How airlines are responding to consumer trends with innovative products and services

Full presentation available here.

Last month, founder Raymond Kollau gave a keynote presentation at the annual Aircraft Interior Expo in Hamburg. The theme of the presentation was “Welcoming Change and Innovation in the Cabin” and the session highlighted what is all about: How airlines are responding to consumer trends with innovative products and service in order to differentiate the passenger experience. The presentation addressed the following topics:

What makes passengers feel good about flying?
Besides providing passengers with more control over their travel experience and getting the basics right – e.g, on-time departure, decent seats, catering and IFE, and a friendly crew that cares – any airline that offers an innovative feature that makes the flight a memorable experience will get the passenger’s sympathy, be it serving local food, offering inflight connectivity or wireless IFE, or letting kids onboard serve pre-flight candies.

What are innovative onboard products and services that show the way how the cabin experience will evolve?
Apart from better cabin and seat comfort – e.g, smart and light designs, mood lighting, improved air quality – one of the major developments today is that passengers are being provided with a more personalized experience. For example, airlines such as Emirates, BA and KLM have equipped their flight attendants with digital devices with access to the latest passenger information – such as personal preferences, prior service issues – so they can offer a more customized service.

The combination of passengers wanting a more tailored experience and the need for airlines to increase their ancillary revenues, is also leading to a decline of traditional cabin classes, especially on short-haul flights. A good example is Air New Zealand, who decided to turn its narrowbody aircraft into a single-class configuration and offer four options of service instead – ranging from the option to just take a bag in the cabin to the ‘full works’ with catering and inflight entertainment.

What can aviation learn from other business sectors?
Customer expectations are fuelled not only by how well a company performs versus its competitors, but are also shaped by standards set by other industries. Innovative products and services in one industry raise the bar for all industries, as every industry has its own ‘innovation competence’, whether it’s Starbucks’ understanding of indulgence, Apple’s prowess in design and usability, or luxury hotels’ mastering of hospitality.

Besides learning from these industries, airlines are also teaming up with successful companies from other sectors to design elements of the passenger experience, a practice dubbed ‘branded brands’. Examples include Nespresso coffee served in First Class on SWISS or Sennheiser headphones available in Air France’s premium cabins, while Korean Airlines has teamed up with respectively L’Oréal and Absolut Vodka to design the onboard duty free store and onboard bars on its A380s.

The full presentation, which includes 50 examples of how airlines are responding to consumer trends with innovative services, can be viewed and downloaded here.

You may also like the following related articles that wrote for the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX):
“Exceeding Expectations: Trends that are shaping the passenger experience” [pdf]
“Standards set in other industries fuel airline passenger expectations” [pdf]
“Airlines are teaming up with popular brands to improve the passenger experience”


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