8 interesting airline product and service innovations for the first half of 2015

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At airlinetrends.com we continuously monitor the global aviation industry for product and service innovations launched by airlines in response to cultural, technological, and economic changes that influence airline customers’ needs and expectations.

The product and service innovations we have selected to be among the most innovative concepts that have been launched in the first half of this year reflect how airlines are becoming more creative in the design of new products and services as more airlines are embrading hospitality, design and technology as ways to differentiate the passenger experience.

8 INTERESTING AIRLINE INNOVATIONS FOR THE FIRST HALF OF 2015

1. Bring Your Own Wi-Fi » Airlines deploy portable wireless networks

Estonian Air, Transavia and Arkefly are the first airlines to deploy the AirFi box – a compact, portable, battery-powered wi-fi solution that can be stowed inside a luggage locker and requires no modification to the aircraft, and hence no certification. Read article »

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

China Eastern has launched an airline-specific version of Microsoft’s ‘XiaoIce’ – an intelligent personal assistant – which on Wi-Fi equipped aircraft allows passengers to socialize with other passengers, contact the crew (who are equipped with tablets) and send post-arrival pick-up reminders to people on the ground. Read article »

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

In many Asian countries, prepaid rechargeable contactless payment cards are a common phenomenon. Now, two airlines in Asia are allowing passengers to make in-flight payments with those same smart cards they use to make everyday payments on the ground. Read article »

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

Besides featuring barista’s who make freshly brewed coffee to passenger’s preferences in its ‘Koru’ lounges, Air New Zealand now lets flyers order barista-made coffee via its smartphone app the minute they walk into one of the airline’s Koru Clubs around New Zealand. Read article »

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

Following years of restructuring, SAS has introduced its first refurbished A330 aircraft. Similar to Aer Lingus’ new A330 Business Class, 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. Read article »

6. Air Astana introduces ‘Economy Sleeper Class’

Recently, several airlines have picked up Air NZ’s Skycouch concept. While China Airlines introduced its ‘Family Couch’ and Azul introduced the ‘Sky Sofa’, Air Astana has become the latest carrier to introduce a slightly different ‘Economy Sleeper Class’. Read article »

7. Delta’s ‘Early Valet’ service preloads passengers’ hand-luggage to speed up boarding

In an effort to take some of the stress out of the boarding process and reduce expensive delays before take-off, many airlines have been looking for alternative procedures to optimize boarding. Now Delta Air Lines is trying something new: Preloading carry-on bags into the overhead bins before the passengers embark the aircraft. Read article »

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

The airline industry is one of the leading sectors in deploying Twitter and Facebook for customer care, while in China many local and foreign carriers are present on Sina Weibo and WeChat. Now Dutch LCC Transavia has become the first airline to integrate WhatsApp into its webcare channels. Read article »

TAM uses Facebook profiles to personalize the inflight magazine for each passenger on Milan flight

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This case appears in the July 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 celebrate the 35th anniversary of it’s Sao Paulo-Milan route, TAM Airlines recently wowed a flight full of passengers by using Facebook to learn more about them and creating a 100 percent personalized inflight magazine for each.

By integrating Facebook Connect into the ticket purchasing process, TAM was able to access the likes, preferences, social activity and even the photos of their guests to create a completely unique “Ownboard Magazine” with customized content from front to back.

When passengers boarded this special flight, they found a magazine in their seatback pocket that featured a cover showing their face and their first name in big, bold letters.

Every single article, photo and advert in the magazine was geared towards the passenger’s personal interests and life experiences. For example, the inside of the front cover showed the passenger’s name turned into a colour, and one page showed a montage of interesting things that happened on the day they were born.

The idea behind this initiative was to show passengers how much TAM cares about them and understands them. Furthermore, TAM had previously observed that passengers spent only around 3 percent of their time onboard looking at the inflight magazine.

Watching the YouTube video produced about the initiative (which has received more than 18,000 views since May 11), it is clear that passengers were quite happy with their Ownboard Magazines. In fact, 100 percent of the passengers from that flight took the magazine off the plane with them.

Emirates introduces wireless charging of electronic devices in its lounges

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Catering to frequent travellers who are suffering from so-called ‘battery anxiety’, Emirates has installed 30 wireless ‘inductive charging’ trays in its First Class and Business Class lounges in Concourses A, B and C at Dubai International Airport. The trays allow customers to wirelessly charge up their smartphones simply by placing them on top of the tray.

The carrier said it placed the trays — which use the Qi wireless charging standard and are compatible with Android, Blackberry and, with a cable, iPhone devices — in “highly visible” locations. Each tray can charge two devices simultaneously.

Commenting on the new services, Mohammed Mattar, Emirates’ divisional SVP of airport services, said: “Mobile devices are an intrinsic part of our lives, and at Emirates we see free wifi and wireless charging on the go, as becoming the norm in the future travel experience.

IKEA, Starbucks
In the past few years, wireless charging of personal devices has becoming more mainstream. For example, battery brand Duracel now offers a ‘MyGrid’ charging pad (In Duracell’s words: ‘drop & go charging’) for around USD 40, while IKEA has launched a furniture range that has wireless charging technology integrated into the surface.

Starbucks is also rolling out wireless charging pads at its coffeehouses in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

Delta lounge, Toronto Pearson Airport, SSP
Emirates introduction of the wireless charging pads follows several airlines and airports that have also jumped on this novel technology.

For example, Delta has installed Duracell’s wireless Powermats in the seating areas of its domestic SkyClub lounges. The wireless charging pads are designed for lower power charging devices such as cell phones, smart phones and e-readers. Adapters for a variety of different devices are available from Delta staff in the lounge. Read full article »

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Delta’s ‘Early Valet’ service preloads passengers’ hand- luggage to speed up boarding

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

The process of boarding an aircraft is inefficient, as passengers entering the aircraft have to wait for other passengers who are busy placing their luggage in the overhead bins. They then quickly having to cram their own luggage into bins that are increasingly full, as many passengers try to take as much carry-on baggage with them into the cabin in order to avoid paying checked luggage fees.

In an effort to take some of the stress out of the boarding process and reduce expensive delays before take-off, many airlines have been looking for alternative procedures to optimize boarding, especially since a faster boarding process also speeds up aircraft turnaround times, reducing the time that aircraft needs to spend on the ground.

Pre-loading carry-on bags
Now Delta Air Lines is trying something new: This summer travel season, the airline plans to preload carry-on bags into the overhead bins on some flights.

The new system is called ‘Early Valet’ and will offer passengers on busy US routes the chance to have a steward take their luggage from them at the gate and place it in the compartment above their assigned seat.

Agents will ask customers seated in the gate area if they’d like to participate, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told NBC. “Their bag will be specially tagged, similar to what you’d see at a hotel for room delivery,” said Durrant, “and then taken down onto the aircraft before boarding and placed above a customer’s seat based on their seat assignment.” Read full article »

Transavia plans more virtual reality IFE trials after positive passenger feedback

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By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience

The jury is still out on virtual reality in-flight entertainment (IFE) – some think it holds great potential, but others see it as nothing more than a gimmick – and Transavia has become the latest carrier to explore the potential benefits of the immersive technology.

On 21 May, passengers flying with Transavia from Amsterdam to Barcelona had the chance to try out the Oculus Rift DK2 during the flight, and Roy Scheerder – the airline’s Commercial Director – revealed to Future Travel Experience that more trials are planned following the “very positive” reaction. He explained that up to five “qualitative tests” will now be undertaken, before the results are analysed and the next steps are planned.

During the trials, passengers are able to enjoy a variety of content, including a virtual cockpit tour, a virtual cinema experience in which the passengers can watch a movie in an empty cinema surrounded by aircraft seats, and a virtual hang-glider experience in which they are floating above the earth, watching the landscape below. The latter also includes a fly-by by a Boeing aircraft.

Excitement or escapism?
Interestingly, Scheerder explained that based on the first trial, it seems different passenger types prefer different types of virtual reality IFE content. “Virtual reality is very immersive and as such we get great reactions about the technology itself,” he said. “We are testing three concepts and already see that different customer groups have strong preferences and ask for relevant content. Read full article »

Bring Your Own Wi-Fi » Airlines deploy portable wireless networks

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

The massive consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets has resulted in a large number of new and established suppliers developing wireless inflight ‘intranet’ solutions that can be used as a low cost wireless inflight entertainment system, as well as for onboard retail purposes, inflight service and crew productivity.

A recent article on Runway Girl Network nicely summarizes this development: “Independently-backed IFE streaming providers are surfacing at an unprecedented rate in commercial aviation. Designed for a quick deployment, most of these new systems are being offered to airlines for free or at a fraction of cost of wireless systems from the majors.”

AirFi portable wifi
One solution that has been adopted by several airlines recently is MI Airline’s AirFi box – a compact, portable, battery-powered and self-scaling wireless local network that is not connected to the aircraft. The system is based around a small box, which can be stowed in a luggage locker – instead of having to be installed in the aircraft.

Thanks to its portability, the AirFi solution is classified as a so-called T-PED (Transmitting Personal Electronic Device) and does not require modification to the aircraft. Hence no lengthy STC (supplemental type certificate) certification is needed. “We provide the box with all the required paperwork so that the airline only needs to [advise] the authorities, change some of their security manuals and do a risk analysis,” MI Airline CEO Job Heimerikx told APEX. “The complete process takes one person two days.”

At the start of each day, AirFi boxes are placed in crew-dedicated overhead stowage bins and switched on with the push of a single button. At the end of each day, the boxes are offloaded and their batteries are charge as they synchronize wirelessly with a ‘proxy box’ on the ground. When the boxes are synchronized, content is automatically updated and user data can be saved to the airline’s own network for analysis.

Roughly the size of a shoebox and weighing 1.2 kilograms, the AirFi box runs entirely on battery power that can last up to 15 hours. Two AirFi boxes are capable of covering the entire cabin of a 180-seat B737, while three to four will be used to ensure robust service across a 280+ passenger twin-aisle jet. Read full article »

KLM brings colourful design to meals and trolleys in Economy

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As the airline industry has always captured people’s imagination, airlines can tap into their local heritage to incorporate a bit of storytelling into the travel experience. Legacy carriers in particular can benefit from their ‘flag carrier’ status as a source of inspiration in designing the cabin experience, in order to move beyond the generic grey and blue environments.

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

Delft Blue porcelain is also part of KLM’s Dutch heritage-inspired branding. Since the 1950s, the airline has handed out small ceramic replicas of historical Dutch houses filled with ‘genever’ (a Dutch style of gin) to passengers in Business Class, which are a popular souvenir item for many passengers.

In order to bring a contemporary style to its Business Class dining, KLM in 2011 began serving meals in Business Class on both short- and long-haul flights offered on tableware designed by Marcel Wanders. The designer (of Moooi and Droog Design fame) created porcelain, glassware, cutlery, linen and a tray for the airline in his signature shapely style.

‘Tasty Blue’ catering concept
Aiming to bring a touch of design to the dining experience in Economy on long-haul flights, KLM this fall will introduce a new catering concept which it has dubbed ‘Tasty Blue’.

According to KLM, the new service is based on the concept of a ‘set table’. Says Madeleine Braun, Product Manager Economy Class Long Haul at KLM, “With the new Tasty Blue concept, KLM will set the table for passengers in Economy. And a set table should be colourful and appealing, especially given the important role of packaging today in influencing the perception and experience of consumers.” Read full article »

Jetstar lets participants in TV cooking show create its new buy-on-board meal

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This case appears in the May 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 »

Value-based carrier Jetstar featured strongly on an April episode of the popular Australian competitive cooking show My Kitchen Rules, which presents teams of wannabe chefs squaring-off in culinary challenges that test teamwork, creativity and prowess in the kitchen.

In the episode airing April 13th, six duelling culinary teams found themselves in a hangar at Sydney Airport, gathered round a 787 Dreamliner in Jetstar’s bold black and orange livery.

The day’s challenge? To prepare an inflight meal for a plane full of hungry passengers that looked delicious, tasted great and fit into Jetstar’s signature back meal box… all in just 90 minutes. The prize? Victors would not only dodge elimination by securing passenger votes, but would also have their creation become the celebrity pre-order meal option on all Jetstar flight over 5.5 hours between April 14 and July 14 of this year.

In addition to enjoying significant brand exposure throughout the hour-long primetime reality show, Jetstar received plenty of coverage from other media outlets. The story was picked up and shared through social media by mainstream media such as the Sydney Morning Herald, advertising sources like B&T, and entertainment blogs including Sydney Confidential.

Morning talk show Sunrise even had its own correspondent and TV cameras on board to taste the different offerings.

The day after the show aired, Jetstar erected pop-up kitchens in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth that let the general public to try out its latest pre-order option. A Jetstar-produced video illustrating how the dish is prepared has been viewed nearly 1,500 times so far.

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Delta lets passengers on domestic routes track checked bags in real-time and guarantees a 20-minute delivery

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Back in 1973, Domino’s Pizza introduced a guarantee that customers would receive their pizzas within 30 minutes of placing an order or they would receive the pizzas free. Over the years, Domino’s reduced this service guarantee to the slogan “You Got 30 Minutes,” alluding to the earlier pledge but stopping short of promising delivery in half an hour. Instead, the company introduced the Domino’s Pizza Tracker, an app and Web-based widget that lets customers check on the pizza they have ordered at every stage, providing real-time information that relieves anxiety.

Delta ‘Track My Bags’
Taking a cue from the pizza delivery business, Delta in 2011 became the first airline to make the baggage process more transparent for passengers by launching its ‘Track Checked Bags’ service.

Since bag tags are scanned during each part of the journey by airlines, Delta’s service lets passengers track their baggage in real-time as it makes its way through the Delta system, providing them with some peace of mind when they learn their luggage has been loaded onto their flight.

Available for domestic flights, Delta passengers can go online to track their checked baggage with the bag tag number they received at the time of baggage check-in. Passengers can use the ‘Track My Bag’ functionality on the Delta mobile app to scan their baggage tag with their smartphone camera.

And, as Delta has equipped its entire domestic fleet with GoGo’s in-flight Internet, passengers can even check up in the air whether their bag has made it on their flight using the free access to delta.com and the mobile app.

Surprisingly, Delta’s ‘Track My Bags’ service hasn’t been introduced by any other airline so far, who are clearly less willing to share this kind of data with passengers. The fast developments in digital luggage tags (a.k.a. ‘The Connected Bag’) will no doubt change this status quo though. Read full article »

Charity organizations get creative in raising donations from travellers at the airport

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By Malgorzata Lach, smartaer.com

Obeying restrictions and rules put upon passengers by safety regulators and airlines is unavoidable in air travel. The nature of regulations can also vary, making it harder for the travelling public to get their travels organized. Furthermore, some of the limitations come up unexpectedly for inexperienced travellers and require immediate reaction.

In response, a few forward-looking airports in Northern Europe decided to turn things around and change those unanticipated situations into positive outcomes.

Overweight Baggage Dropp Point (Rygge Airport, Norway)
One rule that certainly affects the majority of the travelling public is the baggage weight limit. When dealing with an overweight bag issue, some passengers decide to stick to their plans and pay the additional charges in order to check in what they have packed, while others go through their suitcases and remove the stuff they need the least. In the worst case they will have to dump some of their belongings in a waste bin at the airport.

To ease the pain of leaving ones personal possessions behind, Fretex – a Norwegian chain of second hand stores that is run by the Salvation Army – came up with a creative solution. The charity organization partnered with Moss Rygge Airport, which is located 60 kilometres from Oslo, Norway, to install an ‘Overweight Baggage Drop Point’.

Consisting of a weighing scale and an used clothing container, the dedicated area allows travellers drop off their clothes to avoid extra charges and at the same time do something good by donating them to those in need. Video of how the charity service works here. Read full article »

AIX 2015 » Density and distraction drive new aircraft interiors trends

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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° 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 »

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 »