By Debbie Pappyn, Classe Touriste
27 February 2013 | From serving real espresso and ristrettos in the sky to the new trend of enjoying tea on board that doesn’t taste like sewage water.
Take for example British Airways who serves 35 million cups a year and strives to have the best traditional British “cuppa in the air”. Recently British Airways and UK tea brand Twinings are transforming tea in the air with an innovative new blend of the nation’s favourite drink, specifically designed to work at altitude. The British Airways signature blend tea will take to the skies from February 1, 2013 for customers in all cabins.
With research to prove that taste can be reduced by up to 30 per cent at 35,000 feet, the airline commissioned Twinings to come up with a teabag that would taste as good in the sky as it does on the ground.
The airline conducted tastings on the ground and in the air with a panel of 19 customers, cabin crew and experts including Twinings senior buyer Mike Wright who said: “Water on board an aircraft boils at around 89 degrees centigrade, not the ideal 100 degrees for making black tea. The reduced air pressure and humidity affect the functioning of the tastebuds, making things taste different. In addition to this, it was important that the new blend worked well with and without milk. The new British Airways blend is perfectly balanced to create great-tasting tea at 35,000 feet.”
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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
23 July 2012 | Following recent initiatives by British Airways, KLM, and SWISS, Spanish flag carrier Iberia has just announced it will equip its 600 pursors with iPads in order to help cabin attendants anticipate passengers’ needs and offer a more personalised and higher quality service.
Iberia’s new crew iPad contains the entire passenger manifest, real-time graphic information about the status of embarkation and shows the seat assigned to each customer. The app also identifies members of the Iberia Plus loyalty programme and their membership level, as well as all special needs passengers, unaccompanied minors, those requiring special meals, etcetera. It also informs the pursers of each passenger’s recent flights with Iberia, including any incidents.
Iberia says the application will gradually incorporate additional data, such as descriptions and pictures of the meals available on the flight, and information of interest to passengers, covering hotels, restaurants, consulates, embassies, etcetera. Pursers can use their iPads to change seat assignment, and the device will also store duty manuals for crew members, formerly available only on paper. A video of Iberia’s new iPad-based onboard service is available here.
Iberia Ágora project
The introduction of the iPad for pursers is one of several initiatives that are part of Iberia’s Ágora program, which has been launched by the airline to improve customer service, punctuality, and operational efficiency. In early 2011, Iberia equipped customer service staff at its Madrid-Barajas hub with iPads that provide them with real-time access to operational information so they can make decisions and keep passengers informed in a better way. Tablet PCs are also used in the daily servicing of the ground handling vehicles used by Iberia at Madrid-Barajas.
While the IBPad initiative focused on providing Iberia ground staff with real-time information, the airline has also just launched a new initiative called ‘IBHelp’ as an extension of the IBPad-based customer service. More than 100 Iberia customer service agents will be equipped with iPads and PDAs loaded with applications enabling them to deal with a wide range of customer incidents and requests in real-time and from any location within the airport, making them more proactive and mobile. To implement IBHelp, Iberia has developed an check-in platform called ‘Departure Control System’ to link the mobile devices to all check-in kiosks and Quick Service Points from which documents may be printed. According to Iberia, in addition to making customer service more flexible and agile, the objective of IBHelp is to optimise customer service resources at peak times (video here).
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By Brian Pillsbury
12 June 2012 | For the past several years, there was a sense that if things could go wrong for British Airways (BA), they usually did: A global financial crisis set against BA’s high exposure to the premium business travel market which resulted in large losses. Endless merger talks with Iberia. Labor disputes that forced flight cancellations and fleet groundings. And who can forget the rocky debut of London Heathrow’s state-of-the-art Terminal 5 in 2008. With those difficult days largely behind it, BA appears to have regained its footing with several key innovative programs and plans now in motion.
GBP 5 billion investment
Announced in September 2011, British Airways’ five-year GBP 5 billion investment program encompasses several key areas of focus. Overall, it will see BA’s customers benefitting from new aircraft, updated World Traveller (economy) and World Traveller Plus (premium economy) cabins, a revamped First class, and an array of improvements to in-flight service, such as a more personal service and more flavoursome catering.
To Fly. To Serve.
Central to this effort is BA’s GBP 20 million branding campaign, which kicked off in September of last year. The ‘To Fly. To Serve.’ advertisement campaign has the goal of re-igniting passion and belief in the BA brand among its customers and staff. The ‘To Fly. To Serve’ motto itself is found on the BA coat of arms and on the uniforms of its crew members. The campaign is meant to reflect British Airways’ “long, storied history as genuine pioneers of commercial aviation from its earliest days to the modern era, and to evoke a trusted image of a distinctly British brand emphasizing quintessential British traits of quiet confidence, competence, professionalism, and devotion to service.“
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14 March 2012 | As people are bombarded with marketing messages, real-life interaction with products and brands (a.k.a. experiential marketing) has become increasingly valuable for airlines to get their message across. We reported earlier on Southwest Airlines’ ‘porches’ in New York and Denver, Delta Air Lines’ ‘SKY360 lounges’ at sports venues, and film and culinary festivals in the U.S, while Air France last year toured Manhattan, New York, for 5 days with a ‘Gourmet Food Truck’, serving free food samples based on the recipes of Air France’s Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon.
The latest airline to join the ‘brand space’ trend is British Airways (BA), who will launch an airline themed pop-up venue – called ‘Flight BA2012’ – in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Open on select weekdays from April 4 to 17, the three-in-one art gallery, cinema and dining lounge will showcase the works of the winners of BA’s Great Britons co-creation campaign before they are rolled out on flights from April. Bookings can be made from March 19 on at facebook.com/britishairways.
‘Flight BA2012’ will be located at 3-10 Shoreditch High Street in East London, and will offer guests a three-in-one dining, cinema and art experience. For GBP50 visitors will get entry to the gallery and screening room, receive a welcome glass of champagne, a sit down three-course meal with amuse bouche, and tea, coffee and petit four.
The temporary venue will feature artwork from artist-designer Pascal Anson from Brighton, who was mentored by artist Tracey Emin on his ‘Dove’ design which will will appear on selected BA aircraft. The short film ‘BOY’ (trailer here), written by screenwriter Prasanna Purwanarajah under the mentorship of actor Richard E Grant and to be shown on BA flights, will be screened in the ‘Flight BA2012’ cinema. Guests will also be able to sample a bold British menu created by Michelin-star chef Simon Hulstone, who under the guidance of Heston Blumenthal, has produced a menu from the airline’s menus dating back to 1948 – the last time the Games were held in London (more details of the menu here). Hulstone’s menu will be served in-flight on BA long-haul services departing London Heathrow between July and September.
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By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project
13 October 2011 | As the global economy dynamically changes, all major airlines are focusing on the rapidly growing middle class and business markets of the BRICs and the ‘Next 11’ as a new source of growth. According to Boeing’s latest outlook, these emerging economies will collectively occupy over 60 percent of passenger flows by the year 2030.
Last month we discussed how Emirates is capitalizing on new passenger flows, for example connecting Asia with Africa and with Latin America via its Dubai hub. A good showcase of the challenge that the rise of Emirates is posing to European legacy carriers is India, since the subcontinent is the second largest market for both British Airways (50 weekly flights to 5 destinations in India) and Lufthansa (52 weekly flights to 7 destinations), after the United States.
India is also Emirates’ largest operational market with 185 flights a week to 10 destinations. Says Orhan Abbas, vice president India and Nepal at Emirates, “The Indian market is a very important one for us as Indians have overtaken the British as the single largest tourist group on Emirates.” In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Emirates’ revenues from India grew 24 per cent to USD1.7 billion, while traffic grew with 10 per cent.
Emirates’ aggressive approach has resulted in significant market shares on international flight routes from India; the airline currently holds 35 per cent on routes from India to Britain, 40 per cent to France, 20 per cent to Germany, and 31 per cent to New York. The airline’s low prices and large network in India make it an attractive option, and on the popular route between India and North America, Gulf airlines such as Emirates are virtually the only practical option for travellers from second-tier Indian cities. A passenger from New York on the way to, for example, Thiruvananthapuram, has to connect twice when flying via Europe (e.g, at Frankfurt and at Delhi), compared to a single connection at Dubai.
Besides the large number of Indians working in the Gulf states, “one of the reasons for Emirates’ success is that so many Indians love transiting via Dubai,’’ says Madhav Oza of Blue Star Travels, one of the biggest travel consolidators in Mumbai. “The shopping, easy visas and simply the familiarity with the city often makes them choose it over colder and more congested European hubs like Frankfurt, Paris or Brussels,” he says.
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10 October 2011 | Earlier this year, British Airways teamed up with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, well-known for his quirky Fat Duck Restaurant and highly experimental dishes such as snail porridge, in an innovative project to take airline food to new heights. The relationship between Blumenthal and British Airways has been on-going since the popular television series ‘Mission Impossible’, which saw Blumenthal tackling the kitchens at many British institutions, with British Airways being one compliant victim.
In the Mission Impossible episode with British Airways, which aired on Channel 4 in March 2011, Blumenthal tackled the issue of what happens to food and the ability to taste at altitude, combined with the confines of an aircraft’s galley area. 35,000 feet above ground, Blumenthal gave the TV audience a glimpse into airline food, while convincing catering experts Gate Gourmet that unlike salt and sugar, which need to be stronger to savour in high altitude, umami-rich ingredients stayed the same. Blumenthal has long used umami, a savoury flavour known as the ‘fifth taste’, which occurs naturally in foods such as seaweed, tomatoes, mackerel and parmesan cheese, to push the taste barriers at his Fat Duck restaurant. After several experiments, Blumenthal then went on to win over passengers, as well as BA executives, with a tasty, umami-rich ‘seaweed cottage pie’.
Umami in the Air
The findings from ‘Mission Impossible’ encouraged BA’s catering staff to change menu plans, use of ingredients and the way in which food is prepared. Furthermore, BA invited Blumenthal to help to create their new, umami-based menu, using cheese, spices and seasonal produce. Says Mark Hassell, British Airways’ head of customer experience and a tasting panel judge on the Mission Impossible show: “There is a real science to food at altitude and with his innovative and creative approach, Heston’s work has been really interesting to us.”
From June 2011, BA’s on board menu in Business and First features umami dishes such as classic tuna Nicoise, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, sauteed salmon and gilt head bream with soy sauce and shitake mushrooms, and asparagus with pea and broad bean dressing and poached hen’s egg. Read full article »
27 August 2011 | We recently published an overview of how airlines and airports around the world have made Apple’s popular iPad device available to passengers in their lounges, rent them out in the air, or use them as self-service kiosk, customer survey tool, and food ordering tool (see: “11 ways how airlines are deploying the iPad”). In the past week several new initiatives have been announced by British Airways, KLM and Changi Airport, using the device to improve customer service on the ground and in the air.
British Airways has just equipped its cabin crew with iPads to enable them to have prior awareness of customer preferences and a greater understanding of each customer’s previous travel arrangements, allowing them to offer a more personalised service. The iPad lets BA crew identify where each customer is seated, who they are travelling with, their frequent flyer status, any special meal requests, as well as customer service updates. The latter means that any issues can be logged with ground-based colleagues around the network prior to departure, so solutions can be delivered while the flight is airborne. When all the passengers have boarded and just before the doors are shut, cabin crew are currently handed a long scroll of paper, listing up to 337 customers. With the new iPads cabin crew will simply refresh their screen when the doors have closed through wireless 3G networks and they will have a complete list of passengers on board. The iPad is currently being trialled with 100 cabin crew with the aim to roll it out to all 1,800 senior crew members across the airline in the coming months. More images here.
On a similar note, KLM will provide a group of 50 senior pursers with iPads on board as part of a 6-month trial project starting in October 2011. KLM says it feels it is essential that cabin crew have easy access to the latest information in the air, as personal contact with passengers on the ground is becoming rarer due to the increased deployment of self-service kiosks. As part of the same ‘pilot’, KLM will also equip 50 pilots with iPads, providing them with an extra tool during flight operations that is more efficient than the large volume of forms, briefing documentation and manuals they usually take along.
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11 July 2011 | Following earlier crowdsourcing initiatives by airlines like Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Emirates, which have been turned into actual products such as elements of in-flight menus and amenity kits, British Airways has launched a co-creation campaign in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games under the strapline ’We Can Help Your Talent Fly’.
BA Great Britons
As part of its ‘Great Britons’ programme, launched in 2009, BA is inviting aspiring chefs, scriptwriters and artists to submit their ideas for an onboard menu, in-flight movie and aircraft livery. The winner of each category will then receive one-to-one mentoring from culinary expert Heston Blumenthal, actor Richard E Grant and artist Tracey Emin to develop their idea further.
The winner of the food category will produce a bold British menu, in cooperation with Michelin-star restaurant owner and chef Heston Blumenthal, which will be served on board BA flights around the Games. The winner in the film category will receive mentoring from actor, scriptwriter and director Richard E Grant, to write a short film. The final production will be broadcast on board BA flights in the run up to the Games, and showcased at the pre-show to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. In the art category, Turner Prize nominated artist and Royal Academician Tracey Emin will mentor the winner to produce an iconic piece of artwork for the livery of 12 BA aircraft.
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8 July 2010 | Passengers on BA’s all-business ‘Club World London City’ service from London City to New York JFK can use their mobile device to send and receive text messages and emails in-flight and access the Internet. The in-flight connectivity service is provided by OnAir. Adding a new feature to the service, BA has become the launch customer for OnAir’s new in-flight mobile portal, which has been branded ‘Club Mobile’ by BA.
BA’s ‘Club Mobile’ is a wireless in-flight Internet portal that gives passengers access via their cellphones to real-time flight information, live sport results, and local information on events, weather and traffic. Passengers can also book concierge and chauffeur services (offered by Quintessentially) through the portal. To get access, passengers only have to switch on their phone, once the ‘no mobile’ sign is switched off, and receive a text message with a link to the portal. OnAir says the mobile portal is the first of its kind. For a demo of the service, see this video. Read full article »
21 June 2010 | British Airways has teamed up with CitationAir, the private jet charter subsidiary of Cessna Aircraft, to offer its passengers a private jet connection within North America and the Caribbean. The new PrivateConnect service pitches itself as a ‘no-frills’ private jet service. Passengers can book online and ‘pay and go’ with a credit card, avoiding the need for upfront fees and long-term commitment that is usually associated with fractional ownership of private jets.
The service is available to anyone who has flown with BA in the past 12 months, members of BA’s frequent flyer programme, as well as employees of the airline’s corporate clients. BA customers can also use PrivateConnect to fly within North America if they haven’t arrived on or are due to depart onto another flight. Costs range from USD6,000 to USD10,000 per jet per hour depending on the type of aircraft. Chauffeured transport will be on hand after clearing customs to drive customers between their British Airways flight and CitationAir private jet. BA currently flies to 19 destinations in America.
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14 April 2010 | Realizing they are not only in the business of taking passengers from one destination to the other, but that they are rather connecting people, a number of airlines have launched social networks of their own in the past years. Think BA’s Metrotwin, Virgin Atlantic’s vtravelled.com, Air France-KLM’s Bluenity and American Airlines’ BlackAtlas.com. Other airlines, such as KLM (Club China, Club Africa, Flying Blue Golf), and Lufthansa (Miles & More MemberScout) have launched business-oriented social networks for members of their frequent flyer programs.
British Airways has just launched an online ‘Face-to-Face Community’ for small business professionals in the U.S, as part of its ‘Face-to-Face’ campaign. Initiated in July 2009, the airline’s ‘Face-to-Face’ program solicited stories from U.S small and medium companies on how a face-to-face meeting overseas would help them during the recession. The 1,000 winning entries received free travel on three special BA flights from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to London and beyond to make their meetings a reality. BA says the people who went on the first Face-to-Face trips at that time asked how they could stay in touch with each other, hence the online network.
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17 February 2010 | Despite the economic recession and the subsequent fall in business travel, the business class-only niche is holding up surprisingly well. Initiated by private start-ups such as eos, Silverjet and l’Avion in the pre-recession boom in premium travel, the model has been incorporated by airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Singapore Airlines and ANA. Now with premium travel recovering slightly, airlines are considering growing their premium-only services again.
British Airways recently said it may expand its ‘Club World London City’ service to other U.S east-coast locations, such as Boston and Washington. BA says its flights from London City to JFK, which started in September 2009, reached 75 percent seat occupancy in December. The carrier also revealed it looked at starting flights to Dubai that would be refueled in mainland Europe, but decided against the plan. While BA’s westbound flight to JFK has to refuel in Shannon (Ireland), the ability to clear U.S immigration controls at Shannon enables the layover time to be put to use. However, such a stop could not be justified for many other potential routes from London City.
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11 February 2010 | British Airways has just unveiled its new First cabin on a B777 aircraft enroute from London Heathrow to Chicago. The airline has invested GBP100 million (EUR110, USD150 million) in its new flagship product, and says the first class design is inspired by classic British luxury car brands Aston Martin and Jaguar. For example, the leather seat is fitted in a shade of dark blue called Naval Barathea, with cream leather trim around the headboard, and a silver-coloured knob, that looks as as if it should be on the dashboard of a Bentley, gives the customer precision control over the seat position.
BA says it is emphasising simplicity with its new First product, and sought to create an air of calm understated British luxury, which harks back to the 1920s and dismisses gimmicks innovations such as onboard bars, showers and private cabins. The amount of First Class seats (14 on a B777) will remain unchanged and the refit will take two years to complete (in total 73 aircraft will be refitted). BA will introduce the new First cabin on Dubai and Mumbai routes in the coming weeks.
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Photo courtesy Andi Haswidi
3 February 2010 | Indonesia’s national carrier Garuda has launched an ‘Immigration on Board’ visa service on inbound flights from Japan, in cooperation with the Indonesian immigration authorities. During flight, two immigration officers on board will conduct passport checks and issue a ‘Visa on Arrival’. Those granted visa clearance are given a pass card that allows them to go through immigration checkpoints at Indonesian airports without further inspection. The service is available on Garuda flights from Tokyo Narita to Jakarta and Denpasar (Bali), and travelers that want to make use of the service have to purchase ‘visa on arrival’ vouchers at Garuda Indonesia check-in counters at Narita Airport before their flight. Non-Japanese travelers on these flights can also make use of the ‘immigration on board’ service.
With the new service Garuda aims to help save its passengers time because they do not have to wait in the ofren long queues at the immigration counters. According to Garuda the new service is “the only one of its kind in the global airline industry”, and there are reported plans to provide the service on the carrier’s Osaka and Nagoya routes, as well as flights from South Korea and China.
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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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2 October 2009 | British Airways has expanded its social networking site Metrotwin.com to include Indian city Mumbai. As with Metrotwin.com, which links London and New York, Metrotwin Mumbai will link Mumbai with London and help travellers find their way in Mumbai and London, with recommendations from local people in each city.
Users are encouraged to link or ‘twin’ all manner of things in both cities by issuing recommendations following an ‘if you like this, you will like that’ formula. In BA’s words: “Ultimately we want everything on the site to have a ‘twin’, whether it be a place, a neighbourhood or a person. In a nutshell it’s a totally new way to experience [a city]: an online community that brings you recommendations of the best places to go in both cities from the people who actually live and work there.”
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