Four Seasons’ uber-premium Boeing 757 takes passengers on round-the-world cruise

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

One of our favourite topics (and recommendation to our airline clients) is that the airline industry should be looking much closer to the hospitality industry for best practices on how to improve the passenger experience.

Airlines that have applied some ‘tricks’ from the hotel sector include Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines who welcome passengers in their premium classes with hand-written “Welcome Onboard” cards, while Etihad, Virgin Australia and Virgin America are among the few airlines that refer to their passengers as guests. American Airlines now refers to its premium cabin as a ‘hotel in the sky’, while Delta has partnered with Westin Hotels to let passengers sleep comfortable on Westin’s ‘Heavenly’ range of bedding.

On the ground, a handful hotels have opened their own lounges at airports, be it that for the moment these initiatives can be found at small airports only. For example, Four Seasons Resorts recently opened an airport lounge at Honolulu International Airport to welcome Four Seasons guests enroute to the island of Lanai.

Four Seasons ‘air cruise’
Now Four Seasons is looking to elevate its hospitality brand up in the air. The premium hotel group has unveiled its Four Seasons-branded Boeing 757 which will carry guests on its around-the-world ‘air cruises’.

Four Seasons, which operates 92 hotels and private residences around the world, first began offering its around-the-world trip in 2012 using a non-branded jet that carried 78 travelers. According to Susan Helstab, Four Seasons’ evp marketing, the branded jet was developed to fulfill the wealthy’s wish to explore the world in utmost comfort. Taking our legendary service to the skies is a natural extension of what we’ve been doing in our hotels for more than 50 years.”

Or as Bloomberg summarizes it nicely: “First came the Orient Express train. Then the Queen Mary ocean liner. Now the Four Seasons jet?”
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Most interesting seating innovations from the 2014 Hamburg Aircraft Interiors Expo

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This article originally appeared on Airchive | Images courtesy of Jason Rabinowitz.

By Jason Rabinowitz, AirlineFlyer

Imagine a place where every single aspect of an airplane’s inside was on display and up for sale: From seats to fasteners, plastic mouldings to satellite arrays. Put it all in Hamburg, Germany, spread it out over seven halls, and call it Aircraft Interiors Expo 2014.

Industry firms large and small (and tiny) all brought their newest, latest, and greatest to this year’s show, hoping to capture the interest of airlines in this multi-billion dollar industry. Throughout the show, there were a few main recurring themes that have been the constant theme in the industry for a few years now. As Data Research Manager for Routehappy.com, it was my job to find the most interesting trends.

More seats in economy, less space, few but important innovations
Flying economy in the modern age has gotten to the point where 32″ pitch is a luxury, and 30″ pitch is the new norm. Slimline seats are the new cool, and airlines are gobbling these up faster than vendors can manufacture them. Reduced seat pitch, width, and cushioning are coming to an airplane near you, but it isn’t all bad.

ACRO
Seat manufacturer ACRO has managed to develop a seat with so much space carved out of it around the knees that a configuration of 29″ inches feels more like 32″ to the passenger. That may not sound like much, but it is the difference between being horribly uncomfortable and content for a short flight. The seats come with a positively tiny but super strong tray table which is barely wide enough to support an iPad. ACRO will start delivering these seats to Spirit Airlines for five retrofitted Airbus A319s and new A320 and A321 deliveries in 2015.

Recaro
One of the largest seat manufactures, Recaro, showed us that even the smallest of changes to their seats can have a large impact. We’ve all seen the photo showing various “innovative” ways passengers set up their own entertainment devices in economy, but Recaro has come up with a simple, yet ingenious solution to the problem.
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South African LCC kulula partners with Unilever to surprise passengers with free meal

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

It is a well-known fact that the reason airplane food is often bland or boring is partly due to the pressurized airplane environment and the cool, dry cabin air, which dulls passengers’ tastebuds and leaves them with a muted perception of salty and sweet.

Kulula.com x Robertsons ‘SkyDine’
Combining several onboard hospitality trends – such as the growing number of airlines that organize ‘micro-events’ up in the air in order to put an original twist to the flight, the rise of brand collaborations to improve the passenger experience, and the popularity of generosity as a marketing tactic – South African LCC kulula.com and Unilever-owned Robertsons Herbs and Spices recently surprised unsuspecting kulula.com passengers on flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town with a three-course fine dining experience courtesy of Robertsons Spices.

On March 5th,  bloggers and food journalists from Cape Town and Johannesburg were invited by kulula.com to a surprise flight to Johannesburg, and on the return flight to Cape Town, South African celebrity chef and MasterChef South Africa judge Reuben Riffel introduced the surprise three-course meal which he had designed, and which was prepared by airline catering company Foodirections.

Riffel introduced his 3-course menu, emphasising that the flavours had to be stronger, due to the 35000 feet height at which the meal was eaten. The starter was a feta and leek tartlet; the main course a pistachio and black pepper crusted beef fillet; ended off with a dessert of ‘milk-a-roon mini sweet short crust pastry filled with cinnamon and mixed spice custard and Turkish delight’.

Three other kulula.com flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town surprised passengers with the same three-course meal. Read full article »

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Delta upgrades cabin crew from Nokia smartphones to connected ‘phablets’

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In the fall of 2013, Delta Air Lines started providing Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones to all of its 19,000 flight attendants. The Windows-based devices feature an app that is based on the Microsoft Dynamics point-of-sale system and also handles passenger manifests, frequent-flyer information, connecting-gate updates, and flight-attendant scheduling updates.

From smartphones to phablets
Now Delta has just announced it will be replacing the smartphones with larger Nokia Lumia 1520 ‘phablets’ and this fall will equip more than 20,000 flight attendants with the 6-inch screen devices. Dictribution will start in October with all flight attendants receiving the device by the end of the year.

In addition to its functionality as an in-flight sales device and replacement for the on-board manual, the Nokia Lumia 1520 phablet, running Windows Phone 8.1, will, as it develops, enable flight attendants to take customer meal orders, receive detailed information about their flight and provide information for personalized service, including customers’ frequent flyer status and potential need for special services during flight.

Personalization platform
Delta flight attendants were initially given Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones to do things like process on-board purchases more efficiently, according to Delta’s SVP In-Flight Services, Joanne Smith. “It’s just a start. […] “The emerging high-value customer expects us to know about them. Millennials want us to know where they like to travel, what their experience has been. Our flight attendants spend more time with our customers than any other group. They can supply that.”

According to Delta, the new devices are meant to serve as a platform for future, more personalized in-flight customer service. Says Delta CIO Theresa Wise: “The phablet is a great foundation for future software applications that, in time, will allow our flight attendants to readily access customer preferences, previous travel experiences with Delta and worldwide connectivity to the company, enabling them to provide the more tailored experience many customers have come to expect.”
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EasyJet asks travellers to recognize it’s 10 millionth passenger at Toulouse Airport

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This case appears in the April 2014 edition of the Airline Marketing Benchmark, a monthly report by airlinetrends.com and SimpliFlying, which identifies the latest innovative marketing capaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Learn more » 

Tapping into the current nostalgia trend, childhood memories of the globally known ‘Guess Who?’ (a.ka. ‘Who Am I’) game were brought back to life in Toulouse-Blagnac on February 28th, when easyJet created a life-size, live version of the popular board game to celebrate the fact that in 10 years the airline had carried 10 million passengers through the southern France airport.

Situated airside, passengers were invited to get involved in a game to guess the 10 millionth passenger who was hidden in a group of 24 ‘extras’.

The rules mimicked the real-life game, so passengers has to ask questions such as “Does he/she have blue eyes? Is he/she wearing a hat?” etc, in order to eliminate as many of the 24 people with one question.

Those participants who correctly named the mystery passenger after eliminating the impostors were given free flights with easyJet. Video of the event here and more images here.

After the airport event, the airline put a digital version of the ‘Guess Who’ game online (called Enigme A Bord by easyJet France) for 10 days, which was played over 2,500 times on the first day alone.

Air France-KLM’s ‘e-tag & e-track’ turns suitcases into connected devices

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This article originally appeared on Future Travel Experience, the travel industry forum focused on enhancing the passenger experience on the ground and up in the air.

By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience

Over the last 12 months, interest in permanent bag tags has increased apace as the viability of the concept has been proved, and Air France-KLM has this week launched the latest innovation in this field. The permanent bag tag, called eTag, and the eTrack tracking device have been developed by the airline alongside FastTrack Company, Samsonite and Dutch telco KPN with significant input also coming from Delta Air Lines.

eTag & eTrack
The eTag is an electronic baggage label that includes two e-ink displays and that attaches to the outside of the suitcase, while eTrack is placed inside the luggage. In addition, a limited edition suitcase – the Samsonite Track & Trace, which includes embedded eTag and eTrack devices – has been revealed.

Speaking to FTE, Manuel van Lijf, Manager Product Innovation, Air France-KLM, explained: “We’ve worked closely with our suppliers and with Delta to try to make this an industry initiative, not just an airline initiative, and we’ve had involvement from SkyTeam too and kept them updated throughout the process.

“We thought it would be useless to just develop something for us – we wanted to develop something that will benefit the industry and the passengers. The idea was to create a product that can be used by a passenger flying with Air France, KLM, Delta, Lufthansa or another airline, for instance. Why would a passenger buy a permanent tag that can only be used on one airline?”

FTE Editor Ryan Ghee was given a preview of the eTag, eTrack and Samsonite Track & Trace suitcase by Air France-KLM’s Manuel van Lijf and FastTrack Company’s Founder & CTO Graham Kelly; CEO Arthur Lahr; and Founder & CFO David van Hoytema.

GSM, GPS, Bluetooth, electronic ink
eTrack makes use of GSM, GPS and Bluetooth technology, which enables it to be tracked by a smartphone, while eTag also utilises Bluetooth. Passengers with a Flying Blue account can link the eTag and eTrack devices to their account, so when they check-in online, the permanent bag tag will be automatically updated within just five seconds.

The tag communicates with the outside world via the eTrack device, and directly with smartphones using Bluetooth, but the two products can also be used independently. Read full article »

London Gatwick Airport to open ‘Regus Business Workboxes’ near departure gates

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In the past few years, so-called ‘sleeping pods’ have made their debut ‘airside’ at several airports around the world, offering passengers in transit a cheap way to catch some sleep while waiting for their next flight. Sleep boxes (also known as Napcabs) can be found at airports including Munich, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Delhi.

On a related note, catering to tech-toting travellers who want to stay productive while on the road, Helsinki Airport has created what it calls ‘Suvanto’ private pods that provide passengers with a tranquil space to make their waiting time more comfortable and make it more convenient to work in between flights.

Regus ‘Business Workbox’
The latest ‘private pod’ initiative will be launched at London Gatwick Airport and is targeted at passengers travelling for business. Gatwick Airport has partnered with workspace provider Regus to open the world’s first mobile ‘workboxes’ at departures areas at the airport’s South Terminal. The first four workboxes will be installed this summer.

The Regus ‘Business Workbox’ is a four square meter fully self-contained, resourced and private space will give individuals a space in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the departure gates, to make last-minute phone calls or finish emails before boarding their flight. The box uses acoustic insulation to ensure that road warriors have quiet, and the space is equipped to allow videoconferencing and listening to music privately.

Users can input their credit card details into a keypad to gain access, which costs GBP5 per hour, or GBP10 per day. Membership schemes are also available. Video of the WorkBox here. Read full article »

Business Class seats on South African Airways’ new A320s feature small shelf to stow a tablet device

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Airlines around the world are responding to the large number of passengers carrying smartphones, notebooks, tablets and e-readers by equipping seats with power sockets and USB ports. A number of airlines and interior suppliers are also looking how to integrate passengers’ own devices with the design of the seat.

For example, Japan Airlines’ new Economy seats (manufactured by ZIM Flugsitz), which made their debut on the airline’s B777-300s in January 2013, have been designed with a a conveniently placed smartphone holder which is also located near the USB port. For more examples on how airlines are coming up with smart seat-PED integration designs, see our ‘Bring Your Own Device’ article [pdf] in Onboard Hospitality Magazine.

South African Airways fleet renewal
South African Airways (SAA) has recently unveiled the interior of its new A320 aircraft, which have been designed by aircraft interior designers Priestmangoode and feature seats from seat manufacturer Geven. The new A320s, configured in a 24 Business and 114 Economy setting, boast a modern, sleek South African-themed interior, which will also form the basis of SAA’s future widebody aircraft designs.

A full story on SAA’s new A320s can be found in the March edition of the excellent Aircraft Interiors International magazine.

Integrate your own device
The Geven Comoda seats in SAA’s A320 Business Class have an innovative feature: The back shell has a small shelf to stow a tablet device, with a USB power point that keeps the device powered during the flight, and power plugs in the centre console for power.

Aircraft Interiors International reports that the Geven Comoda business seat has been customized for SAA, with the removable IFE setup saving project time and airline costs, as it cuts down on software issues, cabling and maintenance. Read full article »

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Vueling launches world’s first ‘smart watch’ boarding pass

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Many of today’s airline product and service innovations contain a major digital component, as the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, the possibility to be connected anywhere and anytime, and the self-service mindset of connected travellers, have created a huge momentum.

This year, wearable tech devices are joining the digital revolution, with Virgin Atlantic’s six-week trial – featuring Google Glass and Sony SmartWatch 2 devices – in its Heathrow lounge creating a huge wave of publicity for the airline.

Commenting on the launch of the Virgin Atlantic trial, Jim Peters, chief technology officer of SITA stated that “2014 is shaping up to be the breakout year for wearable technology.” In fact, market forecaster Canalys estimates that worldwide shipments of smart watches will exceed 5 million unit shipments in 2014 – growing tenfold compared with the 500,000+ units shipped in 2013 – as a new generation of devices from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and others are launched this year.

Vueling x Sony
Spanish hybrid LCC has joined Virgin Atlantic as an early adapter of wearable technology and together with Sony has launched the world’s first application that allows passengers to “carry both their boarding pass and flight information on their wrist,” as both companies put it.

Conceived for Sony’s SmartWatch 2 intelligent watch, the Android-based app – due to launch on Google Play from the end of the month – allows passengers to display a 2D boarding card barcode on the watch’s display, as well as displaying details of upcoming flights – similar to the functionality offered in many airlines’ smartphone apps. Read full article »

Delta offers the public the chance to be seated next to a star of the ‘creative class’

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Pioneered by Silicon Valley-favourite Virgin America, more and more airlines are aligning themselves with the creative, entrepreneurial and technology industries and position themselves as forward looking.

American x SXSW
For example, pushing hard to shake off its old image, American Airlines at the 2013 SXSW event in Austin created a #newAmerican ‘brand space’ and together with AT&T organized a hack-a-thon at the event, allowing more than 60 developers to work with American’s travel API for the first time to see what they could come up with to further develop the users experience with the airline.

The event also saw American launch a ‘Napkin Pitch Contest’, where travelers could pitch a business idea to the airline to make the world a better place, all on a simple airline napkin.

Delta  x TED
Meanwhile, Delta has aligned itself closely with TED, the world-renowned gathering of “ideas worth spreading” that has become the go-to event for those thinking different.

In 2011, Delta teamed with TED to generate innovative crowd-sourced ideas to improve the travel experience, called ‘Ideas in Flight’. The program uses curated TEDTalks in social media as thought-starters to inspire their community, across technology, entertainment, design, etcetera. Delta also features TED Talks on its IFE radio channel.

In 2013, Delta showcased its renewed focus on sleep at TED by hosting a talk from renowned Oxford neuroscientist and sleep expert Dr. Russell Foster addressing jet lag. The airline demonstrated his research in action with a so-called ‘Photon Shower’ – a small light chamber that conference attendees could enter for a short period of time to help reset their body clocks through a personalized light treatment.

Delta Innovation Class
Delta’s latest initiative aimed at the ‘creative class’ is called ‘Delta Innovation Class’. In what the airline calls “a mentoring program taking place at 35,000 ft,” Delta has picked a select number of leaders in the field of art, business and technology who will be traveling to select events around the globe during 2014. Delta is offering one lucky person per flight the opportunity to sit next to one of these persons, “to meet face-to-face with some of the world’s most interesting people in a truly unique one-on-one,” as the airline puts it. Read full article »

Novel Economy seat of just 4 kg to make its debut inflight

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Air New Zealand’s innovative SkyCouch aside, Economy seat development is predominantly aimed at making the seats slimmer and lighter by using new materials and by coming up with smart design improvements. Besides weighing less, slimline seats also allow airlines to increase capacity without significantly affecting passenger comfort.

Meanwhile, ultra low-cost carriers such as Ryanair, Spirit and Allegiant have introduced non-reclinable seats (euphemistically called ‘pre-reclined’) on their narrowbody aircraft. For example, Ryanair aircraft feature non-reclining seats, no seat-back pockets, safety cards stuck on the back of the seats, and life jackets stowed overhead rather than under the seat.

Lighest Economy seat
Combining the use of new materials with a novel design, French start-up seat manufacturer Expliseat at last year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg launched its super-lightweight Titanium seat.

The fixed-back seat – which has been ‘pre-reclined’ by 18 degrees – weighs only 4 kilograms and features a newly designed titanium and composite tube structure, which can be covered either with textile or leather materials. Despite being just two-inches thick, the seat’s “technical textile” is able to absorb shocks from the knees and fists of fellow passengers behind. Furthermore, the number of parts in the seat has been reduced to 30, down from 500 for a conventional seat.

The seat’s tubular structure is made from a combination of carbonfibre and titanium – a material Saada says manufacturers have shied away from on account of its high cost, Expliseat CEO Benjamin Saada told the APEX blog. However, despite being “at the top of the price range”, Saada says the resulting fuel savings of the seat are “so huge” that airlines will recover the high initial outlay within five years.
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Austrian offers premium meals and amenity kit in Economy for a fee

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In their quest to increase the average revenue per passenger, a large number of full-service airlines now charge a fee for the reservation of Economy seats with extra legroom (e.g, exit row seats), while a growing number of full-service carriers (mainly in the USA) also charges for checked bags.

Besides monetizing for services that used to be free, full service airlines are also looking to introduce premium services to passengers travelling in Economy for a fee. Think paid fast track through security and early boarding.

Premium meal
Up in the air, about ten full-service carriers around the world currently offer passengers in Economy the option to upgrade their meal for a fee.

For example, Austrian Airlines’ ‘A La Carte’ service lets passengers on long-haul flights pre-order a premium meal for 15 euro. The airline’s catering partner Do&Co has even opened a last-minute ordering desk at Vienna Airport where passengers can pre-order their meal up to just one hour before the departure of their flight.

Paid amenity kit
Austrian’s latest ancillary initiative is the introduction of a paid amenity kit in Economy. Whereas the likes of Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Korean Air are among the few airlines that provide passengers in Economy with a complimentary amenity kit, Austrian regards it as a possible (minor) source of additional revenue.

Branded as the “Austrian Tascherl” (video here), the practical comfort kit contains a sleep mask, earplugs, a refreshing towel, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
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Emirates ranked as world’s most valuable airline brand

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This case appears in the March 2014 edition of the Airline Marketing Benchmark, a monthly report by airlinetrends.com and Simpliflying, which identifies the latest innovative marketing capaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Learn more » 

Each year, British brand evaluation consultancy Brand Finance releases its Global 500 report, which ranks the world’s most valuable brands by assessing the dollar value of a company’s reputation, image and intellectual property.

The top 4 brands on the global list – repectively Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft – have remained the same for the past two years, while Verizon replaced Walmart on the fifth spot this year.

2014’s top 500 ranking includes six airlines and for the third consecutive year Emirates is regarded as the most valuable airline brand worldwide. The airline finished 234th out of the 500 evaluated global brands (up from last year’s 287th spot) with a a brand valued at USD 5.48 billion, a 34 percent increase on Emirates’ 2013 valuation.

Hello Tomorrow
Equal to its fleet expansion plans (on top of its current fleet of 200 widebody aircraft, ‘super-connector’ Emirates has over 350 widebodies on order), the airline has big ambitions for the positioning of its brand, aiming to evolve the airline from a travel brand to a global lifestyle brand.

Emirates’ current global brand campaign ‘Hello Tomorrow’ was launched in April 2012. The brand platform is designed to appeal to what Emirates calls “globalistas – a new generation of global consumers who are looking for new experiences across cultures,” with Emirates being the brand that is enabling this global lifestyle. Read full article »

Quirky fashion brand Moods of Norway designs uniforms for Norwegian

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Airlines have long used items such as onboard catering and crew uniforms to add a local touch to the passenger experience, be it often in a fairly traditional way. In recent years, however, several airlines in Europe have teamed up with local designers and brands to reinterpret elements of their inflight service in a more contemporary way.

A well-documented example is KLM’s ‘Internationally Dutch’ brand positioning, which has seen the airline collaborating with well-known Dutch designers such as Victor&Rolf, Marcel Wanders and Hella Jongerius for respectively amenity kits, tableware, seat design and fabrics. According to KLM, customers have indicated that they appreciate KLM’s typically Dutch character, so it decided to embrace Dutch Design.

Finnair, meanwhile, has raised its national profile through a collaboration with Finnish design house Marimekko for the design of textiles and tableware that is based on Marimekko’s iconic patterns. Commenting on the partnership, the airline said that “Our goal is to become a design airline and Finnair aircraft will become roving ambassadors of timeless Finnish design and creativity, giving our customers a special experience when they fly with us.”

Another forward-looking collaboration comes from Europe’s third-largest LCC, Norwegian, which has teamed with local hipster brand ‘Moods of Norway’ for the design of the uniforms for its crew on the airline’s long-haul low-cost flights.

Moods of Norway
In May 2013, Norwegian started its long-haul operations between Oslo, Stockholm and New York, Bangkok and Fort Lauderdale. As a part of the new service the carrier dressed the crew working on the long-haul routes with brand new uniforms designed by Moods of Norway.

Known for its quirky sense of humour, the Norwegian clothing brand bills itself “a happy brand” and has expanded internationally to Japan, Iceland and the USA.
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Qatar Airways to launch Business Class-only service to London Heathrow

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Qatar Airways has announced the launch of a new daily all-premium Business Class service from its hub in Doha to London Heathrow. Mirroring the Business-only product currently run by British Airways from London City Airport to New York JFK, the new service will be the first of its kind in the Middle East and will commence on 15 May 2014.

Qatar Airways will fit an A319 aircraft with an all Business Class, single aisle, 2–2 seating configuration offering 40 seats – slightly larger than the 32 seats on BA’s A318 that operates the LCY – JFK route.

Full-flat bed, big-screen IFE, connectivity
The full-flat seat – similar to the one found in Lufthansa’s new 747-800 cabin, or Delta’s new transcontinental Delta premium product – is configured as pairs of seats, slightly angled away from the aisle, meaning a modicum more privacy, but really only ideal for those travelling in pairs.

A nice touch on the narrowbody A319 is the provision of a big-screen entertainment system with more than 900 movies, TV shows, and video games to choose from, as well as the ability to SMS from the air to those on the ground, enabling people to keep in touch.

Passengers on the Business-only jet also have access to Qatar’s Premium lounge in London Heathrow’s T4 and the airline’s Premium Terminal in Doha.

Qatar Airways currently operates five daily flights to London Heathrow and the additional sixth all Business Class daily service means the airline will step up the frequency on the Doha – London Heathrow route from 35 to 42 weekly services.
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