This article appears in the May edition of the Airline Marketing Benchmark, a monthly report by airlinetrends.com and SimpliFlying, which identifies the latest innovative marketing capaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Learn more »
5 May 2013 | One of the hardest marketing messages to convey is that you are current, and understand the market. ‘Silicon Valley favourite’ Virgin America is one of the best examples of this. Easy to recognize thanks to its iconic cabin lighting and hip and forward-looking approach to airline travel, Virgin America has firmly established itself as a favoured choice among the urban, tech savvy flying demographic. In fact, one of the airline’s aircraft is dubbed #nerdbird to celebrate the large number of Wi-Fi users travelling on the San Francisco-Boston route, thanks to their fleet-wide onboard wi-fi and USB and power outlets at every seat.
Recently more and more airlines are embracing their inner-geek to stay ahead of the trend-curve and cleverly selling themself as geek-chic.
#newAmerican x SXSW
American Airlines has pushed hard to shake off its old image, trying to prove that its new brand image is more than skin-deep. The airline organized a hack-a-thon at the annual SXSW event in Austin last March, allowing more than 60 developers to work with American’s travel API for the first time to see what they could come up with to further develop the users experience with the airline.
At the end of the event a total of 15 apps were created, based on over a total of 1800 man hours. The winning App entry was ‘AirPing’, which was a multi use tool for both airline and customer, providing live updates to flight changes and delays with estimate travel time to the airport.
The event also saw American launch a ‘Napkin Pitch Contest’, where travelers could pitch a business idea to the airline to make the world a better place, all on a simple airline napkin. Passengers could either complete a form online or drop their napkin into boxes located at the #newAmerican lounge at the Austin Convention Center and the Startup America Lounge at the Austin Hilton.
The latest venture for the carrier is to launch an investment fund for start up companies. The project is known internally as Blue Ocean, and the fund could invest money in entrepreneurs, startups and incubators, but it could also use its resources to fly entrepreneurs to investor meetings, or help them with awarding points, or in other non-monetary in-kind ways.
Delta x TED
Delta also turned more Star Trek than airline in February, showcasing its renewed focus on sleep at the annual TED conference in an innovative way. The airline hosted a talk from renowned Oxford neuroscientist and sleep expert Dr. Russell Foster addressing jet lag and how the eye tells time and demonstrate his research in action with a so-called ‘Photon Shower’ – a small light chamber that conference attendees could enter for a short period of time to help reset their body clocks through a personalized light treatment.
Delta has also teamed with TED to generate innovative crowd-sourced ideas to improve the travel experience, called ‘Ideas in Flight’. The program uses curated TEDTalks in social media as thought-starters to inspire their community, across technology, entertainment, design, etcetera. Ideas can be submitted through a dedicated tab on the Delta Facebook page, but passengers can also use the in-flight Wi-Fi for free to go to a dedicated ‘Ideas In Flight’ website which can only be accessed while onboard Delta transcontinental flights.
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By Brian Pillsbury, airlinetrends.com
22 August 2012 | American Airlines (AA) has lost roughly USD 10 billion over the previous 10 years, with the red ink being compounded by very contentious relationships between management and labor. Whereas US legacy carriers Delta and United have emerged from bankcruptcy protection in recent years with a leaner cost structure, and have merged with respectively Northwest and Continental, AA’s parent company AMR has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – which allows it to cut costs at the airline and return it to profitability – since the end of 2011 only.
AA’s management has also been under heavy pressure from its own employee labor unions and other stakeholders to execute a merger – most notably with US Airways. AA CEO Tom Horton recently said that a decision on the future structure of the airline is expected to be made this fall.
Since AA’s customer satisfaction rates have been below average for years, to put it mildly (although the airline topped United and US Airways in the 2012 JD Power airline ranking), AA is using its current restructuring phase to embark on an ambitious upgrade program designed to give the nearly 80 year-old carrier a much needed facelift.
American Airlines made a splash with its announcement in mid-2011 that it would be acquiring up to 460 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft as part of a massive fleet modernization program. Out of this total, American intends to replace its fleet of domestic Boeing 757-200s and MD-80s with approximately 200 A319s, A321s and 737-800s – all with leather seats, Wi-Fi and in-seat inflight entertainment. The new aircraft will be delivered beginning with the A319s in July 2013, followed by the Boeing 737-800s in October 2013 and the A321s in the second quarter of 2014.
American is also retrofitting the cabin interiors, seating and IFE of its entire existing fleet. Designed in partnership with James Park Associates (JPA), the overall design, trim and finish of all aircraft will complement the interior design scheme of the airline’s new Boeing 777-300Ers, which was made public at the end of 2011. Last but not least, American is also reported to be considering a new aircraft livery.
Long-haul fleet upgrades
American Airlines will be the first US airline to operate the Boeing 777-300ER by the end of 2012. The -300ER will become AA’s flagship long-haul aircraft and will boast an impressive array of amenities, including a new First Class and full-flat seats in Business (similar to the seat designed by JPA for Cathay Pacific), as well as a new bar area, galleys and onboard connectivity. Taking design cues from the B787 Dreamliner, AA’s new 777-300ERs will also feature a mood-lit archway at the entrance of the aircraft that creates a feeling of spaciousness.
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5 September 2011 | Updated December 2011
In another sign that in-flight entertainment (IFE) is increasingly mimicking the fast developments in digital consumer electronics (witness the flurry of recent announcements by airlines to make the Apple iPad available to passengers and crew). A similar burst of activity is currently taking place in wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) as airlines are responding to the growing number of travellers bringing their own devices on board.
Essentially an intranet on a plane that replaces the several kilometers of cables needed to connect every single seat, with a wireless network that allows passengers to connect to content on an onboard server with their own laptops, smart phones or tablet PCs, wireless IFE is a relatively cheap and light-weight solution for airlines. The system vastly expands the ‘standard’ IFE features with services such as online shopping and reservations, destination information, real-time travel information and seat-to-seat chat. Following early roll-outs by American Airlines, Delta and Brazilian LCC Gol, half a dozen of other airlines are currently testing (or have announced) a wireless IFE service.
American Airlines (AA) in early August 2011 launched the “initial phase” of Gogo’s new ‘Vision’ inflight streaming video product, which AA calls ‘Entertainment On Demand’. Passengers flying on AA transcontinental fleet of 14 B767-200s on routes between Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York JFK, can wirelessly stream more than 100 movies and TV shows from an in-flight library to “select types” of wi-fi enabled laptops (video here). American is the first airline in the world to offer streaming video to passengers via their own wireless devices from an onboard server.
How it works: Customers click on the Entertainment On Demand banner on AA’s in-flight wi-fi homepage, select a movie or TV show from the titles in the content library, create an account or log in, enter the form of payment (all major credit and debit cards are accepted) and click “rent.” Passengers can sort titles by movie or TV, genre, length of feature and other categories, and trailers are available for complimentary viewing prior to renting content. Movies and TV shows will remain accessible for viewing after the customer has landed – movies for 24 hours and TV shows for 72 hours. The service charges an “introductory price” of USD 0.99 per TV show and USD 3.99 per movie, and will not require customers to purchase inflight Wi-Fi to utilize the Entertainment On Demand feature. See this video for more.
20 May 2011 | Developments in the world of digital in-flight entertainment (IFE) are progressing rapidly these days (see our recent article: “Trends in consumer electronics drive innovations in in-flight entertainment”. American Airlines and Singapore Airlines are the latest airlines to announce new IFE concepts.
American Airlines in-flight video streaming
American Airlines said it is working with in-flight broadband provider Aircell to test a new entertainment system that enables passengers to wirelessly stream video content such as movies and tv shows from an in-flight library to their personal wireless devices, such as smartphones, laptops and tablets.
American says the price of the streaming video service will be “very similar” to what people pay for pay-per-view movies at home. Amazon and iTunes, two popular pay-per-view channels, typically charge USD3 to 5 for a movie and USD1 to 3 for a TV episode. Passengers who want to buy a movie or TV episode won’t be required to pay for Internet access to see them. The entertainment will be stored in a server on the plane to ensure that the Internet speed for other passengers won’t be slowed.
American is currently testing the new in-flight video system on two Boeing 767-200 aircraft in transcontinental service, and plans to begin customer testing early this summer. The airline’s goal is to roll out the product on Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft starting this fall pending regulatory approval. American currently offers wireless Internet on 208 aircraft and says it will outfit its entire fleet with the service by the end of 2012.
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American Airlines equips customer service agents with mobile ‘YADA’ device to help travelers on the spot
2 July 2010 | At a time that airlines are finding more ways to reduce face-to-face contact with travelers, customer service agents are reappearing at airports in the U.S. Equipped with handheld devices, they are trained to be pro-active, showing up without waiting to be called upon. We have reported before on Delta Air Lines’ ‘Red Coats’ service agents (now numbering 800 agents at 13 airports across the U.S.), and United Airlines’ ‘LineBuster’ device (rolled out at Washington and Denver airports after an earlier trial at Chicago O’Hare).
American Airlines (AA) began experimenting with a mobile device — called Your Assistance Delivered Anywhere (YADA for short) — in July 2009 at Boston Logan airport to prevent long lines at check-in counters and self-service kiosks. The YADA handheld let’s AA staff check real-time flight status, provide connecting information, display maps of other airports and print boarding passes and baggage tags for customers checking in. The device, the size of a large cellphone, is attached to a small printer that hangs from the belt of the airline employee. Read full article »
10 November 2009 | Inflight Wi-Fi seriously took off in the past year in the U.S, with about 600 domestic aircraft currently equipped with inflight broadband (for the majority provided by Aircell’s GoGo). To make the flying public familiar with the new service, GoGo and U.S. carriers have been handing out complimentary promotional codes, so passengers can try the service first for free. AirTran gives passengers that buy one inflight Wi-Fi session their second session for free. And GoGo and Delta offered free Wi-Fi on National Breast Cancer Day (October 31), donating USD1 for each free session that day to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
While these one-off offers might get some passengers interested to pay between USD6 and USD13 to stay connected in the air, airlines and advertisers are teaming up to offer inflight Internet for free. Part of a trend, dubbed ‘Free Love’ by trendwatching.com, brands pick up the tab to offer passengers free inflight Wi-Fi. Everyone wins: travelers get free access, brands are able to reach an audience in a new way and airlines are able to build awareness about the Wi-Fi service via a new channel. Read full article »