Delta raises the bar in Business Class with new enclosed ‘Delta One Suites’

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This article first appeared on TheDesignAir

When airlines such as Qatar Airways have announced recently they are working on brand new Business Class seats and Emirates is working on new First Class suites, it was a surprising twist to see Delta, a US carrier, to leap-frog the Gulf-based competition with an adapted Thomson Aero Seating product by UK-based design agency Factorydesign.

Business Class ‘Suite’
The new Delta One Suite is the first Business Class cabin in the world to feature a sliding door for each suite – a feature normally saved for First Class passengers. The doors are a key part of Delta and Factorydesign’s collaborative efforts to improve customer comfort and privacy. The industrial design consultancy worked in close partnership with Delta and seat manufacturer Thompson Aero Seating throughout the design, development and engineering process to achieve this.

The word “cabin” is important in this announcement, as JetBlue’s Mint product offers 4 mini-suites on their aircraft featuring sliding doors, however, the rest of the seats don’t offer this level of privacy.

The seat may look familiar, and follows the traditional 1 x 2 x 1 staggered forward facing design that Delta has already adopted in many of its long-haul aircraft. In fact the product has more in common with SAS’ new Thomson Vantage XL seats that the London based design firm also worked on.

Privacy
The ability to add doors was driven by the A350’s extra width, explains Factorydesign’s senior designer Ryan Graham. “The high degree of customisation possible with Thompson’s seating platform enabled us to sit down and look at the potential we had when putting it onto a wider aircraft.”

“People like to have some privacy, and the feeling of ‘owning their space’, and this is exactly what the door provides. It is a major step-forward in Business Class travel. In the creation of the new Business Class Suite, Delta and Factorydesign extracted and interpreted the DNA of the Delta brand to create a unique three-dimensional product.” Read full article »

Ryanair lets passengers rate their flight via its mobile app

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In the past two and a half years, Ryanair has been busy upgrading its products and services, stepping up its digital innovation activities, as well as opening routes to main airport hubs in an effort – called ‘Always Getting Better’ – to appeal more to business travellers.

“This is not a PR stunt,” said CEO Michael O’Leary at the launch of the initiative, describing the Always Getting Better programme as a “transformative” evolution and a “fundamental change” in the way both he and Ryanair do business. ‘”If I’d known being nice to customers would have been so good for business, I would have done it years ago.”

Rate My Flight
As part of the third phase of the program – which focuses on digital innovation – Ryanair earlier this year added a ‘Rate My Flight’ feature to its app. Passengers who want to rate their flight have to download the regular Ryanair app, allow for push notifications, and are send the survey through the app upon landing.

The Rate My Flight survey asks passengers to evaluate each element of their flight, from boarding through food and drink provision to crew helpfulness and overall service standards. Ryanair says it uses the feedback to tweet and improve its offerings as much in real time as possible.

Feedback results
The ‘Rate My Flight’ intiative was trialled in March and went live in May of this year. Ryanar has just published the first feedback results, based on more than 8,800 passengers who used the ‘Rate My Flight’ function during June and July.

More than half of respondents (53 percent) rated their overall experience as ‘very good’, 36 percent rated their experience as ‘OK’ and 11 percent rated it as ‘poor’. Crew friendliness received the highest positive rating, with 63 percent scoring this ‘very good’.

At the other end of the scale, boarding received the highest number of ‘poor’ responses, with 14 percent saying they were unhappy with the boarding process.

TripAdvisor aims to make the airline passenger experience more transparent

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By Marisa Garcia, FlightChic

Airlines have long relied on awards and recognitions from industry watchers and major publications to reassure customers of the quality of their products and services, in very much the same way that professional critics and ratings firms have put their seal of approval on restaurants and hotels for decades.

But the rise of the internet has disrupted that ‘expert-review’ dynamic. The active participation of consumers on ratings sites which evaluate everything from films to books to consumer goods to services, and of course travel, suggests that today’s consumers trust popular opinion over ratings which could be perceived as an extension of marketing and advertising (a.k.a ‘the experience is the marketing’).

TripAdvisor Flights
TripAdvisor is now looking to shake up the airline industry the same way it has hotels, by launching airline reviews. The sixteen year old travel review site has accrued over 350 million individual travel reviews covering 6.5 million hotels, restaurants and attractions and has now expanded its TripAdvisor Flights service to let customers grade and review airlines around the world in much the same way that they would review a night’s stay somewhere.

These reviews are then combined with an external rating of the amenities on a particular route, such as the type of seat offered and whether there are power ports and wi-fi available to flyers, to give it an overall ‘FlyScore’ which will rate the quality of an itinerary on a 1 to 10 scale.

Consumers can sort their flight search results by price, duration, the ‘FlyScore’, or a blend of factors categorised by TripAdvisor as “Best value of time and money.”  TripAdvisor expects to refine the system, introducing further enhancements this year.

According to The Economist, “History suggests the firm has a good chance of making an eventual impact. If it does reach its potential, it might just encourage flyers to change their buying behaviour. If customers are willing to pay, say, $30 more for a seat rated as excellent compared with one that is terrible, then maybe airlines will pull out of their race to the bottom. A world in which carriers compete for the quality of the reviews they receive, as well as the price they offer, would be a better one.” Read full article »

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Jetstar Asia launches inflight book exchange to encourage holiday reading

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In an effort to encourage reading among Singaporeans while onboard the plane and during their holiday getaways, Qantas’ Singapore-based LCC Jetstar Asia has launched a book swap initiative.

Billed as “the world’s first flying book exchange” and the “latest in in-flight entertainment,” the Jetstar ‘Big Book Swap’ is a partnership with Singapore’s National Library Board.

On July 30th, Singapore’s inaugural National Reading Day, over 500 books and bestselling titles donated by the National Library Board, MPH Bookstores, Select Books, Book Point and Write Editions will be distributed to passengers at the boarding gates of selected Jetstar flights at Changi Airport Terminal 1.

Book. Fly. Swap.
Passengers will be invited to take the books on holiday, and leave them in the seat-backs on their return flight for another traveller to read en-route to their holiday destination. Passengers wanting to contribute their own books to the flying book club can also get a Book Swap sticker from the Jetstar crew.

The idea for the Big Book Swap was based on a survey of over 3,900 Singaporeans that found that reading was not a priority for most people. 55 percent of the respondents read less than five times a year, with 42 percent stating that the primary reason for not picking up a book was due to a lack of spare time. Despite holidays being a time for people to unwind and relax, only 7 percent usually read while on vacation. Read full article »

Pre-flight IFE: How entertainment apps and kiosks are reshaping the IFE landscape

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By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience

In-flight entertainment (IFE) has long been an integral part of the air travel experience. A wide array of content delivered on a high-spec screen can help to make a long flight a far more enjoyable experience. On the other hand, spending hours on end with no access to entertainment can make for a laborious journey.

Increasingly, airlines that have avoided offering IFE in the past – mostly low-cost carriers (LCCs) and those operating short-haul networks – are starting to take advantage of technological developments to offer entertainment content in various forms. In fact, the landscape is changing so rapidly that travellers are starting to question why some airlines, regardless of their business model or the length of the flight, are failing to offer at least some form of digital entertainment.

Portable, scalable onboard networks – such as those adopted by the likes of XL Airways, Iberia Express, and Arkefly – and which allow passengers to stream content to their own devices in-flight, have quickly gained traction, but some airlines are taking a slightly different approach.

Canadian carrier Air Transat offers a pre-flight content download service, while Transavia also offers something similar, albeit with a different provider.

IFE content at the airport
However, for those who are not quite as organised and don’t manage to download any content before leaving home, other solutions have emerged. If you’re flying with SWISS from Geneva Airport, you can now – well, for the next three months at least – download content to your smartphone or tablet while waiting at the gate or in a lounge.

The new ‘SWISS e-media’ service allows passengers to access a variety of content via a dedicated Wi-Fi network. If you download the SWISS e-media app, you can also download content to watch in-flight. The service has been developed in partnership with SITA, which is also responsible for the installation of ‘EntertainMe’ kiosks at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Read full article »

Emirates adds augmented reality touch to its Economy Class amenity kits

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In an effort to have passengers take their amenity kit with them after their flight as a branded souvenir, airlines increasingly come up with innovative designs. Think amenity kits that can be re-used as a branded tablet case, while for example SWISS offers passengers in Business a ‘winter edition’ of its amenity kit that includes a beanie hat and a neck warmer.

Sign of the times
Well timed to coincide with the current Pokémon Go craze, Emirates has launched the world’s first interactive amenity kit in Economy Class that utilises augmented reality (AR) technology to unlock content on mobile devices.

The kit bags come in six designs inspired by the colours and patterns of six regions in Emirates’ global network – Australasia, Latin America, Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Far East.

Blippar
By downloading the Blippar AR mobile phone app (iOS, Android), and using it to scan the patterns on the bags, passengers can unlock content including activities and health tips for a more comfortable and relaxing travel experience. The content will be refreshed every six months.

The Blippar app is a ‘visual browser’ which enables customers to discover more about the world around them. Customers can point at thousands of objects already recognised by Blippar (ranging from laptops to clothing and food to pets) to get additional information on those items. The content explains the object, the context and other useful and interesting facts – and is sourced from Blippar’s knowledge graph called Blipparsphere. Read full article »

Delta’s Shuttle service targets business travellers with speed, convenience and inflight amenities

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By Marisa Garcia

The top 10 busiest air routes in the world are mostly business traveller-heavy short-haul routes. Think airport pairs such as Tokyo and Fukuoka, Sydney and Melbourne, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Toulouse and Paris, and Madrid and Barcelona.

The busiest air route in the USA is Chicago to New York with 4 million passengers in 2015, followed by Los Angeles to San Francisco (3.66 million) and Los Angeles to New York (3.4 million).

Airlines have responded to the needs of business travellers who frequently fly these trunk routes by offering high frequencies, introduce travel passes, and offer flexibility. For example, Vueling lets passengers rebook themselves on an earlier flight via their mobile app if there is a seat available.

While onboard service on short-haul routes is minimal on most carriers, Delta has reached back to the popularity of VIP shuttle services on Eastern Airlines and Pan Am by giving this profitable segment of frequent business travellers (a.k.a ‘air commuters’) extra services and privileges.

Delta Shuttle: Beyond frequencies
Delta Shuttle is the brand name for Delta’s hourly air shuttle service from NYC’s LaGuardia Airport to Boston Logan, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport near Washington, D.C., and Chicago O’Hare. The shuttle also now operates between Los Angeles International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and San Francisco International Airport and consists of a mix of two-class Embraer E-175 regional jets flown by a Delta Connection regional partner, and Delta mainline Boeing 717 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

The airlines’ shuttle frequencies are marketed toward business travelers with schedules that allow same-day return trips. Elite fliers and those with certain business-oriented fares can catch earlier or later flights with no fee if their schedules change.

Delta Shuttle’s East Coast operation is a direct competitor to the American Airlines Shuttle, which also offers ‘enhanced’ shuttle-specific services and amenities. Read full article »

Brazil’s Azul partners with São Paulo food truck for new onboard menu

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

From its California origins, the food-truck phenomenon has exploded in cities across the world, evolving from chip stands into quality gourmet food.

Tapping into the food truck trend, about half a dozen airlines –  including Air France, Lufthansa, Austrian, Delta, United and Korean Air – in the past few years have sent their own branded gourmet food truck around the streets of cities around the USA as a means of promoting their on-board catering services.

And in order to promote the restaurants and cafes present at the Stockholm Arlanda,  the Arlanda Food Truck toured around Stockholm during the fall of 2013.

Azul x Buzina Food Truck
Now, Brazil’s Azul Airlines – known for its innovative products and services – has flipped the airline food truck concept by teaming up with Sao Paulo’s popular Buzina Food Truck to serve the food truck’s fare onboard (video here).

Starting this July, passengers in all classes onboard Azul’s A330s from Sao Paulo on routes to the United States and Portugal will be served menus designed by the Buzina food truck chefs and adapted to fly by LSG Sky Chefs. The onboard menu choices include Buzina staples like macaroni and cheese in Economy and artisan cheeseburgers in Business. Read full article »

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United takes ‘Lounge to Landing’ design approach for new ‘Polaris’ Business Class

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By Marisa Garcia

United Airlines hopes to outshine competitors with a redefined international Business Class experience – called Polaris – named after the brightest star in our night sky.

United and London-based design firm PriestmanGoode have worked on the design and development of the Polaris service over the past three years, with the aim of re-branding and redefining United’s proposition to the profitable, high-revenue corporate client.

The entire experience is designed to reverse any impression passengers may have that United offers customers a run-of-the-mill product.

On the ground
The United Polaris ‘experience’ starts with dedicated Business Class lounges designed to harmonise with the passenger experience in the cabin.

Each exclusive Polaris lounge features a dining area serving both a buffet selection and a la carte meals, as well as a tended bar. The lounges follow a common design plan with the active areas near the entrance, followed by the bar and buffet, and ‘calmer’ zones further inside—including shower suites and daybed rest pods.

PriestmanGoode have also created a bespoke seat for the lounge – named the Quad chair – which mimics elements of the Polaris seat up in the air. This private seating concept in the lounge includes coat and bag storage, a pull-out table with integrated tablet holder, and AC/USB charging points for personal electronic devices.

The Polaris lounges will only be accessible to Business Class passengers, with no access granted to United Club members or even top-tier MileagePlus frequent flyers booked in Economy. The exclusivity of the lounge to the airline’s Business Class customers provides added value to the ticket, ensuring that those customers can be confident not to be disturbed by crowds of frequent flyers claiming their mileage perks. Read full article »

SAS offers frequent flyers a space to meet and work in downtown Stockholm

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is taking an innovative approach towards the development of its lounges by offering different lounge concepts for different moments of use. Last year, the airline opened the first of a series of Café Lounges around Scandiavia: mini-lounges located near gate areas where premium passengers can wait or work in comfort.

Tapping into the big shift in how a growing number of people work today, SAS in partnership with No 18 Office & Lounge, to open a City Lounge for its frequent flyers in downtown Stockholm, Sweden.

City Lounge
The SAS City Lounge is located at Birger Jarlsgatan 18, right in the center of Stockholm’s business district. City Lounge includes both open plan work areas and private meeting rooms where passengers can work and network.

Diamond members of SAS Eurobonus loyalty program (plus guest) can access the creative meeting place for free a day before and after their trip with SAS, but also at other times for a fee of SK299 (EUR32, USD37) per person. The City Lounge, which is open 9-17 on weekdays, includes wifi, coffee, tea, and concierge services. No 18 also offers SAS Diamond members to schedule an appointment with a personal trainer at their gym.

“We continuously aim to improve our offer to our frequent flyers. Inspired by other membership clubs around the world, we have now opened SAS City Lounge to offer people who fly with us frequently, opportunities to meet, work effectively or simply relax in a comfortable environment, even in the center of Stockholm,” says Stephanie Smitt Lindberg, VP Customer Journey & Loyalty, SAS. Read full article »

SriLankan captures real-time passenger feedback data throughout the journey

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As part of a trend that sees airlines and airports welcome real-time feedback from passengers via digital channels other than social media, Sri Lanka’s national carrier, SriLankan Airlines has launched a comprehensive customer satisfaction platform which captures feedback from passengers throughout the journey, from booking to overall satisfaction measures after the return home.

The airline has set up various ways for customers to share their impressions of service quality at its Colombo Ticket Office service counters, on its website, at the check-in counters at Colombo Airport, inside its lounge at the airport – as well as on-board through a dedicated application on iPads issued to cabin service managers.

There is also a survey app incorporated into the airline’s IFE system, plus a feedback module incorporated in SriLankan’s mobile app. Once the journey has ended, customers also receive an email request to evaluate their journey. All surveys are available in five languages: English, Sinhala, Tamil, Chinese and Japanese.

The passenger feedback which was initially gathered through a paper-based system has evolved gradually and the airline has now developed a full-fledged system where they could amass the treasured thoughts of passengers via digital media. Feedback data combines a full set of passenger profiles such as name, gender, ethnicity, travel preferences and their service aspirations with flight information into a data warehouse which further enables SriLankan to create a rich set of analytics, identify trends and strengthen customer relationships.

“Today we are serving an informed, tech savvy, demanding customer. We understand the service expectation can be delivered by working smart. We recognise that technology can bring the speed and sophistication to serve today’s customer,” says Mr Chanaka Olagama, Head of Cabin Services, SriLankan Airlines.

Real-time alerts
To ensure prompt responsiveness to service interruptions and critical issues which affect passenger satisfaction, real time alerts for immediate service recovery or negative feedback from passengers are sent to the supervisor of each customer touch point via text messages.

Additionally, live dashboards display the overall mood of customers through color-coded cards which reflect passenger satisfaction ratings, based on feedback received. Read full article »

Finnair turns its inflight wi-fi portal into an e-commerce platform

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By Marisa Garcia

Last year, Finnair committed to a fleet-wide investment in inflight connectivity, valued at USD33 million. The service was first made available on the airline’s new A350 aircraft (of which it currently has five in service), and further installations will continue through 2018 on both Finnair’s long- and short-haul fleets.

While some airlines still ponder the business case in favour of giving customers the wi-fi connectivity they want onboard, Finnair provides passengers in Business Class with free inflight wi-fi and has put its new ‘Nordic Sky’ inflight portal to work as a channel to offer new services to flyers, as well as boost ancillary sales.

The portal can be accessed on passengers’ own devices and gives all passengers free access to finnair.com, plus Finnair services such as destination information, customer care and pre-order duty free shopping— with items purchased being delivered to the passenger’s seat on their return flight.

Reviving duty free sales
This onboard retail strategy is a departure from the tired trolley product push which has been part of the in-flight experience for decades. Technology allows Finnair to promote shopping opportunities while letting passengers enjoy the journey and letting cabin crew focus on more critical functions of passenger service and cabin safety.

“That’s why we’re using technology, the IFE, the portals we have. So that, if you want to shop, we enable that through the technological platforms we have onboard,” Finnair’s chief commercial officer Juha Järvinen told APEX last year. “We shall not increase the number of trolleys going back and forth in a corridor. That’s what you don’t want. The IFE technology and the wi-fi platforms enable you to do your shopping when you want, at your discretion.” Read full article »

Schiphol Airport and MADE.com open branded pop-up living rooms at the airport

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By Marisa Garcia

Schiphol has partnered with online furniture shop MADE.com and opened several branded waiting spaces, giving passengers comfy living room oases at the bustling H- and M-piers.

These piers host low-cost carriers serving the airport. The MADE partnership was a good opportunity for Schiphol to spruce up the more austere terminal area, pleasantly surprising passengers.

MADE also gets to reach shoppers who might like testing out its more affordable high-design furnishings.

With a head office in London and an office in Shanghai, China, MADE minimises its overheads by selling online, and groups orders of the same item together to gain efficiencies from repetitive production. It does not own its factories, instead building close working relationships with independent factories and designers.

Rather than pay for permanent retail spaces, MADE has opened several pop-up showrooms, featuring a changing selection furnishings where customers can take away fabric samples and create wish-lists. The company recently opened its fourth European showroom at Amsterdam’s Overtoom street.

Brand partnerships
“Schiphol is the perfect partner to create a innovative and unconventional shop area,” says Damien Poelhekke of MADE. “Both Schiphol MADE are pushing a limit, in a new learning environment. So we go together on a journey to discover the customer of the future.”

For Schiphol, the pop-up terminal showroom was an opportunity to trial an alternative retail space model, while giving passengers something unexpected which would enhance their travels. Read full article »

KLM ‘Night Light’ lets kids count the days until their travelling mom or dad will return

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By Marisa Garcia, FlightChic

For mommies (and daddies) flying  KLM on a quick business trip and leaving kids behind, bed time is a difficult time.

But KLM has come up with a charming way to soothe the little ones missing their parents with a special night light which lets them pretend to be on the flight.

The new KLM Night Light, was designed specially for the families of business travellers, KLM explains.

It’s a mini aircraft with a light behind each window of the Night Light, marking each night the traveller will be away. The lights turn off one by one as the days get closer to the return flight, with all the lights off by the morning of the big arrival back home.

KLM says the light also represents the airlines commitment to punctuality, ensuring parents get back home when promised.

KLM’s BlueBiz loyalty programme who book tickets via KLM’s BlueBiz website before 1 May, could win one of the the KLM Night Lights the airline is giving away with this promotion, and others can buy a KLM Night Light for € 33 (or 13,200 miles) in KLM’s online shop. Read full article »

Economy Sofa design uses detachable headrests to turn row of seats into bed

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

At last week’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg many of the innovations on display centered around passenger experience themes such as connected and empowered passengers, IFE&C as open platforms, further optimized Economy seat designs, mood lighting on steroids, and immersive Business Class seats.

Good overviews of the specific innovations featured at the Expo can be found here (FlightGlobal), here (APEX), here (RGN), and here (Future Travel Experience).

We’d like to single out one smart design concept that is an indication of how the industry continues to take existing innovations to the next level. Case in point: Geven’s Piuma Sofa seat, which will make its debut onboard an airline’s A330 later this year.

SkyCouch
Back in 2010, Air New Zealand surprised the airline industry with its innovative SkyCouch, a row of three standard economy seats that can be changed into a single, horizontal space by removing arm rests. The seats have large flip-up cushions that fill the space between the end of the seat and the next row of seats.

Two other airlines – China Airlines (Family Couch) and Brazil’s Azul (SkySofa) – have licensed Air New Zealand’s SkyCouch design so far, while Air Astana came up with its own ‘Sleeper Class’ service.

Economy Sofa
At this year’s AIX, Italian seat manufacturer Geven unveiled a working prototype of a further evolution of the ‘SkyCouch’ design, the Piuma Sofa.

The Piuma Sofa enables rows of seats to be rapidly converted by detaching the headrests and attaching them to the seat base to widen the space and create a flat area suitable for sleeping on. A mattrass cover can be placed on top of all seatbases to improve comfort. Geven says it takes less than 30 seconds to convert three or four seats into a ‘sleeper sofa’ and the headrests are released by the cabin crew using a physical key. Read full article »