British Airways

Innovation is the Marketing » BA high-tech neuro blanket tracks passenger’s emotions

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This trend appears in the upcoming edition of our 2014 The State of Airline Marketing, a free annual report published by airlinetrends.com and Simpliflying that identifies the latest trends in airline marketing and communication. Download the free report here »

Unlike investments in new aircraft, cabin interiors and seats, innovations in services in order to improve the passenger experience do not have to have large financial consequences.

It basically comes down to creative ideas, and the current revolution in social media and personal digital devices allows forward-looking airlines to come up with new services that — even though not all of them will be a great commercial success — will contribute to the airline’s brand by creating buzz and a sense that the airline is trying to improve the experience.

BA’s ‘Happiness Blanket’
In an effort to gain more insights into – as well as promote – its onboard products and services, British Airways has conducted an experiment at 30,000ft to find out more about how passengers sleep and rest in the air, in order to help shape services such as timing of meals, types of films shows and seat positions.

The airline asked passengers located in different cabins to cover themselves under a so-called ‘Happiness Blanket’, which is woven with fibre optics, uses neuro-sensors to measure a person’s brainwaves and ‘meditative state’, and which changes colour – from red to blue – to show when they are at their most relaxed.

Additionally, a special headband – the MyndPlay BrainBand – has been used to measure a person’s meditative state on a scale of one to 100. This is then relayed via Bluetooth to LED lights woven into the blanket.

When the number is low it will turn red or when it is near the 100 mark it will turn blue. As well as detecting brainwave activity, it can also monitor a user’s level of concentration and relaxation.

Behavioral response
British Airways will analyze the data from the blankets to make the in-flight experience better. The color patterns will give an idea to the crew on the behavioral response of the passengers to in-flight services such as the timing of meals, the menu, and the movie options. Read full article »

BA to rightsize its short-haul fleet with slimline seats featuring holders

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Following earlier initiatives by major competitors Lufthansa (168 seats on its A320s) and Air France (178 seats on A320s) to install more slimline seats (from Recaro) on their short-haul aircraft in order to become more competitive with low-cost rivals such as Easyjet (180 seats on A320), British Airways has just unveiled its new short-haul interiors.

On the BA’s existing A320 fleet of more than 40 aircraft, there are various different seats and configurations and at a recent shareholder presentation by BA owner IAG, it revealed that it aims to increase capacity across BA’s Airbus fleet by 6 per cent.

BA executive chairman Keith Williams said: “The short-haul landscape has changed enormously in recent years. To stay competitive and keep offering customers choice, great fares and great service, we are giving our cabins a radical makeover.”

Leather headrests, tablet holder
The new charcoal grey leather seats (manufactured by B/E Aerospace) are slimmer and ergonomically designed to allow BA to squeeze in extra seats for its economy cabins, Euro Traveller. This, says the airline, will allow it to offer more low fares. The new Euro Traveller chairs will have backs designed give more knee space for the customer behind and new eye-level seatback tablet-holders, which are rapidly becoming a standard feature on the latest generation of Economy seats. Read full article »

BA digital billboards interact with aircrafts flying overhead

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This case appears in the December 2013 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 »

British Airways has worked with Ogilvy’s digital arm 12th Floor to custom-fit digital billboards with surveillance technology that detects and activates the billboards when the airline’s flights pass overhead.

Located in Piccadilly Circus and Chiswick in London, when the billboard ‘detects’ a BA flight flying below the clouds that is visible to passers by, a child starts running, pointing up to the sky – chasing the airplane. The billboard then updates to reflect the flight details, like “BA flight 475 from Barcelona”, along with a URL ba.com/lookup. Onlookers can then go online and view destination details and ultimately make a booking.

The flight messages are accompanied by other relevant messages to the flight, that will also help promote the points of difference the airline offers, such as ‘Fly the new A380 to Los Angeles. ba.com/lookup’, or details such as the lowest fare available or the temperature at the destination.

Abigail Comber, British Airways’ head of marketing, said: “This is a first, not just for British Airways but for UK advertising. We all know from conversations with friends and family that we wonder where the planes are going and dream of an amazing holiday or warm destination. The clever technology allows this advert to engage people there and then and answer that question for them. “We hope it will create a real ‘wow’ and people will be reminded how amazing flying is and how accessible the world can be.”

The online video of the billboards in action has now gone viral and has already amassed 750,000 in less than 10 days, becoming an advert in itself. It has been supported by a microsite and the hashtag #lookup.
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Airlines encourage passengers to provide service feedback via apps and cards

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This article earlier appeared in Onboard Hospitality Magazine.
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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Social media has provided passengers with a powerful platform to voice their opinion on the experience they have with airlines. In response, airlines have become one of the most active organizations that actively monitor the online conversation in order to pro-actively take actions to correct issues if needed.

However, instead of just waiting for passengers to share their experiences (both good and bad) online, several airlines have also started to encourage passengers to provide their feedback about the service they encounter in real-time.

KLM ‘Feedback App’
We have reported before on KLM’s mobile ‘Feedback’ app that allows the airline’s passengers to give real-time feedback on how they perceived the experience at a specific area (check-in, lounge, boarding, arrival) at one of 13 participating airports the airline’s network. The rating consists of simply tapping a ‘thumps up’ or ‘thumbs down’ button, but passengers can also specify their rating with a comment. Meanwhile, KLM team leads and station management at participating airports have been equipped with iPads that enables them to monitor the feedback in real-time, so they can react on passenger feedback immediately if needed and possible.

United ‘Outperform Recognition’
Following its merger with Continental, United Airlines launched a a service recognition program, called ‘Outperform Recognition’ in mid-2012, that invites United MileagePlus members to submit up to five nominations every four months through a variety of channels, including United’s mobile app, mobile website and Facebook page. Each period the airline selects 101 eligible employees randomly from the pool of eligible submissions, who receive a financial bonus of between USD 2,500 and 50,000. The first edition of the program (second half of 2012) received over 9,000 nominations.

The option to recognize excellent service through the mobile app [screenshot] is the most innovative part of the initiative as it provides passengers an easy way to express their satisfaction on the spot and in real-time – especially since United has equipped the majority of its domestic fleet with inflight.
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British Airways trials electronic baggage tag

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com                                                                                          article updated December 2013

British Airways is trialling an electronic baggage tag which will remove the need to attach a new paper tag each time a traveller flies and speed up passenger check-in times at the airport. The airline estimates the new system can cut baggage drop-off times to about 35 seconds from the 3 minutes it routinely takes now.

How it works
BA’s electronic bag-tag can be used by passengers who have their booking details sent to their smart-phone using the BA app. Passengers then use their smartphone to check in, choose their seat and obtain their mobile boarding pass. The app then automatically updates the digital bag-tag with a unique barcode, containing new flight details and an easy-to-see view of their bag’s destination just by holding the phone over it. Each time the passenger flies, the electronic bar code on the tag changes.

Each electronic bag-tag carries a special computer chip and has two small mini-computer screens on each side, similar to those on an iPhone or Kindle ‘e-reader’ device. At check-in, passengers hold their smartphone, carrying their booking details, over the tag. The phone then transmits these details wirelessly to the tag, which then displays them on the mini-screens in the form of a bar-code and in summary form as written words.

The electronic screens ‘fix’ the image on the tag for the duration of the trip – allowing it to be scanned electronically when going through luggage handling at departure, on to the plane, and through to the luggage collection carousel in the arrivals.  Only when the customer checks onto a new flight will the bar code be changed and updated for that service.

BA says the high-tech tag can be used ‘time and time again’ with a different bar-code programmed for each new flight. The battery switches off once the image is ‘fixed’ and will last around five years.

Paper tickets will still be offered, although BA says the electronic tag is designed to require only a hand-held scanner so the service can be provided at any airport. The electronic tags have been specially developed by BA in partnership with Densitron Displays, and Designworks Windsor, while Heathrow Airport is providing help with the trials.
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Airlines embrace their inner tech-geek

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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 »

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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British Airways and Twinings launch a high altitude tea

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By Debbie Pappyn, Classe Touriste

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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Iberia provides ground staff and cabin crew with iPads to improve customer service

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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.

IBHelp
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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Innovative Airlines 2012: #2 British Airways

By Brian Pillsbury

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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British Airways to launch temporary Olympics ‘brand space’ in London

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.

Flight BA2012
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.

Best Practices in Airline Marketing - Monthly selection of the most innovative marketing campaigns launched by airlines around the world

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How Lufthansa and British Airways are competing with Emirates on Indian routes

By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project

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.

India
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.

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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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British Airways brings umami to passengers

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.”

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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 »

BA and KLM first airlines to equip cabin crew with iPads

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
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.

KLM
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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British Airways turns to the British public to co-create menu, movie and livery

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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BA launches in-flight mobile portal on its London City-JFK business class-only service

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 »

BA launches ‘PrivateConnect’ jet service in North America

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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British Airways and Air New Zealand latest airlines to launch online business communities

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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Business class-only services holding up despite recession

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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BA opts for ‘understated British luxury’ in its new First Class

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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Garuda’s ‘Immigration on Board’ service helps passenger bypass formalities upon arrival

Photo courtesy Andi Haswidi

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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Low cost carriers force European flag carriers to rethink short-haul product

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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BA’s social network MetroTwin launches Mumbai edition

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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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