Alaska Airlines

Airlines go local and seasonal with their food offerings

Reflecting a growing food trend among hotels and restaurants, airlines are increasingly offering local and seasonal food onboard as they emphasize their national cuisine. This development also ties in with a number of other trends such as authenticity, storytelling, and the rediscovery of national and regional identities in a globalized world. Furthermore, offering local and seasonal produce supports local businesses and in some cases also results in a reduced carbon footprint. Some recent examples from around the world. 

SWISS ‘Taste of Switzerland
As part of its ongoing ‘Taste of Switzerland’ program, started in 2002, SWISS offers premium passsengers on medium and long-haul flights signature dishes from its cantons (regions). Every three months a new Swiss canton is selected (currently Vaud), and local produce is used as much as possible. Thanks to a recent collaboration with the country’s ‘Kaseunion’, Appenzell, Gruyere and Emmental cheeses are also served on board. 

Lufthansa ‘Discover Flavour’
On a similar note, Lufthansa’s ‘Discover Flavour’ catering concept, offers regional German specialities on board. The current program, ‘Discover Slow Food’, held in cooperation with the Slow Food organization, serves Business Class passengers on select long European flights four regional specialities, such as the ‘Diepholzer Moorschnucke’ (a rare breed of sheep from Lower Saxony) and the ‘Bamberger Hörnla’ (an old variety of potato grown near Bamberg). On domestic routes, Lufthansa currently serves marinated North Sea crabs on scrambled egg, and Hamburg vinegar-marinated meat as part of a ‘Discover Hamburg’ theme. Read full article

Airlines create innovative guarantees to ease passengers’ booking worries

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

Advertiser sponsors free snack box for Horizon Air passengers

With advertising budgets under pressure and traditional mass advertising losing its effectiveness, advertisers are looking for new ways to reach consumers. At the same time many airlines have begun charging for services that used to be included in the price of the ticket. One solution for airlines that want to cut cost, but maintain their service level, is to team up with advertisers to offer amenities such as inflight Wi-Fi or Starbucks coffee for free. 

The latest initiative comes from Air Advertainment, a marketing company that sells snack boxes to advertisers and gives them to airlines to distribute to passengers for free. Air Advertainment’s first campaign was launched on May 24th on Horizon Air flights between Seattle and Portland. The branded snack box contains a bag of pretzels, chips and a chocolate, and is sponsored by Creative Labs. The electronics company is using the new ‘snackvertising’ medium to promote a Facebook contest to name its new HD video camera. Flight attendants alert passengers on board that their meals are complimentary of Creative Labs, and 25,000 boxes will be distributed during 20 days on the route. Read full article

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Airlines go local with their inflight drinks

Catering to increasingly sophisticated passengers who want to try something new besides the generic soda and alcohol brands on their trip, a number of airlines are serving local niche beverages on board their flights. By adding an exclusive homegrown product to their in-flight beverage selection, these airlines also put an authentic element and a bit of storytelling to their brands, while at the same time supporting the local economy. Local drinks are often served on smaller airlines such as Virgin America, Porter and Brussels Airlines, as it is easier for local breweries to guarantee supply. 

Virgin America since December 2009 offers locally-made micro-brew beers ‘21st Amendment’ and ‘Gordon Biersch’, as well as premium alcoholic drinks from California, such as ‘VeeV Açai Spirit‘ and ‘Karma California Brut‘. Earlier in 2009, Shaun O’Sullivan co-founder of San Francisco-based micro-brewery ‘21st Amendment’ was onboard a Virgin America flight tweeting about the carrier’s in-flight experience and offered his ale as a potential menu item. As a result of his post and passenger requests for a larger onboard beer selection with more micro-brew options, the carrier added the California-made beverages to its inflight drink menu. 
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Alaska Air ups checked baggage service guarantee to 20 minutes

Alaska Air Group, parent of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, just reported a profit of USD5.3 million for the first quarter of 2010, which was largely helped by revenues of USD23 million in baggage fees. Since July 2009, Alaska charges passengers USD15 for their first checked bag, USD25 for their second and USD50 for their third piece of luggage. Charges for the first two bags are waived for business class customers and upper tier members of the airline’s frequent flyer program. 

As passengers are now paying extra for their checked luggage, Alaska and Horizon Air guarantee their luggage will reach the baggage carousel 25 minutes or less from the time their airplane has parked at the gate. If it isn’t, passengers will get USD25 off a future flight or 2,500 frequent-flier miles (compensation will be given per passenger though, not per bag). Alaska Airlines said it checks about 20,000 bags per day and in the first three months since the start of the service guarantee only a few hundred claims have been made. Alaska says it is the only carrier offering such a service guarantee. 
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Aircell’s Gogo to introduce wireless in-flight video service

Inflight WiFi provider Aircell plans to launch an in-flight video downloading service sometime in 2010, called Gogo Video. The new service will give passengers on aircraft equipped with Gogo’s in-flight broadband solution the ability to download movie and television content to their laptops inflight using an onboard server and Gogo’s WiFi connection. Gogo currently provides inflight Wi-Fi on 700 planes with eight airlines in the U.S.

Users will visit a portal similar to iTunes, and pay USD2 to 4 for a TV show or movie. To access Gogo video, users will have to download the so-called ‘Gogo Video Client’ to their laptops, which is an iTunes-like application that showcases all available content. The content will be cached onboard in a server, protected by a Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme which Aircell says has been approved by numerous studios. The downloaded content will be available for viewing for up to 24 hours, regardless of whether the passenger is still flying, since the service will be similar to buying content from the iTunes store. According to Aircell: “Our strategy is to bring in-flight entertainment (IFE) into the Apple iPod world”. The service will initially be introduced for Windows laptops. Macs and mobile devices will follow.
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