screened phone to assist travelers with problems at the airport.

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United wants to help resolve issues for travelers by tapping into Apple's iPhone 6 Plus.

United Airlines

Apple's iPhone 6 Plus could help alleviate at least some headaches for travelers flying on United Airlines.

The airline said Wednesday it will hand out iPhone 6 Plus smartphones to more than 6,000 customer service representatives. Slated to start next year, the rollout will give reps the ability to help customers with travel-related issues at any of United's hubs in the US. A specific start date hasn't been "fully determined," a company spokesman said.

For travelers, the initiative promises to take some of the stress out of checking in at the airport or making last-minute flight changes. Apple, meanwhile, furthers its cause of getting the iPhone, already widely popular among consumers, adopted as a tool for more businesses.

Agents equipped with an iPhone 6 Plus will be able to help checked-in customers with certain pre-flight tasks, such as printing boarding passes and baggage tags. The agents will also be able to assist travelers with flight options and other issues on the spot.

Down the road, United representatives will be able to help travelers check in at airport lobbies and offer other options now available only at traditional kiosks.

"Our employees told us they needed better tools to serve our customers, especially during severe weather and busier travel times," Jon Roitman, United's senior vice president of airport operations, said in a statement. "We have seen great success with the custom-made tools on the iPhone 6 Plus and believe expanding the use of a smartphone device with other applications is a great investment in our employees."

Released in October 2014, the iPhone 6 Plus was Apple's first big-screened iPhone, outfitted with a 5.5-inch display. This past September, Apple released the iPhone 6S Plus, with the same screen size as its predecessor.

This isn't the first time Apple has been called into action by United.

In December 2014, United announced that it would start doling out iPhone 6 Plus handsets to 23,000 flight attendants. Since June, the iPhones have been used for onboard purchases as well as for access to attendants' work email and flight policies and manuals. In August 2011, United started exchanging the printed flight manuals used by its pilots with electronic versions stored on Apple's iPad.

United is far from the only airline relying more on mobile devices. In August 2013, flight attendants at Delta Airlines began using the Lumia 820 Windows Phone to help travelers make purchases on board via credit card.

Update, 9:20 a.m. PT: A comment from a United spokesman was added.