Density and distraction drive new aircraft interiors trends » Our wrapup of the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2015

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By Marisa Garcia, Flight Chic

Rapidly evolving alternatives to traditional inflight entertainment systems, smarter seat designs and a redefined premium cabin were top themes at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo 2015 in Hamburg, the aircraft cabin show of shows.

Airlines are eager to make the most of potential revenue space on their planes, while air travelers dread crowded cabins. To resolve this tension, airlines need to draw attention away from the pain of the cabin crunch—especially in Economy.

Technology now takes centre stage in Hamburg as inflight connectivity and entertainment offer passengers productivity, emotional comfort, or at least distraction. This technology is a major capital investment, but vendors are introducing solutions which make these IFE technologies more affordable—even a potential source of revenue and a way to optimize operations.

Connectivity
As airlines step-up the rollout of in-flight connectivity, Panasonic Avionics Corporation celebrated the 700th installation of its eXConnect in-flight Wi-Fi system at the show. The company provides a suite of options which combine in-seat entertainment with global coverage of Ku-band satellite broadband Wi-Fi and 3G services for internet, text and telephony through AeroMobile.

Panasonic also announced that Asia’s largest airline, China Southern, chose its hybrid eXO IFE solution for its narrowbody fleet of A320s and A321s. The eXO system lets airlines mix and match Full HD overhead video and in-seat audio, seat-back Audio-Video On Demand (AVOD), and wireless streaming to passenger devices. This flexibility lets airlines configure entertainment on the aircraft by sections, to suit their product strategy. It lowers costs, reduces weight, and allows easy upgrades when airlines chose to update cabins.

Wireless in-flight entertainment (wIFE) has proven successful where installing embedded in-flight entertainment is impractical. It can also complement existing embedded IFE systems.

Gate-to-gate usage of in-seat tablets
Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect solution offers a rich user interface for entertainment and connectivity directly streamed to passengers’ personal electronic devices. The company has developed an in-seat product which fits consumer tablets on a frame added to the seat-back.
Read full article »

airlinetrends.com and LIFT help airlines take a 360 degrees look at the passenger experience

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airlinetrends.com founder Raymond Kollau and LIFT Strategic Design founder Daniel Baron will be present at the upcoming Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg from 13 to 15 April. Please contact Raymond at info [at] airlinetrends [dot] com if you would like to meet, or download our PAXEX360 workshop brochure.

airlinetrends.com and LIFT Strategic Design launch PAXEX360 workshops

Fierce competition, rapid evolution of technology, shorter product life cycles, and ever evolving customer expectations are forcing airlines to take a 360º view of the passenger experience in order to differentiate themselves, whether they are a full-service, hybrid or low-cost carrier.

airlinetrends.com (Amsterdam) and LIFT Strategic Design (Tokyo) have joined forces to provide airlines with on-site PAXEX360 workshop sessions that explore trends in the airline passenger experience, followed by interactive discussions where key staff identify priorities for future product, service and brand development.

FROM TRENDS TO PRODUCT AND SERVICE INNOVATION
This partnership provides airlines with a service that combines an understanding of the big ‘PAXEX’ picture with expertise in creating design solutions and thinking through the implications.

The PAXEX360 workshops provide participants with:
– a better insight into consumer/passenger trends and needs
– a quick way to understand the latest product and service industry standards and innovations
– an effective platform for identifying key strategic objectives and priorities in further developing the passenger experience

Combining airlinetrends.com’s expertise in passenger experience research with LIFT Strategic Design’s expertise in concept development and implementation, the PAXEX360 workshops consist of two elements:

1. OVERVIEW OF THE LATEST TRENDS AND INNOVATIONS » Who is doing what, where, and why?
This session familiarizes airline management with passenger experience trends throughout the world in every phase of the customer journey – from design and technology to marketing and service delivery – and is illustrated with many recent innovations from airlines around the world.

2. IN-DEPTH INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION » Where do we go from here?
Faciltated by LIFT Strategic Design founder Daniel Baron and airlinetrends.com founder Raymond Kollau, key representatives from your company explore customer experience development in the context of the trends discussed, identifying target areas for future action. Read full article »

SAS’ new A330 Business Class features Hästens bedding and a snack bar

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As cabin interior upgrade cycles are becoming shorter, airlines around the world are working hard to keep up with this ‘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. For example, as full-flat beds have now become the industry standard in Business Class, airlines are looking for ways to differentiate the premium passenger experience by ‘dreaming up’ service touches that improve the chance passengers can enjoy a good night of sleep onboard.

Examples include Virgin Atlantic’s Snooze Zone and Delta’s partnership with Westin Hotels. Qantas, meanwhile, has introduced what it calls ‘Business Suites’ on its A330s that let passengers recline from the moment they board until touchdown at their destination.

SAS A330 Business Class
Following years of restructuring in order to create a competitive cost platform, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has recently introduced its first refurbished A330 aircraft. Similar to Aer Lingus’ new A330 Business Class – which offers passengers a well thought-out combination of product and service innovations – SAS’ new premium cabin shows how carriers with a relatively limited long-haul network can respond to the passenger experience standards set by airlines from the Gulf and Asia.

SAS’ new business class cabin features Thomson’s Vantage XL seats – which have currently only been installed by one other airline, Qantas. Designed by UK-based FactoryDesign, the seats are a modern interpretation of Scandinavian design, including metallic edging, gold accents and electric blue in-seat lighting.

As Jonny Clark from TheDesignair puts it nicely: “With touch points of wooden veneer, dark charcoal fabrics with topstitching and electric blue details, the designers have gone for a mix of business elegance with contemporary cool.” Read full article »

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Tintin takes to the skies with Brussels Airlines

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This article first appeared on TheDesignAir

Brussels Airlines and The Hergé Foundation ‘Moulinsart’ have unveiled an Airbus A320 with a livery inspired by the world famous Belgian cartoon character Tintin. Both Belgian companies have worked several months on this unique project, based on the original drawings by the hand of Hergé.

Move over Shamu (Southwest’s Seaworld livery), the result is a 37m long black shark, based on Professor Calculus’ shark submarine from the Tintin adventure, Red Rackham’s Treasure (image). The aircraft was baptized ‘Rackham’. On the fuselage we read: “We fly you to the home of Tintin.”

Mirroring the designs within Brussels Airlines’ new lounge in Brussels Airport, Tintin – the historical Belgian character created by Hergé, who travels the world on adventurous quests – continues his role as the airline’s travel partner.

This is the first time Belgian cartoonist Hergé been translated onto the fuselage of an aircraft. Hergé himself was fascinated by planes. They are the most used means of transportation in the Tintin oeuvre and they were always drawn with great technical precision.

For the painting of the aircraft, Brussels Airlines worked with aircraft paint artist Andre Eisele, who had the challenging task to adapt the perspective of the drawings prepared by Moulinsart’s graphic designers to the unusual curves of an aircraft fuselage, to get as close to the original shark submarine design as possible. The entire paint job took 1500 man hours in total and even extends to the bulkhead design inside the aircraft (video here). Read full article »

HK Express lets passengers make contactless in-flight payments with their mass transit smart card

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In many Asian cities, smart cards – prepaid rechargeable contactless payment cards – are a common phenomenon. For example, in Hong Kong, consumers use the Octopus smart card to make electronic payments offline and online. Launched in 1997 to collect fares for the territory’s mass transit system, the Octopus card is the second largest contactless smart card system in the world, after South Korea’s Upass, and has also led to the development of London’s Oyster Card.

Many smartcards in East Asia have a wide variety of uses. For example, besides public transportation fees, the Octopus can also be used for payments in many retail shops in Hong Kong – from convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, parking meters to vending machines. Other systems, such as Suica in Japan, EasyCard in Taipei and EZ-Link in Singapore, can also been used for many non-transportation purposes.

Now, two airlines in Asia are allowing passengers to make in-flight payments with the same smart cards they use to make everyday payments on the ground.

HK Express x Octopus Card
Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier HK Express recently partnered with Octopus Cards to launch an in-flight Octopus-based payment service. Passengers on all HK Express flights can use their regular Octopus card to purchase in-flight items, including food, beverages, discounted transportation and event tickets, and onboard upgrades for HK Express’ extra legroom ‘sweet seats’.

To accommodate the Octopus card, HK Express obtained new payment terminals with Octopus’ sensor technology. To make a payment, passengers simply hold their card near the sensor and within seconds the payment is made.

Commenting on the initiative, HK Express Deputy CEO Andrew Cowen stated, “Octopus is part of the fabric of Hong Kong life and transportation. HK Express is proud to be the first Hong Kong-based airline in bringing this much-loved Hong Kong icon into the skies, offering our guests the ultimate on-board ease and convenience.” Read full article »

Chinese LCC Spring Airlines trials faster boarding procedure using fruit signs

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

We have reported several times before how airlines target the rapidly growing middle classes in emerging markets in innovative ways. For example, in Brazil TAM sells tickets via kiosks located at low-end retail chains and at subway stations. The airline also allows customers to pay their ticket in multiple installments and provides ‘how to fly’ advice to first-time flyers.

In East Africa, airlines such as Kenya Airways and Uganda Airlines have partnered with ‘mobile money’ providers like M-PESA and Airtel Money to allow people without a bank account to purchase air tickets via their mobile phone, while in the Philippines, Phillipine Airlines lets customers without a credit card book their ticket online and then pay at a nearby 7 Eleven store.

First-time flyers
Another airline that has come up with creative ideas to accommodate the large group of first-time flyers is Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines.

Spring Airlines has trialled a new boarding strategy by using fruit signs to guide passengers – especially those who travel by air for the first time – as seat numbers can be hard to find and can be confusing for those who have little experience in travelling by air.

During the Chinese New Year travel season Spring Airlines was expecting a large number of novice passengers and the airline used a visual solution to help passengers find their seats more quickly and and ease congestion in the aisles.

On February 11, passengers on flight 9C8881 between Shanghai and Shenzhen found 4 different fruit signs printed on their boarding passes which corresponded to the seats in four sections – rows 1-2 (blueberry), rows 3-12 (kiwi), rows 13-21 (apple) and rows 22-33 (tangerine). Read full article »

Dutch LCC Transavia first airline to use WhatsApp messaging for customer care

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

The airline industry is one of the leading sectors [infographic] in deploying Twitter and Facebook for customer care. In China – where Twitter and Facebook are blocked – social media platforms such as Sina Weibo (a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook) and WeChat (messaging app) are commonly used by Chinese and foreign carriers for customer service.

Meanwhile, airlines such as ANA and THAI are present on messaging platform LINE – which is popular in Japan – while a few airlines, including Royal Jordanian, Royal Air Brunei, Jetstar and Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines, also use Skype for customer care.

The latest communication platform to be used for online customer service is WhatsApp. In October 2014, WhatsApp was the most globally popular messaging app with more than 600 million active users, followed by China’s WeChat (468 million active users), Viber (209 million active users, and Japan’s LINE (170 million active users), while over 100 million people use South Korea’s KaKaoTalk. In January 2015, WhatsApp reported surpassing 700 million users. WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for USD 19 billion.

Transavia x WhatsApp
Now Dutch low-cost carrier Transavia, a subsidiary of Air France-KLM, has become the first airline to integrate WhatsApp into its webcare channels, which also include Twitter and Facebook.

Customers can ask questions via the messaging app, such as making inquiries about an existing booking, how to check in online or hand luggage rules. Transavia says it aims to respond to questions within an hour and the airline can be reached via Whatsapp 7 days a week between 8am and 10pm.

Says Roy Scheerder, commercial director at Transavia, “We want everyone to make it as easy as possible to get in touch with Transavia. We see WhatsApp as nice addition to the already existing possibilities such as Facebook and Twitter.” […] “Because of the accessibility of WhatsApp customers expect an even quicker reaction than via Twitter and Facebook.” Read full article »

JetBlue becomes first airline to accept Apple Pay for in-flight purchases

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This article first appeared on Future Travel Experience

JetBlue has become the first airline to accept payments via Apple Pay for onboard purchases, including certain food and beverage products and ‘Even More Space’ seat upgrades. Passengers with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or an Apple Watch – which will be launched in the US shortly – will be able to make use of Apple Pay, which offers secure, Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled contactless payment using an Apple device.

Commenting on the development, Marty St George, SVP Commercial at JetBlue said the carrier has decided to embrace Apple Pay in response to the fact that “customers want an easy and fast transaction when they decide to make an on-board purchase so that they can get back to enjoying their flight.”

Apple Pay began appearing on select JetBlue transcontinental flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco in mid-February and will be available on all JetBlue services by June 2015. Later this year, Apple Pay will also be added to JetBlue’s app.

To enable Apple Pay onboard, JetBlue has equipped more than 3,500 flight attendants with iPad minis and NFC-enabled cases. The iPad minis will also be loaded with the carrier’s Inflight Service Assistant app, which provides access to customer manifest and real-time flight data, and also makes its easier for crew to identify TrueBlue and Mosaic loyalty members.

“JetBlue has always stood out because our crewmembers care about our customers,” said Joanna Geraghty, Executive Vice President, Customer Experience, JetBlue. “By giving crewmembers thoughtful ways to use technology, we can support an even more personalised onboard experience with a perfect partnership of high tech and high touch.”

Video of how paying using Apple Pay on JetBlue flights works here.

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China Eastern trials ‘intelligent personal assistant’ for in-flight service

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By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines

As airlines around the world are currently in the process of developing an digital inflight infrastructure (e.g, Internet connectivity, aircraft intranet, inflight portal) and the latest generation of in-seat IFE systems has adopted the Android platform, the next phase for airlines is to develop innovative applications that differentiaite to the passenger experience.

For example, on the IFE system of its new B787 Dreamliners, Air New Zealand and Panasonic have created a ‘digital crew call button’ app that lets passengers message the crew, as well as a dedicated digital button to order a glass of water and have it brought to their seat.

Similar functionality has now also been rolled out by China Eastern – China’s second largest carrier by passenger numbers. The airline is not using the seat back IFE system, though, but has partnered with Microsoft to develop an airline-specific version of Microsoft’s ‘XiaoIce’ (東航小冰) intelligent personal assistant.

Intelligent Personal Assistants
‘XiaoIce’ – which translated a ‘Little Ice’ – is an intelligent personal assistant (IPA) launched by Microsoft in 2014. IPAs are software programs that can complete tasks assigned by the user or provide answers to users’ questions.

Currently, the most widely known IPA is Apple’s Siri, which uses voice recognition to send messages, make calls and obtain answers to simple questions, such as those related to the weather and historical facts, on behalf of users.

Microsoft also has developed its own IPAs, respectively called Cortana and XiaoIce. While Cortana provides functions similar to that of Siri and can only be accessed through Windows-based devices, XiaoIce has been developed to be used on social media sites such as Sina Weibo, can be used virtually anywhere. XiaoIce learns from not only past conversations with the user but also those from all around China. With these resources, it can engage in very life-like conversations and has a bit of a funny character of its own. Read full article »

Air France lets passengers waiting at the gate play a digital game for a chance to win an upgrade to Business

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This case appears in the February 2015 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 »

To raise awareness in the Asia Pacific region of the new cabins on its B777s, Air France has developed a mobile game called Cloud Slicer, which allows travellers to compete for an instant upgrade on their flights.

This game was first launched at Singapore Changi and Osaka Kansai airport in late 2014 when passengers were handed tablets and encouraged to play Cloud Slicer, where they had to swipe the screen to cut up clouds and compete for high scores.

More than 400 passengers in the boarding gates participated in the 15-minute game. Scores were displayed in real-time on three larger screens located at the boarding gates. 15 lucky top scorers in Singapore and six in Osaka were instantly upgraded to Business Class on their flight and received their new boarding passed from the pilot himself. Video of the event here.

From January 19 2015, the competition has been extended to a regional level. All Air France passengers flying from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia or Japan can download the game (iOS or Android) and compete against each other. The best scorers of the month in each country will have the chance to be upgraded on their next flight to Paris.

Three top scorers were picked on January 31st and another three will be selected on February 27th to win free upgrades on their upcoming flights. The contest is only open to ticket holders who will travel between February 15 and December 31, 2015 and is based on seat availability on the travel date.

New Korean Air ‘Prestige Suite’ indicates a new seating trend in Business Class

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Korean Air is the latest carrier to embrace the new B/E Aerospace Apex Business Class suite. Following both JAL and Oman Air, Korean Air has opted for these increasingly popular forward facing private suites, which all offer aisle access and increased privacy.

Just like Japan Airlines’ ‘Sleeper Suites’, Korean Air’s ‘Prestige Suites’ turn into 74 inch long beds. When not fully reclined, the seats are still a comfortable 21.6 inches wide and feature a 23 inch widescreen touchscreen TV with handheld controller too, so there is no need to reach to the screen.

In a bid to improve and align their business class cabin with international standards, the biggest improvement comes from the introduction of a fully flat bed, replacing the older lie-flat seats.

The new Suites will make their debut on a Korean Air A330-300 on the Guangzhou, Singapore and Hanoi routes. Korean Air has a further 38 aircraft on order – six A330-300s, twelve B777-300ERs, ten B747-8is and ten B787-9s – and all will be delivered equipped with these new seats.

The airline also announced they will be looking at introducing a brand new First Class product to compliment the new suites.

Privacy
The advantage of these seats is that passengers can either fly together or in complete privacy, in a similar set-up to British Airways’ long-standing Club World product. The centre seats align perfectly, whilst the window twin seats are staggered slightly, to ensure each passenger has access to the aisle. Read full article »

Air Astana introduces ‘Economy Sleeper Class’

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By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines

Recently, several airlines have picked up the Air New Zealand Skycouch concept. While China Airlines introduced its ‘Family Couch’ and Azul introduced the ‘Sky Sofa’, Air Astana  is now becoming the latest carrier to introduce a similar yet slightly different product.

The Kazakh airline is announcing the new ‘Economy Sleeper Class’ in which each passenger will get to enjoy a row of three Economy Class seats, turn-down service, along with various privileges at the airport.

The Economy Sleeper Class is located in the first few rows of Economy Class. The area, similar to Premium Economy products on other carriers, is partitioned from the regular Economy Class allowing passengers to enjoy more privacy. During the flight, Business Class amenity kits will be provided to make traveling more comfortable.

Mattress, duvet, pillow
When it is time to rest, the cabin crew will bring mattress layers, luxurious duvets and pillow sets to transform seats into beds that allow passengers to reasonably stretch their legs and sleep.

Different from Skycouch-related products, which consist of three continuous seats that have raisable legrests to create a large resting area, Air Astana’s Economy Sleeper is simply a set of three regular Economy Class seats. As a result, it can only allow a maximum of one adult and one infant on each seat set. Yet, it can, just like the Skycouch products, be sold as individual Economy Class seats if necessary.

With the new Economy Sleeper, Air Astana is targeting families who want more space and passengers who are unable to book business class seats. The class, with Business Class amenity kits and partitions that separate it from Economy Class, is the first to blend the Skycouch and Premium Economy concepts. Read full article »

Qantas lets passengers in First Class try out Samsung Gear virtual reality headsets

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

The future is here and no, this is not an April Fools’ joke. Qantas has partnered with Samsung Electronics Australia to launch a futuristic trial entertainment service that uses Samsung virtual reality (VR) technology to give customers a spectacular three dimensional experience in a 360 degree style interactive format.

Qantas’ clunky yet “Apple generation” stylish headsets will completely envelop customers in an immersive virtual world. Currently the entertainment features the sights and panoramic vistas of Qantas’ destinations, new product and of course a selection of the latest inflight blockbuster movies.

3-month trial for First Class passengers
As part of the trial, a number of Samsung Gear VR headsets will be made available to customers in Sydney and Melbourne International First Lounges as well as a worlds first: in the First Class cabins on select A380 services.

The trial will run for three months to assess customer feedback on how this kind of VR offering might add to their overall travel experience on long-haul flights – we have doubts that customers on-board will fully enjoy the experience – as it hasn’t ever been trialled in an environment that has inherent motion before (see our reasoning below). That said, you can’t help but applaud the airline, to embrace new technology like this – at it is a catalyst for other airlines to follow.

Qantas Group Executive, Brand, Marketing & Corporate Affairs Olivia Wirth said the technology will open up a new world of lounge and inflight entertainment for customers, as well as give Qantas a powerful way to preview destinations and experiences. Read full article »

SAS to open ‘Café Lounges’ at gate areas at Scandinavian airports

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

While passengers travelling in Business and First and upper-tier members of frequent flyer programs can wait for their flight in the comfort of the airline lounge, Business Class passengers still have to wait with the ‘hoi polloi’ at the gate before boarding the aircraft via a fast lane (ideally). First Class passengers often have a transfer to the aircraft from the lounge in a private car, or are escorted onboard directly.

SAS ‘Café Lounge’
To improve waiting time at the gate for premium passengers, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has announced it will open a new Café Lounge concept at Trondheim and Tromsø regional airports in Norway this spring.

The SAS Café Lounges at the gate will complement existing SAS lounges at these airport and can be used by the airline’s ‘Plus Class’ passengers, Business Class passengers travelling with Star Alliance airlines and Gold and Diamond members of SAS’ EuroBonus loyalty program.

SAS says it aims to provide passengers with a dedicated, relaxing and working environment close to the departure gate and offer WiFi internet access, tea, coffee and pastries. They are designed so that business travellers can work right up until boarding the aircraft.

Says Eivind Roald, EVP Commercial at SAS, “Our most frequent flyers appreciate time saving services such as Fast Track, which is why we are now offering an additional service designed especially for them. Fast flows are important on our domestic market and customers can work effectively in our Café Lounges located close to the gate.”

The SAS Cafe Lounge at Trondheim airport is scheduled to open in April and the facility at Tromso airport in May. Later this year, the airline will open further SAS Cafe Lounges at other Scandinavian airports.
Read full article »

Air New Zealand lets lounge guests order their favourite coffee via their smartphone

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Ordering food and beverages via tablet devices is rapidly becoming the new normal at casual dining restaurants across the USA (e.g, chains such as Applebees and Chili’s), while airport restaurateur OTG has installed thousands of iPads at half a dozen U.S. airports.

Furthermore, forward-looking airlines such as Virgin America, Air New Zealand and Norwegian allow passengers to order meals, snacks and drinks via the IFE system. Allowing passengers to order via their own smartphone will be a logical next step.

And, following the success of its mobile payment app, Starbucks last October introduced its first order-ahead mobile application in Portland, Oregon, in a bid to speed up service and boost sales. The first stores in Portland allow iPhone users to order using the Starbucks app before they arrive. Customers typically will have to wait about five minutes for their drinks and food to be ready after placing an order through the app.

Air New Zealand lounges
Tapping into today’s ‘coffee culture’ Air New Zealand has been featuring barista’s who make freshly brewed coffee to passenger’s preferences in its ‘Koru’ lounges for some time. Lounge guest could order their favourite coffee by ticking a few boxes on a piece of paper, add their name and hand it over.

In a clever move, flyers now can order barista-made coffee via ANZ’s tablet or smartphone app the minute they walk into one of the airline’s Koru Clubs around New Zealand, including its international lounge at Auckland Airport. Read full article »