KLM lets friends and family surprise their loved ones with a ‘seat cover’ greeting

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

KLM is on a roll when it comes to surprising passengers with unexpected touches. In the past months, the airline has set up a dedicated ‘Lost & Found’ team at AmsterdamSchipholAirport that aims to reunite lost items as soon as possible with their legitimate owner. The team uses all available information like seat number, phone numbers and public social media details to reunite passengers with their belongings a.s.a.p.

And last month KLM took its social media-based customer service to another level with a bold campaign called #HappyToHelp. During five days, a dedicated team scanned social media for any passenger facing travel woes throughout the world, and responded with real-time answers and support.

Cover Greetings
Showing the sheer diversity of stories of passengers travelling on the same aircraft on a given day, KLM’s latest effort is called ‘Cover Greetings’ and involved placing a personal message from loved ones staying at home to their boyfriend, girlfriend or relative on the headrest of their KLM aircraft seat.

The airline spotted people saying goodbye to their families at the departure gate, then whisked their relatives away to a place where they could decorate a seat cover with their own message. KLM together with AmsterdamSchipholAirport worked together to ensure that the personal message was placed on the right seat in the aircraft.

This made for an unexpected and touching moment for the passengers who boarded the plane as they saw a headrest cover made especially for them.

The moving video showing the cover greetings and passenger’s responses can be watched online and is also currently played on a large, centrally located, screen at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

Although the stunt took place on a single day, involving passengers from three different flights, the airline says it might develop ‘Cover Greetings’ into a permanent service.

Aer Lingus’ new Business Class ticks many product and service innovation boxes

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Airlines around the world are working hard to keep up with the cabin interior upgrade arms race by introducing bigger and better premium seats, as well as smarter and lighter designs in Economy. At the same time airlines are coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ service elements of the inflight experience, ideally taking a holistic approach to design a branded passenger experience.

Irish ‘value carrier’ Aer Lingus recently announced details of its new 32-seat Business Class cabin, which in our opinion ticks many boxes of what the Business Class experience should look like in the coming years, as the airline has come up with a very well thought-out combination of product and service innovations. Or as Irish newspaper The Independent put it: “Is Aer Lingus’s hot new cabin a business ‘class’, ‘service’ or ‘experience’?”

Examples include pre-flight dinner in the airline’s JFK and Boston lounges for passengers who want to maximize their sleep onboard, free wifi and ample stowage space for personal devices, the provision of dinner on demand onboard, tapping into Aer Lingus Irish heritage with items such as locally sourced food and the amenity kit cosmetics, and providing pre-flight clearance of US customs and immigration on flights leaving Dublin and Shannon.

Sleep, work, dine, relax
The seats, manufactured by fellow Irish company Thompson Aero, have been customized by Factorydesign who are also responsible for the new Thompson Vantage-based ‘Mint’ Business Class on JetBlue’s new subfleet of transcontinental A321s.

Aer Lingus new Business Class seat transforms into a fully-flat 6’6” (2 metres) bed, which is one of the longest in the industry, with a seat width of 22”. The staggered layout offers direct aisle access to 90 percent of Business Class passengers except those with a window seat in the first row. Irish supplier Botany Weaving has provided the fabrics for the Business Class cabin such as seat covers, carpets and curtains, with the fibres designed to reflect Ireland’s weaving heritage. A video of the new Aer Lingus Business Class cabin here.

Aer Lingus will introduce its new Business Class on its seven A330 aircraft from March 2015, and what makes the airline’s new premium passenger experience of interest is that Aer Lingus aimed to come up with product and services that design for multiple uses of one space based on a passenger’s needs, depending on whether they wish to sleep, work, dine or relax. Read full article »

JetBlue turns a flight ticket into a ‘chain letter of human goodness’

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

JetBlue is putting its own twist on the concept of “paying it forward,” in a social media-driven initiative called “Fly it Forward” (video here). The program sends one ticket on a never-ending trip around the JetBlue network, aiming to enable people to fulfill a dream or make a meaningful humanitarian impact on the world.

The airline started the long-term campaign by awarding one free JetBlue ticket to several deserving individuals involved in humanitarian efforts, then let that person select another deserving recipient of a free ticket, and so on and so on. Or as the Creativity Online website nicely summarizes the generous concept: “JetBlue is turning an airline ticket into a chain letter of human goodness.”

The first Fly It Forward ticket recipients, shown in this heartwarming video (1.2 million views of YouTube so far), include Tameka Lawson, who represented her Chicago non-profit I-Grow at a UN conference in New York, and Louis Elneus, whose organization Haiti Lumiere helped build the first public library in his home country of Haiti.

These initial recipients were found and picked by JetBlue employees, and now the airline is asking people to submit their own nominations for the next people to get the ticket, through the Fly It Forward microsite and social channels using the hashtag #FlyitForward.

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Emirates and Cebu Pacific latest airlines to equip airport agents with digital devices

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

At the recent Future Travel Experience event in Las Vegas, Eash Sundaram, CIO at JetBlue Airways, rightfully noted that the traditional check-in procedure is very much a “1960s process,” and check-in will become an automated activity. JetBlue in July of this year introduced automatic check-in.

In the meantime, however, FTE reports that “the industry has failed to embrace auto check-in en masse, even though it is an important step in the ultimate process change of fully automating and even removing check-in as a distinct element of the travel experience.”

Roaming agents
Nevertheless, as many passengers today feel no need to use the traditional full check-in process with staffed airport desks, opting for self-service – either online or via airport kiosks – instead, there will be fewer staffed desks. Instead, for passengers who need assistance there will be roaming airline agents equipped with tablets to assist passengers.

Currently, a limited number of airlines – including American Airlines (YADA), United, Iberia (IBHelp), Air France, easyJet (Halo) and IndiGo – have deployed ‘mobile agents’ to help passengers check in or rebook.

Emirates ‘Journey Manager’
Emirates has empowered its airport staff with a mobile application called Journey Manager wich enables them to get real-time information regardless of where they are in the airport. Developed by Emirates in cooperation with Samsung and Etisalat, Journey Manager runs on the recently launched Samsung Note 4 smartphone.

Emirates’ managers and supervisors can use the application to check the status of both inbound and outbound flights, which helps them to assess potential areas of concern and better manage operations, especially in the event of a disruption.

“The size and scale of our operations at the airport can be a challenge, especially during peak times where we can see up to 140 departures and arrivals in a four hour window,” said Mohammed Mattar, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president, airport services. Read full article »

Brussels Airlines partners with Microsoft on new ‘connected lounge’ concept

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This article first appeared on Future Travel Experience | Images from VielFliegerTreff.de

Brussels Airlines has unveiled its new lounge concept, which makes use of design, technology, and Belgian gastronomy to create an innovative lounge environment at Brussels Airport.

The design of the new lounge – which is called ‘The Loft’ and can be found in Brussels Airport’s A Pier – has been based entirely on feedback and interviews with frequent flyers.

Digital Experience
The lounge contains a total of eight different ‘hubs’, including a digital experience for which the carrier has teamed up with Microsoft and design and innovation firm Designit.

Lounge guests can borrow a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet, on which they can access the Brussels Airlines ‘digital lounge assistant’ app, called Connected Lounge, which enables them to book a shower room, view the availability of ‘nap boxes’ or book a meeting room. Passengers can also use the tablet to watch movies via Telenet’s Yelo service while they wait for their flight.

The showers feature LED lighting and music that changes depending on the mood chosen by the passenger, the nap boxes provide a space to rest, and meeting rooms and work stations include furniture from Belgium company Bulo and feature two Skype phone booths.

Living Zone
Among the many other highlights is the ‘Living Zone’, which is based on the universe of Tintin, the character created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, while a wide selection of Belgian foods and beverages are offered.

Service is also a central theme and the lounge hosts have received butler training to ensure they can offer hotel-style service to guests. Read full article »

See airlinetrends.com LIVE at FTE Asia, Kuala Lumpur 1-3 Dec

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Besides reporting on the latest passenger experience trends and product & service innovations, airlinetrends.com also frequently provides in-house ‘trends & innovations’ sessions at airlines and suppliers to the airline industry.

For those who would like to experience an airlinetrends.com session «live», we have partnered with Future Travel Experience Asia – which will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on December 1-3 – to provide two working sessions as part of the Up In The Air conference stream.

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(1) “STRATEGIES FOR DELIVERING EVEN BETTER PASSENGER EXPERIENCES” - Unconference Session
MONDAY DECEMBER 1ST » 15.30 – 16.30  

In this interactive session facilitators Raymond Kollau, Founder airlinetrends.com and Daniel Baron, Founder LIFT Strategic Design will first give a presentation about key consumer and passengers trends.

Then, in an “unconference” discussion, participants will discuss together all angles of passenger experience development and the challenges they face in product, service delivery and brand. Participants will gain insight into trends plus strategies for more effective concept development and implementation, in the context of their corporate goals. Learn more » 

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(2) TRENDS AND INNOVATIONS SHAPING TODAY’S ONBOARD PASSENGER EXPERIENCE
TUESDAY DECEMBER 2ND » 09.45 – 10.45

How airlines are responding to consumer trends and technology with innovative products and service in order to differentiate the passenger experience.      

This fast-paced trend session, led by airlinetrends.com founder Raymond Kollau, follows the so-called customer journey and combines the main macro, industry and consumer trends shaping the airline industry today with dozens of the latest airline product and service innovations and links them to the various elements of the onboard passenger experience: cabin, seats, IFE, catering, amenities, hospitality, etc. Learn more » Read full article »

San Francisco Airport opens public lounge for the creative class to meet

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Forward-looking airports are realizing they have to differentiate the passenger experience. Not only by designing seamless, efficient, processes and fancy terminals, but also by creating a distinct ambiance with a unique and flexible portfolio of retail, food & beverage and service concepts.

Says Hildegard Assies, co-founder of trend research and innovation agency airporttrends•com, “This emphasis by airports on connecting culture, places and people is setting off a new phase in airport development. By creating an authentic identity airports are taking on a new role as a ‘cultural connector’ and story teller. Besides being a space that handles passenger flows with a great shopping centre attached, airports are evolving into meaningful destinations themselves – an urban place where technology, culture, work, leisure and people connect.”

San Francisco: Creative Capital of the World
A great example of this approach is San Francisco International Airport’s (SFO) newest amenity – a space inspired by the Bay Area start-up culture and dedicated to the exchange of ideas, where thought leaders, innovators, investors, and travellers are encouraged to meet, greet, inspire and create.

Named #Converge@flySFO, the public lounge is designed to allow travellers to meet and exchange thoughts on technology, start-ups, the sharing economy, disruption, travel, politics, and ways that could make the world a better place.

The 850-square-foot facility – which opened mid-September – is a free, open space furnished with tables, lounge-style chairs, power outlets, free Wi-Fi and a white board covering an entire wall. Video of the #Converge@flySFO lounge here.

Travellers looking to make the best use of the space are encouraged to promote their intended topic of interest, date and time on their personal social media channels using the hashtag #Converge and tagging @flySFO where possible. SFO will then repost on its social media channels. Read full article »

KLM takes ‘social service’ to a new level during its #HappyToHelp week

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

KLM, known for its savvy social service and innovative marketing campaigns, took both to new levels last week with a bold #HappyToHelp campaign.

Starting with the premise that the best promotion for customer service is great customer service, a dedicated team scanned social media during five days for passengers facing travel woes throughout the world, and responded with a creative and relevant #HappytoHelp answer produced and personalised for single passengers in real-time – even when those passengers were not travelling with KLM.

On- and offline
Selected problems would then be solved in a variety of ways, ranging from actual physical intervention, such as helping someone retrieve a forgotten passport and still make their flight, to providing one-to-one advice or information through social media.

During the week, KLM’s social media team could rely on the back-up from a team of fast-producing creative people from KLM’s creative agency Tribal DDB with different skills to produce content. Answers ranged from a simple text message to an Instagram picture, a Vine, or YouTube video.

For example, KLM staff made a wake up call over the phone and offered breakfast at the airport (video here) to a traveller who had to get up early to catch her flight, provided a tailored weather report to a traveller who was unsure what to pack for that last minute trip to Ibiza, and recorded a video with personalized Spanish language lessons to a traveller flying to Mexico.

The airline even hired a speed boat on the Hudson River (video) to help out passengers who risked missing a flight–any flight–due to being stuck in traffic on their way to JFK. “Imagine the impact if you are not flying with KLM but it is KLM that gets to the airport,” says Pol Hoenderboom, creative director at Tribal DDB Amsterdam. Read full article »

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Lufthansa’s Chief Strategy Officer shares his vision of the future passenger journey

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Click to watch video

The travel industry is often at the forefront of trialling new technologies, and in the past year we have seen airlines experiment with the latest digital technologies such as Google Glass (Virgin Atlantic, Spring), smartwatches (Vueling, Iberia, airberlin), Virtual Reality (Thomas Cook, Emirates), and even drones (easyJet).

Furthermore, the acceleration of wi-fi installations at airports and onboard aircraft will (finally) create ubiquitous connectivity. Combined with the large number of passengers carrying one or more digital devices (97 percent at last count), the rapid developments in digital technologies has created a perfect storm that sees many of today’s airline and airport passenger product and service innovations taking place in the digital realm.

Digital Disruption
Reflecting the omnipresence of digital technologies in the passenger journey, a growing number of airlines are aligning themselves with the creative, entrepreneurial and technology industries by participating in events such as TED (Delta) and SXSW (American Airlines), immersing in digital culture by establishing a Digital Media Lab (Ryanair), or co-create new applications by organizing ‘hack-a-tons’ (e.g, American Airlines, Emirates, Vueling).

Lufthansa at TEDxBerlin
In Europe, Lufthansa announced this summer it intends to invest a EUR 500 million in innovations groupwide in the run up to 2020. The plans should see a new ‘Innovation Hub’ established this year in Berlin – in order to be closer to the start-up and digital technology scene – and the set up of an ‘Innovation fund’ to expedite the development of promising new ideas from both within and outside the airline group.

Lufthansa’s Chief Strategy Officer Sadiq Gillani recently delivered a talk at TEDxBerlin – titled ‘The Next Step for Airlines’ (video here) – in which he highlighted how innovation and digitization can take place at all stages (that is: Dreaming, Departing, Flying and Arriving) of the airline passenger journey. Read full article »

Mood lighting on Icelandair B757 mimicks the Northern Lights

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

With mood lighting now being a standard feature on new aircraft, several airlines have also begun retrofitting mood lighting in their older cabins. Furthermore, besides the ‘generic’ approach towards mood lighting – that is, recreating sunset on evening flights and sunrise in the morning – a few airlines have taken a cue from Virgin America’s iconic red and purple cabin lighting – which has been described by some passengers as feeling like entering a flying nightclub – to come up with their signature cabin lighting.

Says Daniel Baron, founder of Tokyo-based founder of Tokyo-based design agency LIFT Strategic Design, “Airlines should use mood lighting as an integral part of the brand presentation, or as association with origin. As the systems become more sophisticated and available on more aircraft as line-fit items, more meaningful differentiation with the lighting, i.e., not just as a novelty, will become the norm.”

Icelandair
A great example of this approach is Icelandair. In early April of this year, Icelandair – the airline that positions itself as the ideal stopover carrier between Europe and North-America – completed the first aircraft installation of EMTEQ’s full-spectrum mood lighting system onto a B757.

Icelandair plans to instal the system, which is capable of delivering highly customizable scenes with dynamic colors and intensity levels, on 18 B757s.

EMTEQ and Icelandair worked together to develop a custom Northern Lights scene that pulls in shades of blue and green that dance through the cabin (see video).

Commenting on the new mood lighting, Helgi Már Björgvinsson, Icelandair’s SVP for Marketing and Sales, said “Less maintenance and lower fuel consumption was an important case for the upgrade, as well as the desire to create a unique passenger experience and to utilize the lighting for branding purposes.” Read full article »

American Airlines partners with Cadillac to offer tarmac transfer service

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

At airlinetrends.com we cover the global airline industry looking for innovative product and service ideas that differentiate the airline experience and have the potential to spread across the industry – thereby shaping customer expectations. One good example of such an innovation are the partnerships that airlines are forging with consumer brands in other industries – think Starbucks, Samsung, Westin, Hastens or Mercedes – in order to improve the passenger experience.

Co-branding initiatives are also an economical way to provide a premium service as consumer brands are increasingly willing to pay airlines to let passengers experience their product in a relevant setting, since airline passengers are an interesting demographic.

Delta x Porsche, United x Mercedes
In the spring of 2012, Delta has partnered with Porsche at its Atlanta hub to shuttle its most valuable passengers with tight transfer times to and from the aircraft in vehicles provided by Porsche free of charge. In return, Porsche has placed information about the cars inside the vehicles as well as in Delta’s lounges. The ‘branded service’ has been expanded last year to New York JFK, Los Angeles and Minneapolis St Paul airports.

United Airlines since June 2013 shuttles some of its First Class passengers and Global Elite members around the tarmac using Mercedes Benz cars. The program launched with two Mercedes cars at United Houston hub and following the rollout of the service at Denver Airport last month, United says it now offers the Mercedes tarmac service at all of its U.S. hub airports.

American Airlines x Cadillac
As the major full-service carriers in the U.S. are busy upgrading their premium passenger experiences, American Airlines is following suit and just announced a partnership with Cadillac to offer a series of benefits to AA passengers, ranging from luxury, on-site airport transfers, to AAdvantage miles earning opportunities, to Cadillac exhibits at major airports. Read full article »

Airlines let food trucks do the promotion

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

Food trucks are a hot phenomenon these days, evolving from chip stands into quality gourmet food on the go. As experiencing the products and services offered onboard has become an effective marketing tool for airlines to engage savvy consumers, a handful of airlines have capitalized on the food truck trend for marketing purposes.

For more on how airlines are using their onboard catering to engage the general public, see our contribution to this New York Times article “Ground-Level Tastings of the Best Food in the Sky.”

Air France, Austrian, Delta, United, Stockholm Arlanda Airport
For example, in March 2011 Air France sent their own gourmet food truck around the streets of New York City as a means of promoting their on-board catering services. The Air France truck featured dishes by Michelin Star Chef Joël Robuchon and was stationed at locations that were announced via Twitter and Facebook.

On a similar note, nearly a year prior to Air France’s food truck debut, Austrian’s coffee truck toured the streets of NYC as well. Austrian’s initiative was centred around its direct flights to Vienna, and the coffee service was a homage to traditional Viennese coffee and was distributed freely.

Also on the food truck and aviation roster in NYC was Delta Air Lines, who served hot cocoa, while United Airlines promoted the launch of a new route from San Francisco to Taipei this May by partnering with Taiwanese food truck Mamaliu to offer San Franciscans free lunches courtesy of United during a week.

The first airport to use a food truck to promote the restaurants and cafes present at the airport has been Stockholm Arlanda, which sent the Arlanda Food Truck around Stockholm during the fall of 2013. Read full article »

KLM’s ‘Lost & Found Team’ aims to return lost items to passengers on the spot

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

With nearly 7 million Facebook fans and 1.3 million followers on Twitter, and a wide range of social media initiatives, the KLM brand has become synonymous with social media innovation. The latest initiative by the airline is utilizing social media for an instant ‘lost & found’ service.

Instant lost & found
Every week, KLM receives 40,000 questions via social media. One of the most asked questions is about getting lost items back. This inspired KLM to set up a dedicated ‘Lost & Found’ team at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport which aims to reunite lost items as soon as possible with their legitimate owner. From a teddy bear found by the cabin crew to a laptop left in the lounge.

The team uses all available information like seat number, phone numbers and public social media details to reunite passengers with their belongings. Very often the Lost & Found team is able to surprise passengers by returning their personal belongings before they have even missed them. Despite the challenge of locating the owner, first results show that over 80 percent of the found items can now be reunited with their owners.

How it works
Air France-KLM SVP eBusiness Martijn van der Zee earlier this year explained to Dutch publication Marketingfacts how the new service works.

“The current situation is that if a passenger forgets his or her iPad on board and walks through customs, all we can do is to refer to the airport. This is very frustrating, especially when passengers realize shortly after they have left the aircraft that they have forgotten something, contact KLM and we can do nothing for them. The lost and found process can take a few weeks instead, which gives an enormous bureaucratic feeling. We know this is a weakness and we mostly know that through social media.”

“We have now appointed two people at the airport who constantly look for things that are lost. They walk past the gates to collect items and then try to find the owners on the spot by approaching them, often via social media. In many cases passengers have not even realized yet they have forgotten something and really go out of their minds when they receive their lost item back.” Read full article »

China Eastern to feature ‘online mall’ and ‘duty free showcase’ on new B777-300ER

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By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines

As ancillary revenues have become a major revenue source for airlines – if not the lifeline for many – airlines are thinking of more ways to derive revenue from all phases of the customer journey. For example, airlines are looking to harness the power of retailing through their in-seat IFEC systems, be it that things are still in a very early stage.

For example, very few airlines today allow passengers to order duty free onboard via the inseat or wireless IFE system. Virgin America and Japan Airlines are among the exceptions, while passengers on Lufthansa’s A321s can now order duty free items inflight via the wireless IFE portal for delivery to their address of choice.

China Eastern
Meanwhile, Shanghai-based China Eastern – China’s second-largest carrier by passenger numbers – is stepping up its efforts to become a global player. The Skyteam-member has just launched a new brand image and livery and will receive its first B777-300 (77W) this month which will be the airline’s new flagship aircraft. For a full report on China Eastern’s new B777-300 see this article on >talkairlines.

Yet, the innovative bits of China Eastern’s new B77W are not the seats (video of the cabin interior here). The airline has come up with some interesting interesting concepts in an effort to increase inflight duty free sales.

In-flight mall
Realizing that the existing print duty free catalogues can no longer satisfy traveller’s purchasing needs, China Eastern decided to create a more diverse, abundant and straightforward shopping system, dubbed the new in-flight mall.

As China Eastern will offer Wi-Fi on its new B77W, the airline collaborated with credit card company China UnionPay and Chinese third-party payment processor Yeepay to come up with an ‘Air-Ground Wireless Transaction Platform’ which allows for real-time processing of onboard payments and solves the transaction risks associated with in-flight duty free. Read full article »

Heathrow Airport launches ‘onboard picnic’ service, offering F&B from 118 outlets

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Realizing that a segment of passengers in Economy is willing to spend a bit more money in order to have a proper meal when flying, about ten full-service carriers around the world currently offer passengers in Economy the option to upgrade their meal for a fee, mostly on long-haul routes.

Austrian Airlines’ catering partner Do&Co has even opened a last-minute ordering desk at ViennaAirport where passengers can pre-order their meal up to just one hour before the departure of their flight.

Onboard picnic
Looking to take a (small) piece of the revenues that airlines generated with their buy-on-board F&B offerings, London Heathrow Airport has introduced a buy-before-you board initiative that offers passengers an ‘on-board picnic’ dining option where they can bring a bespoke ‘hamper’ (British for a meal takeaway box) with them on their flight.

The Daily Mail reports that the move from Heathrow comes after figures reveal about 20 per cent of passengers snub plane food, bringing their own airport-bought snacks on board a flight instead. A survey by the airport also showed that 70 percent of (British) passengers want flexibility about when they eat during their flight.

Available from all restaurants at Heathrow
Introduced by Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food at Heathrow T5 a few years ago – and expanded earlier this year to some 70 restaurants – the service is now available at all of Heathrow’s 118 restaurants across its five terminals, which range from from chain cafés such as Pret a Manger and EAT, to restaurants including Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionist Café and Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, as well as Caviar House and The Gorgeous Kitchen. Read full article »