2 June 2013 | Nike Mexico’s Subasta de Kilometros campaign has already offered runners the chance to use their tracked miles to bid on sports equipment. Now, the Burn The Miles app is using a similar idea by giving rewards to frequent fliers who jog enough to burn off the same number of calories as miles they’ve flown.
The app was developed by communications agency MRM for airBaltic’s loyalty program Baltic Miles, which rewards frequent fliers with points to exchange for flight tickets and products and services at partner businesses depending on how far they’ve traveled.
Those downloading the app are challenged to match every mile they fly with a calorie burned in the space of 24 hours after they land, tracked using the smartphone’s built-in accelerometer. If they manage to do so, they will be able to win further prizes. The program encourages those whose work requires them to sit on aeroplanes for extended periods to reserve some of their free time to exercise.
By Nikos Loukas, InflightFeed
11 April 2013 | Latvia-based low-cost carrier airBaltic is known for churning out attention-grabbing innovations. Along with differentiating its Business Class by serving passengers a 3-course meal based on organic, seasonal products from local Latvian farmers, freshly brewed Nespresso coffee, airBaltic has come up with a host of innovative ancillary products, a taxi and bike-sharing operation, and the airline has been one of the first to launch a ‘social seating’ service.
Mix ‘n match
To help increase revenues for their buy-on-board program, airBaltic’s latest ancillary initiative is a novel food ordering system that allows customers to customize their in-flight meal when they book their seat. During the pre-order process passengers can choose from a range of meal options, as well as drinks and desserts, and virtually ‘drag and drop’ their preferred meal items onto a digital airline tray, with their chosen meal served to them during the flight. The service is expected to be up and running in May.
Passengers can choose from a variety of 20 pre order meal options, including fish souvlaki, teriyaki salmon, grilled pork or chicken breast, served with one of three salads and one of three types of bread. Hot meals are priced from EUR 7 to 12, salads from EUR 5 to 8, while bread costs EUR 1.
And as consumers become more conscious of what they are eating, each menu items offers nutritional information allowing passengers to make an informed inflight meal decision.
AirBaltic’s customized meal ordering system is provided in conjunction with LSG SkyChefs, whose facility at Riga Airport produces approximately 4,500 meals a day and who guarantees each passenger will see his or her customized meal delivered on board – if ordered at least 24 hours prior to departure.
Says Janis Vanags, airBaltic’s VP Corporate Communications, “We thought it would be fun and interesting for passengers to select exactly what they would like to eat before their flight.”
18 May 2012 | Latvia-based airBaltic stands out as an airline whose innovations have been featured many times on airlinetrends.com. In recent years, the carrier has transformed from a point-to-point low-cost carrier into a hybrid LCC, turning its Riga ‘North Hub’ into a transit point for travellers between Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and Central Asia. AirBaltic offers passengers connecting through Riga 25-minute connection times, while other ‘hybrid’ features of the airline include services that are staple of mainline carriers, such as a separate Business Class cabin, an airport lounge and a frequent flyer program. AirBaltic further boasts a cost per-average seat kilometer that is on par with the likes of Easyjet and Norwegian and 30 to 40 percent lower than Finnair and SAS.
AirBaltic has been growing its network quickly in recent years and currently serves over 60 destinations from Riga. The airline carried around 3.3 million passengers in 2011, compared with 1.4 million in 2006. However, airBaltic’s ambitious hub strategy (50 percent of passengers transits at Riga) has not yet materialized into a profitable operation for the airline. According to airBaltic’s new CEO Martin Gauss, 2011 losses hit more than EUR 85 million. In particular, airBaltic’s relatively older, fuel-inefficient fleet of B737-3/500s and Fokker 50s (the latter will be phased out at the end of 2012) are are a drain on the airline’s operational cost performance. Furthermore, the financial situation of the airline led to a public fight last year between airBaltic’s two shareholders, former CEO Bertolt Flick (who owned 47 percent of airBaltic) and the Latvian government (52 percent share) for control of the airline.
After a long-running saga, Flick resigned from the airline in October 2011 as part of an agreement to increase the company’s share capital by the Latvian government, which also used the bankruptcy of one of Latvia’s banks to take full control of the airline. AirBaltic’s new CEO, former Malev boss Martin Gauss, has just launched a restructuring plan, which will cut costs by reducing the number of aircraft and modernising the carrier’s fleet. AirBaltic will also move away from a stringent focus on transfer traffic over its ‘North Hub Riga’ to a more point-to-point approach. A delegation from Latvia has also recently visited the Gulf Region as part of an investor roadshow to present the airline to potential investors, which included Etihad and Qatar Airways. Other airlines rumoured to be interested in the airline are Turkish Airlines and Hainan Airlines from China.
Despite all internal turmoil, airBaltic continues to churn out attention-grabbing innovations. Along with differentiating its Business Class by serving passengers a 3-course meal based on organic, seasonal products from local Latvian farmers, freshly brewed Nespresso coffee, and complimentary iPads onboard and in its Riga lounge, airBaltic has come up with a host of innovative ancillary products, creative marketing campaigns, and the airline is one of the first carriers to launch a ‘social seating’ service.
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11 April 2012 | Airlines are increasingly organizing onboard events for passengers flying on festive days such as Christmas Day, Valentines Day or national holidays. These kind of experiental initiatives resonate with passengers as they give an extra dimension to their flight, and if the airline really makes an effort, the news will spread fast via social media, providing the airline with some relevant exposure.
Spanair, Qantas, Delta
For example, (now defunct) in the week before Christmas, Spanair surprised children flying on the Barcelona – La Coruña route with Christmas presents at 10,700 meters altitude. A Spanair flight attendant announced that Santa Claus himself just flew by and left some presents. Each kid’s name was then called and a personal remark (submitted by parents earlier) was made how he or she had behaved during the year before receiving a present (video here). In Australia, Qantas surprised 500 passengers travelling on Christmas Day with free gifts in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. As passengers were waiting for their luggage to arrive, the airline placed gifts tagged with the passenger’s name on the luggage carousel (video here).
On a similar note, on Valentine’s Day, Delta Air Lines worked with Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio, USA to deliver individually-labeled red gift bags with boxes of chocolate for every passenger on flight DL5256 via the baggage claim belt (video here). Southwest, meanwhile, offers passengers a free drink of their choice on special ocassions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, as well as the airline’s ‘birthday’ on June 18.
The latest airline to engage passengers with an ‘act of kindness’ is Latvian-based airBaltic, which surprised passengers travelling on Easter Sunday (April 8th 2012) by hiding Easter eggs containing gifts onboard its flights. Up to five flat paper eggs were hidden inside each aircraft, to be exchanged for prizes for passengers who found them. All in all 450 prizes, containing gifts such as an airBalticBag, airBaltic Shoe, romantic weekend vouchers at hotels in Riga, Scandinavia, Europe and Russia, where hidden inside seat pockets, inflight magazines, overhead bins, behind folded tray tables, or underneath seats. Each passenger was also given chocolate eggs by airBaltic staff dressed as Easter bunnies as they entered the gate to the aircraft.
Another Nordic airline, Scandinavian Airlines, surprised passengers with candy-filled Easter eggs at the gate, onboard the planes and on the baggage belt during the Easter holiday season. Eight hundred large Easter eggs were handed out to passengers and the airline also attached 2,500 labels with an Easter greeting to baggage arriving on the luggage belt (images and video).
The Easter surprise was sponsored by SAS’ IT supplier Snowfall in order to demonstrate the importance of a good ground handling service as part of the travel experience, as well as to increase the involvement and job satisfaction of SAS employees.
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3 December 2011 | Besides starring Bill Murray as oceanographer Steve Zissou, the 2004 cult movie ‘The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou’, also featured custom-made Adidas white/yellow ‘Team Zissou’ sneakers with light blue striping, designed by the creators of the movie. After seeing the film, hundreds of sneaker fans inquired with Adidas where they could buy the fictional shoes. However, despite numerous requests, an online petition and Facebook page, Adidas declined to take the shoe into a limited edition production. This prompted many fans to design and produce their own Team Zissou shoes – and also offer them up for sale on eBay.
Fast forward to 2011, a time when the ‘conversation economy’ has become much more mainstream. In March 2011, Latvia-based airBaltic – which has been featured several times before on airlinetrends.com – launched a new advertising campaign that highlighted several airline-themed shoe designs branded in airBaltic’s colours. The fictional shoes were meant to illustrate the various reasons consumers could have for taking advantage of an offer by the airline, such as summer travel, winter break, visiting a sports game, or an upgrade to Business Class.
The shoe designs were featured in print ads, outdoor billboards and online banners, and appealed to the public is such a way that people started to inquire at airBaltic via Facebook and Twitter where they could buy the shoes. Having already launched innovative ‘Baltic’-branded products such as the airBalticBag, BalticWater, BalticTaxi and BalticBike, airBaltic was quick to embrace this marketing opportunity and recently turned one of the designs into a real shoe. In the airline’s words: “Inspired from our advertisments we have made real airBaltic branded leather shoes.”
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30 May 2011 | Latvian-based hybrid low-cost carrier airBaltic has introduced an innovative ancillary product, called the airBalticBag. Regular flyers with the airline who purchase an airBaltic-branded Samsonite suitcase can carry it as free checked-in luggage on an unlimited number of airBaltic flights for twelve months from the day of purchase. AirBaltic normally charges passengers in Economy a fee of EUR20 per checked bag one way when pre-booked online and EUR30 when purchased at the airport.
How it works: Travellers can purchase the airBalticBag (which is the lightest Samsonite suitcase available) in two sizes: The smallest suitcase weighs 2.3 kg and can also be taken into the cabin, while the larger model weighs 3.2 kg and can be used as checked-in baggage only. Prices for the suitcases are EUR169 and EUR181 respectively, which is within range of Samsonite’s suggested retail prices.
Passengers then register for airBaltic’s BalticMiles frequent flyer program and receive a personalised ‘free baggage tag’ with their full name and BalticMiles number, which should be attached to the Samsonite suitcase and correspond with the name on the flight ticket when taking a flight. The airBalticBag can be purchased online or in airBaltic ticket offices in Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn.
The outcome of an internal brainstorm session at airBaltic, the airBalticBag is a smart way to sell a checked bag fee, which many passenger regard as just another way of making money by airlines. Besides the annual subscription, which should save regular travellers in Economy class money when they fly more than four times a year, the product gives passengers a tangible product instead of just another fee. For Samsonite, the airBalticBag is a new way to promote its lightest suitcase, the B-Lite. It is unclear however, what the annual fee of the annual subscription will be for the second year and airBaltic says it is currently evaluating various options. Passengers in airBaltic’s Business Class as well as Executive and VIP-level members of BalticMiles will continue to be able to can check in luggage for free.
28 March 2011 | Earlier this year we published our ‘Innovative Airlines’ report (pdf here), which provides an overview of innovative products and services that passengers are experiencing on airlines around the world. An airline that also scores high on our list, is airBaltic, the hybrid low-cost airline of the Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Riga North Hub
Since 2008, airBaltic has made a transformation from a point-to-point low-cost carrier to a hybrid network LCC. The airline has turned its Riga ‘North Hub’ into a transit point for travellers from Nordic and Northwestern Europe to the growing markets of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East, as well as for Scandinavian passengers travelling to Southern and Western Europe. AirBaltic offers passengers connecting at Riga (65 percent of its customers) through ticketing and check-in, as well as 25-minute connection times. The airline has been growing its network fast, adding over 50 new routes since 2008 (for example to small cities in Finland) and currently serves 80 destinations from Riga, carrying over 3.2 million passengers in 2010 (an increase of 16 percent from 2009).
Despite its hybrid features, airBaltic’s Chief Commercial Officer Tero Taskila says the airline’s cost per average seat kilometer are on par with the likes of Easyjet and Norwegian and 30 to 40 percent lower than Finnair and SAS. Interestingly, airBaltic sees Turkish Airlines, which has also established an extensive network in Europec coupled with a low cost base, as one of its main emerging competitors.
Business Class: local, organic catering, Nespresso coffee
Besides its focus on transit traffic, other ‘hybrid’ features of airBaltic include a separate Business Class cabin, airport lounge and a frequent flyer program.
Reflecting the growing local food trends (see “Airlines go local and seasonal with their food offerings”), airBaltic has teamed up with Mārtiņš Rītiņš, a renowned Latvian ‘slow food’ chef, to serve dishes in Business Class that are based on organic, seasonal products provided by local Latvian farmers. The current menu for example includes free-range chicken breast, red deer steak and seasonal vegetables such as beetroot and pumpkin. Says CCO Taskila, “[Our passengers] can enjoy an excellent meal, while at the same time supporting local farmers who grow organic products. We also plan to increase the presence of locally-grown organic products in the economy class of airBaltic.” See this interview with Mārtiņš Rītiņš for more on the challenges of offering local, organic food up in the air.
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14 October 2010 | Latvian national airline airBaltic is the first airline in Europe (and the second airline worldwide) to introduce the Apple iPad for inflight entertainment. The airline has teamed up with Bluebox Avionics to make the devices available to airBaltic passengers in the coming winter season, which starts in December 2010. The fee to rent an iPad inflight is expected to be a bit more (EUR9) than the amount airBaltic currently charges for its portable IFE device. The announcement by airBaltic is the latest in a series of introductions by airlines of the popular iPad device which was launched in January 2010. An overview of the initiatives sofar.
In June 2010, Qantas low-cost subsidiary Jetstar became the first airline in the world to offer the iPad for rent in a month-long trial on the Melbourne-Gold Coast and Melbourne-Cairns routes. Passengers could rent the device for AUD10 (USD8.50, EUR7.00) for the duration of the flight. The carrier at that time said it had bought several hundred iPad devices, with thirty units available on each test aircraft. Jetstar recently revealed the test was a success and that it is negotiating with Apple for ”thousands” of the devices for its fleet. The carrier is reportedly planning to begin roll-out of the device on 55 aircraft later this month and says that, based on the popularity of the trial, the number of iPads allocated to each aircraft has substantially increased.
According to Flight International, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) also plans to introduce iPads onboardwithin the next six months. The carrier plans to initially introduce iPads on its A330s, which only offer main-screen entertainment, and MAS is also considering bringing iPads on board some of its B737s. Despite being a full-service carrier, MAS has not ruled out charging passengers a fee or deposit to use the iPad. One option could be for passengers to book an iPad with their ticket purchase. Read full article »
27 September 2010 | Airlines have come up with innovative ‘guarantees’ to let consumers book with more confidence. The schemes are intended to take away anxiety from consumers, caused by for example fears of job loss or weather conditions at their destination. Other airlines aim to drum up sales during the traditional slow fall travel season or are using guarantees as a new source of ancillary revenues. For example, JetBlue and Flybe last year offered a refund if a customer would lose his or her job after booking a flight. Flybe also offered a ‘volcanic ash insurance’ to let customers more peace of mind when booking during the Iceland volcano disruption in the spring of 2010. Lufthansa in July 2009 offered a ‘Sunshine Guarantee’, offering passengers who booked early EUR20 (up to a maximum of EUR200) for every day of at least 5mm of rainfall.
SmartWings ‘Weather Guarantee’
To increase advance bookings and generate additional revenues, Czech budget carrier SmartWings offers passengers a ‘weather protection insurance’ for EUR15 in order to receive EUR30 per day (with a maximum of 15 days) when more than 10mm of rain falls at their destination. The insurance has to be purchased 20 days before the actual travel date. The airline is providing the package, dubbed ‘MeteoBonus’, in partnership with ancillary revenue developer Airsavings, which says the product is based on similar services used in the agricultural industry to hedge against poor weather.
airBaltic ‘Delayed Arrival Warranty’
airBaltic from Latvia lets passengers bet against a late arrival of their flight. For a non-refundable fee of EUR17 per passenger per one-way journey, the airline’s ‘Delayed Arrival Warranty’ option gives passengers a guaranteed double refund of their ticket price (including fare and fuel surcharge) if the airline delivers them to their final destination more than 1 hour later than promised on their ticket. The refund is in the form of a gift voucher which can be used to purchase future flights with airBaltic. Valid reasons for receiving a refund exclude bad weather conditions at departure and/or arrival airport, strikes, terrorism, and war. On a similar note, Polish low-cost carrier Wizzair offers a, less generous, warranty delay option, and refunds EUR100 to passengers who bought a warranty for EUR10 in case of a two-hour delay. Read full article »
23 August 2010 | In the last years, Latvian national airline airBaltic has made a transformation from a point-to-point low-cost carrier to a hybrid network LCC. The airline has turned its Riga hub into a connecting point for travelers from Nordic and Northwestern Europe to the rapidly growing markets of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. airBaltic offers transfer its passengers (60% of customers) at Riga through ticketing and check-in, as well as 25-minute connection times, and other hybrid LCC features include a 2-class cabin, airport lounge, and a frequent flyer program.
airBaltic has been growing its network fast, adding 15 new routes in 2008, 11 in 2009, and 27 routes this year (for example adding smaller cities in Finland). In 2009, the airline carried 2.75 million passengers and according to AEA data passenger numbers grew 19% in the first 5 months of 2010. Besides this aggressive hub strategy, the company behind airBaltic, Baltic Aviation Systems, seems to be turning into a Baltic version of the easyGroup (of easyJet and easyHotel fame), using the airBaltic brand (simple, reliable, affordable, visible) to enter other markets.
In April 2010, airBaltic established its own taxi company, BalticTAXI, in order to improve the quality of the taxi business in the capital. Taxi drivers in Riga often charge too much for rides, which is damaging the image of Riga and Latvia. Citing a lack of government interest to improve the situation, airBaltic believed there was room for a new transparent entrant. BalticTAXI’s fleet of 120 Toyota Corolla Verso vehicles is staffed by professional uniformed drivers, and for example there is a fixed price for the journey from the airport to any location in Riga.
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