This article originally appeared on Future Travel Experience, the travel industry forum focused on enhancing the passenger experience on the ground and up in the air.
By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience
29 March 2014 | Over the last 12 months, interest in permanent bag tags has increased apace as the viability of the concept has been proved, and Air France-KLM has this week launched the latest innovation in this field. The permanent bag tag, called eTag, and the eTrack tracking device have been developed by the airline alongside FastTrack Company, Samsonite and Dutch telco KPN with significant input also coming from Delta Air Lines.
eTag & eTrack
The eTag is an electronic baggage label that includes two e-ink displays and that attaches to the outside of the suitcase, while eTrack is placed inside the luggage. In addition, a limited edition suitcase – the Samsonite Track & Trace, which includes embedded eTag and eTrack devices – has been revealed.
Speaking to FTE, Manuel van Lijf, Manager Product Innovation, Air France-KLM, explained: “We’ve worked closely with our suppliers and with Delta to try to make this an industry initiative, not just an airline initiative, and we’ve had involvement from SkyTeam too and kept them updated throughout the process.
“We thought it would be useless to just develop something for us – we wanted to develop something that will benefit the industry and the passengers. The idea was to create a product that can be used by a passenger flying with Air France, KLM, Delta, Lufthansa or another airline, for instance. Why would a passenger buy a permanent tag that can only be used on one airline?”
FTE Editor Ryan Ghee was given a preview of the eTag, eTrack and Samsonite Track & Trace suitcase by Air France-KLM’s Manuel van Lijf and FastTrack Company’s Founder & CTO Graham Kelly; CEO Arthur Lahr; and Founder & CFO David van Hoytema.
GSM, GPS, Bluetooth, electronic ink
eTrack makes use of GSM, GPS and Bluetooth technology, which enables it to be tracked by a smartphone, while eTag also utilises Bluetooth. Passengers with a Flying Blue account can link the eTag and eTrack devices to their account, so when they check-in online, the permanent bag tag will be automatically updated within just five seconds.
The tag communicates with the outside world via the eTrack device, and directly with smartphones using Bluetooth, but the two products can also be used independently. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
18 February 2014 | Food has become a new battleground for airlines with almost any major airline collaborating with a high-profile Michelin-star chef in order to lift the quality (and add credibility) of their inflight menus in Business and First.
Besides upping the ante when it comes to the quality of food served to their premium passengers, airlines such as Turkish Airlines, Austrian (both served by DO&CO), Etihad and Gulf Air employ so-called Sky Chefs in order to provide an extra dimension to the inflight dining experience. Although the limitations of the onboard galley equipment allows onboard chefs to prepare little other than for example a fresh omelet egg for breakfast, they can customize the meals to passengers’ preferences, add a little culinary theater when serving the meals, and are more experienced in the precise handling of the galley equipment.
Estonian Air, meanwhile, a few years ago came up with an innovative twist of the onboard chef concept. During one year, the airline each month asked a different Estonian restaurant to prepare a Business Class menu with the restriction that all participating restaurants had to stay within the same budget that Estonian Air reserves for its catering company, LSG Sky Chefs. Furthermore, each restaurant chef personally presented his or her menu to passengers onboard a monthly ‘gourmet flight’.
On a similar ‘experiential’ note, Virgin Australia in October 2013 surprised passengers on board a flight from Sydney to Perth with a traditional tiered-tray high tea service at 40,000 feet, designed and served by the airline’s resident chef, Luke Mangan.
Air France, meanwhile, had Michelin-starred French chef Michel Roth unveil his new gourmet creations to Air France Business class customers on board a Paris-Montreal flight in early 2013 (video here).
The airline has also listed Colin Peter Field, head bartender at the famous Hemingway Bar of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, to mix inflight cocktails for customers in La Première and Business class in November 2013 in what it called “Bar Hemingway in the Sky.” This collaboration will be continued in March of this year on an Air France flight from Paris to Tokyo, with additional destinations in 2014 to include Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Moscow, Singapore, and Seoul.
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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
15 October 2013 | One of the best ways for companies to gain insight into their customers’ experience is through mystery shopping audits. Many people love to take part in mystery shopping – especially when this allows them to travel by air – as it lets them have their say and opinion on the level of customer service they receive and feed their experiences back to the company involved.
Air France KLM ’Quality Observers’
Many airlines employ mystery flyers and in return for valuable insight into the daily runnings of the flights provide undercover flyers with a free flight and paid-for expenses.
Air France KLM has come up with an innovative twist for its mystery flyers program and is introducing a new so-called ‘Quality Observer’ program. Instead of employing mystery shoppers, the Quality Observers are recruited from the airlines’ community of Flying Blue members.
Within the program, Elite members from the airlines’ Flying Blue loyalty program will be randomly invited to join the Quality Observer community and participate as mystery flyer during their travel, according to booking data and the pre-set Quality Observer coverage and frequency needs per station.
This joint Air France KLM program is designed to objectively observe and measure if product and services are delivered according to pre-set specifications at every customer point of contact during the actual journey (booking/call centers are planned to be added next year). According to Air France KLM, the aim of the Quality Observer program is to ensure a worldwide consistency in quality of service delivered to its passengers.
A special Quality Oberver app (both for iOS and Android devices) is made available for the Quality Observers. To be able to use the application, Flying Blue members need to be registered as a Quality Observer with AFKL, which is by invitation only.
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By Debbie Pappyn, Classe Touriste
3 April 2013 | If you like the life jacket the flight attending is showing during her emergency presentation, you might want to check out Air France’s new cooperation with the French upcycle brand bilum. Both brands are presenting a collection of travel cases made from recycled life jackets and old advertising posters that were on display at Paris Orly airport in spring 2012.
As all life jackets have a limited lifespan, Air France has asked bilum to give them a new life, rather than destroying them. This partnership fits into Air France’s philosophy to reduce its environmental impact and to give something back to certain communities.
The first collection of 400 cases made from life jackets were launched in December 2012 and are available for sale online at Air France and Bilum at a price of 19 euros for the flat case and 24 euros including tax for the padded case.
For the moment you can still buy bags and ticket wallets made from the giant Air France canvas posters dating from summer 2012. The posters show a girl lying in the green grass on a bed of flowers in the shape of an airplane. Prices range from 69 euro to 285 euro for a bag.
All cases from bilum are manufactured in France by people with disabilities as part of a work insertion scheme by the E.S.A.T., a French organisation that aims to integrate people with disabilities into the mainstream labour market. They are hand-cut from a piece of the jacket or poster and the fabric is not changed in any way, so that each case is unique. No two items are the same.
By Debbie Pappyn, Classe Touriste
11 February 2013 | There is nothing new about celeb chefs inventing special dishes for airlines but recently Air France took it a step further by inviting a chef on board to present in person his new creations. In the past, Estionian Air already took famous Estonian chefs on board to enhance the culinary experience of its customers, now Air France is following.
Recently, Michelin-starred French chef Michel Roth unveiled his new gourmet creations to Air France Business class customers on board a Paris-Montreal flight. During this flight, passengers were able to taste four dishes prepared by the Michelin-starred chef and two Servair chefs Michel Quissac and Roger Passet. The three chefs then replied to passengers’ questions and shared their passion with a view to making this in-flight gourmet experience an exceptional interlude (video here).
The in-flight menu in more detail:
- Veal simmered with verbena, vegetable fricassee
- Glazed duckling with peppercorns, citrus honey, caramelized mango and pineapple, vegetable bâtonnets
- Pollock fish, mussel broth with Menton cured lemon zest, simmered vegetables
- Shrimp and squid with tarragon lobster sauce, red rice and baby spinach
Starting from 1st February 2013, Michel Roth will offer six new dishes on board long-haul flights departing from Paris. The chef’s new dishes will be served for a period of 8 months and will be one of the four main dishes on the menu. Also the creation will be renewed twice a month for the pleasure of frequent travellers.
By Vivek Mayasandra, Globalizer.co
3 December 2012 | Since the launch of its ‘Air France Music’ initiative in 2010, the airline has built a reputation for offering passengers and its social media fans and followers exclusive musical content such as exclusive podcasts and ‘on air’ playlists of the music it play on board its aircrafts. In November 2010, the airline also took three bands – The Shoes, Monsieur Monsieur and Alb – on an Airbus A380 flight from Paris to Tokyo, with each act composing and recording a new track while in the air.
According to Air France’s SVP Corporate Communications Adeline Challon-Kemoun, “music plays a central role in brand communication” for the airline, with the app being a way to “evoke the relaxed serenity of air travel” through music.
Following its ‘Side by Side’ Facebook iniative earlier this year, Air France recently launched its latest musical initiative, a global mobile music discovery app.
Music in the Sky
Air France ‘Music in the Sky’ is an app for iPhone and iPad that allows users to ‘capture’ new tracks by pointing their devices upwards to the sky. The app uses an augmented reality element so that songs show up on the screen as little dots with music notes inside them. Users can then capture a song and add it to their playlist.
‘Music in the Sky’ also features different tracks in each country, so frequent travellers can discover more music through the Air France Music mobile platform. Additionally, users can test their music knowledge on the app to win “other unreleased tracks, concert tickets or even air tickets” by finding hidden games in the sky during certain times of the year. Video of the ‘Music in the Air’ app here.
Read full article »
10 March 2012 | Besides taking measures to significantly reduce fuel consumption by flying new and re-engined aircraft, experimenting with biofuel, creating more economical flight paths and descents, applying winglets and nano paint in order to streamline aircraft even further, and reducing weight of cargo containers and cabin interiors (e.g, seats, trolleys), airlines have also come up with eco-initiatives that are more visibile to passengers, most notably onboard recycling.
As a spokesman of UK-based leisure airline Monarch stated when the airline introduced an onboard recycling program several years ago: “Monarch has been operating a paper collection scheme onboard its flights for a number of years now,” he said, “but feedback from passengers and crew highlighted the fact that the recycling of other items, such as plastics and cans, is a part of everyday life now which people wished to continue – if they were at home they’d be recycling the items, so why should they not do so on flights?”
Air France, which says it already recycles that 80 percent of the items used for onboard service, has now come up with a small, but sympathetic initiative, that shows passengers that it makes an effort to recycle as many items as possible. The airline recently began asking passengers on domestic and European flights to drop their free newspapers in a dedicated container when leaving the aircraft. Local businesses then collect the newspapers and recycle them. According to the airline, tests carried out with customers show that over 75 percent of passengers place their newspapers in these containers.
Air France says it also seeks to recycle its polystyrene meal boxes that are distributed on its European routes. Meal packs on medium-haul Air France flights are made of recyclable polystyrene and cabin crew collect and sort the used packs, which when recycled by the supplier are used to make Air France cutlery.
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7 April 2011 | In recent years, gourmet food trucks have been all the rage in the U.S., serving up all kinds of high-end cuisine, ranging from Korean BBQ to upscale desserts, while using Twitter to let customers know where they will be parking on any given moment.
Air France ‘Gourmet Food Truck’
To promote the airline and its service, Air France has also jumped on the food truck ‘trend’ and for 5 days (March 24th through March 28th) an Air France ‘Gourmet Food Truck’ toured Manhattan, New York, serving complimentary food. Chefs from airline caterer Flying Food Servair handed out free food samples based on the recipes of Air France’s Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon.
Items on the menu included Pain au Chocolat for breakfast, cucumber and smoked salmon brochette (lunch), French Shepherd’s Pie with duck confit (dinner) and assorted French macarons and petits fours as a dessert.
Parked in one location per day, the Air France food truck could be found at respectively Rockefeller Center, Union Square, SoHo/Broadway and Wall Street. The exact location could be followed via Air France USA’s Twitter stream and Facebook page.
An estimated 600 samples of breakfasts, lunches and dinners were served each day during the promotion. There was also a sweepstakes for two Air France tickets to Paris, and those who received a free meal were encouraged to make a donation to City Harvest, a rescue organization dedicated to feeding New York’s less fortunate citizens.
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23 March 2011 | After the introduction of additional fees for luggage, extra legroom seats, and in-flight catering, to name a few, a new category of ancillary revenues seems to be taking hold. A growing number of airlines are offering passengers a paid option to increase or descrease their exposure to rising ticket and fuel prices. For example, U.S. low-cost carrier Allegiant wants passengers to consider a variable-price ticket, where the final fare could rise or fall based on the cost of fuel, while Vueling, Air France, KLM and Continental offer customers a paid option to ‘freeze’ their fare for up to 14 days when making a booking.
Allegiant ‘variable fuel fare’
Las Vegas-based low-cost carrier Allegiant has come up with a new way to share the pain of rising oil prices with passengers. It has filed a request with the U.S. Department of Transportation for permission to sell a new type of flexible ticket. The purchase price would be less than a normal ticket’s, but it could subsequently rise or fall (with the customer either paying more or getting money back) depending on oil-price flucutations between the purchase date and the flight date. The increase would have a maximum that would be clearly disclosed. Allegiant will continue to offer the ‘traditional’ fixed-price ticket as well.
Because many passengers book months ahead, it is difficult for Allegiant—which unlike most airlines doesn’t hedge its future fuel needs—to predict what the fuel price will be at the time of travel. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed a new consumer protection rule that will prevent airlines from increasing prices after purchases are made, and Allegiant is suggesting its variable fuel fare as an alternative. The airline says it doesn’t have any immediate plans for the new pricing option but that it is looking for an approval in case its wants to offer it in the future.
With the fluctuating airfare the passenger is basically betting on oil prices as Allegiant is passing some of its fuel risk to the consumer, who gets a lower base fare in return. However, as airlinetrends.com commented to CNN.com (“Vegas airline proposes rolling dice on fares”), few consumers may actually want to incorporate this kind of risk into their ticket, since hardly anyone can make an educated guess about the future development of oil prices. For some passengers though, it may be a way to start their Las Vegas trip in style. Read full article »
16 July 2010 | Many airports offer playgrounds for kids to keep them entertained while waiting for their flight. For example, Singapore Changi features several children’s playgrounds and even a 4-storey slide, while Schiphol Airport has a ‘Kids Forest’. Airports have also teamed up with brands to offer ‘brand spaces’ for kids and babies. At Amsterdam Schiphol, baby food brand Nutricia runs a ‘Nutricia Babycare Lounge’, while at Paris’ Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports kids can play at the ‘Gulli area’, a playground povided by Gulli, a French children’s TV channel. Jetblue’s T5 terminal at New York JFK features a ‘Fisher Price Play Space’.
Besides these public facilities, airlines have recently began opening their own dedicated lounges for kids. Air France just launched its first lounge for unaccompanied minors at Paris-Orly airport, which the airline mainly uses for domestic and regional flights. Nearly 380,000 unaccompanied minors travel on Air France every year, and approximately 70% of them travels within France and to the French Overseas Departments. Under the watchful eye of Air France staff, children can play, rest, read or watch DVDs in the new 40 sqm lounge. Air France has also opened a summer-only 200 sqm lounge At Paris-Charles de Gaulle during the school vacation period for kids traveling alone. Airlines such as KLM (‘Junior Jet Lounge’), Lufthansa (‘Kinderlounge’) and BA (‘KidZone’), Emirates and Etihad have also been operating similar unaccompanied minors lounges for several years.
15 April 2010 | Many airlines and airports already try to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from operations on the ground where possible. JetBlue, Air France-KLM and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport are taking another step by introducing non-CO2 emitting ground vehicles.
JetBlue says it has just purchased a new environmentally-friendly utility truck for use by its technical operations team at New York’s JFK airport. The MILES electric work truck’s maximum speed is 25 miles an hour and travels 50-60 miles (80-95 km) on a charge. JetBlue says it plans to purchase additional vehicles to reduce its carbon footprint and consumption of fuel.
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30 November 2009 | Europe’s legacy carriers have long found low-cost airlines a nuisance, but the recession has turned them into a serious problem, as both business and leisure travelers trade down to cheaper tickets. Furthermore, airlines such as Air France and Iberia also face strong competition from high-speed trains. In order to stay competitive on short-haul routes, Europe’s ‘Big Three’ are rethinking their product offering in order to drive down unit costs.
The latest news comes from Lufthansa, which will introduce denser seating in its European economy class next year. To free up more ‘knee space’ for passengers, the seat back pocket will be elevated at the same time. Lufthansa also wants to simplify its catering (it currently serves six different options, depending on the type of flight and time of day), which will allow It to reduce the space needed for kitchens onboard. The airline says “the aim is that Lufthansa becomes more profitable and less complex,” and is reportedly targeting a 40 percent reduction in costs on its European network.
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12 November 2009 | Air France has anounced it will restructure its European service to counter the loss of passengers to low-cost carriers and to make its short and medium-haul business (which account for 40 percent of its revenue) profitable again. Air France says the new European product will increase its market share by lowering its cheapest fares with 5 to 20 percent (depending on the route) and its most expensive tickets with 19 to 29 percent. Customers will also be allowed a greater flexibility to change bookings. The restructuring also means lower operating costs for Air France, for example by serving simpler meals and increasing the number of internet bookings. Air France’s new Europe product will come into affect from April 2010, with tickets on sale in January.
According to Air France, its customers (passengers, travel managers and travel agents) all indicated they want two clearly differentiated products for short-haul air travel. At the one hand, they want a simple and inexpensive economy product, and on the other hand a more affordable premium product, for those that require additional flexibility, more comfort and a more efficient journey. According to Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon “regarding short-haul travel, customer requirements have changed. They now want reliable, efficient air transport, with an appropriate service, at the lowest possible price, while retaining the Air France touch”.
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2 November 2009 | Last Friday (October 30), Air France became the first European airline to take delivery of the Airbus A380. Air France will operate the aircraft – of which it has 12 on firm order – in a three-class 538-seat layout (9 seats in first, 80 in business and 449 in economy), the highest density A380 configuration sofar. Air France’s A380 won’t have the carrier’s new premium economy class installed, which Air France will roll-out to its entire long-haul fleet by the end of 2010, because retrofitting the A380 might have upsetted Airbus’ tight production schedule.
Compared with Singapore Airlines (First Class suites, extra-wide business seats, USB in all seats), Emirates (suites, showers, staffed lounge bar in First), and Qantas (upgraded First, full-flat business beds, slim-line economy seats), Air France has taken a relatively modest outfit for its A380 flagship. This may have been a wise decision given the current economic recession and the expected post-crisis ‘New Normal’. At the other hand, surprisingly little upgrades in seat design have been made, other than improved seat covers in First, a larger IFE screen in Business, wider armrests in Economy, and USB sockets in all classes. Most notably, Air France has chosen not to install full-flat beds in its A380 flagship, at a time when even U.S carriers are going ‘horizontal’.
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27 September 2009 | Motor Development International (MDI), which is run by a former aeronautics and Formula 1 engineer, has developed a zero-emission vehicle that runs on compressed air and is called the Airpod. The fiberglass-and-foam bodied AirPod can carry three people and is about 2 meters (6 feet) long and weighs roughly 220 kilos (450 pounds). The AirPod has a very small turning circle and is driven with one hand using a joystick system. Its air tank holds 175 liters of compressed air, which can be filled to 350 bar (5,076 psi) in as little as 90 seconds. That’s enough to give the AirPod a range of over 200 km (135 miles) and a top speed of almost 70 km an hour (43 mph).
The vehicles will be tested by Air France-KLM at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The carriers will use seven of the vehicles to transport passengers and light cargo at the airports. The AirPods slated for airport duty will be the first operational version of the concept in use. Two AirPods will perform tests for a minimum period of three months in the premises of KLM Egineering & Maintenance. One AirPod is adapted to transport parts and maintenance equipment and the other the transport of persons. The purpose of the use of AirPod is to reduce CO2 emissions on a portion of the distribution chain for which KLM is currently using traditional cars and trucks that run on diesel. Air France Industries is still waiting for the official document of approval to begin testing the AirPod.