Delta’s ‘Early Valet’ service preloads passengers’ hand- luggage to speed up boarding

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By Raymond Kollau,

The process of boarding an aircraft is inefficient, as passengers entering the aircraft have to wait for other passengers who are busy placing their luggage in the overhead bins. They then quickly having to cram their own luggage into bins that are increasingly full, as many passengers try to take as much carry-on baggage with them into the cabin in order to avoid paying checked luggage fees.

In an effort to take some of the stress out of the boarding process and reduce expensive delays before take-off, many airlines have been looking for alternative procedures to optimize boarding, especially since a faster boarding process also speeds up aircraft turnaround times, reducing the time that aircraft needs to spend on the ground.

Pre-loading carry-on bags
Now Delta Air Lines is trying something new: This summer travel season, the airline plans to preload carry-on bags into the overhead bins on some flights.

The new system is called ‘Early Valet’ and will offer passengers on busy US routes the chance to have a steward take their luggage from them at the gate and place it in the compartment above their assigned seat.

Agents will ask customers seated in the gate area if they’d like to participate, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told NBC. “Their bag will be specially tagged, similar to what you’d see at a hotel for room delivery,” said Durrant, “and then taken down onto the aircraft before boarding and placed above a customer’s seat based on their seat assignment.” Read full article

Delta lets passengers on domestic routes track checked bags in real-time and guarantees a 20-minute delivery

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By Raymond Kollau,

Back in 1973, Domino’s Pizza introduced a guarantee that customers would receive their pizzas within 30 minutes of placing an order or they would receive the pizzas free. Over the years, Domino’s reduced this service guarantee to the slogan “You Got 30 Minutes,” alluding to the earlier pledge but stopping short of promising delivery in half an hour. Instead, the company introduced the Domino’s Pizza Tracker, an app and Web-based widget that lets customers check on the pizza they have ordered at every stage, providing real-time information that relieves anxiety.

Delta ‘Track My Bags’
Taking a cue from the pizza delivery business, Delta in 2011 became the first airline to make the baggage process more transparent for passengers by launching its ‘Track Checked Bags’ service.

Since bag tags are scanned during each part of the journey by airlines, Delta’s service lets passengers track their baggage in real-time as it makes its way through the Delta system, providing them with some peace of mind when they learn their luggage has been loaded onto their flight.

Available for domestic flights, Delta passengers can go online to track their checked baggage with the bag tag number they received at the time of baggage check-in. Passengers can use the ‘Track My Bag’ functionality on the Delta mobile app to scan their baggage tag with their smartphone camera.

And, as Delta has equipped its entire domestic fleet with GoGo’s in-flight Internet, passengers can even check up in the air whether their bag has made it on their flight using the free access to and the mobile app.

Surprisingly, Delta’s ‘Track My Bags’ service hasn’t been introduced by any other airline so far, who are clearly less willing to share this kind of data with passengers. The fast developments in digital luggage tags (a.k.a. ‘The Connected Bag’) will no doubt change this status quo though. Read full article

Passengers in Delta’s JFK T4 lounge can order paid meals and drinks via iPads

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By Raymond Kollau,

In 2010, Delta and food and beverage operator OTG launched a novel restaurant concept at New York JFK Airport that allows passengers to order food and drinks via iPads installed at dining areas at the gate. A server then delivers the food to the customer’s seat within 10 minutes. The concept has since then been rolled out by OTG to other airports around the USA, including New York LaGuardia, Chicago, Minneapolis St Paul, Orlando and Toronto Pearson.

JFK T4 Sky Club
Last year, Delta opened its new Terminal 4 at New YorkJFKAirport. The new Delta T4 also features a 24,000 square feet Delta Sky Club where passengers can work, relax and dine at one of the more than 400 seats, 50+ work spaces and a ‘Sky Deck’ outdoor terrace (video tour and images of the lounge here and here).

Premium meals and drinks
Responding to passengers requests for more substantial meal options in its lounges, Delta in 2010 introduced a paid dining concept at four Delta Sky Club lounges at New York JFK Airport. The new full-service concept offers made-to-order breakfast, sandwiches, salads, small plates and desserts for purchase, as well as premium beverages. Meals are USD 10-15 and premium drinks USD 12 and the Delta Sky Club ‘Café’ includes dedicated seating areas within the lounge, but visitors also can order from the menu and dine anywhere in the lounge.

Tablet-based ordering
In its JFK T4 lounge, Delta has added a self-service element to its premium meals and drinks offering. Those who want to eat more than what is available on the buffet can order via iPad ordering stations, which is a similar concept to the Delta/OTG iPads that are installed at the public gates. Read full article

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Delta upgrades cabin crew from Nokia smartphones to connected ‘phablets’

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By Raymond Kollau,

In the fall of 2013, Delta Air Lines started providing Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones to all of its 19,000 flight attendants. The Windows-based devices feature an app that is based on the Microsoft Dynamics point-of-sale system and also handles passenger manifests, frequent-flyer information, connecting-gate updates, and flight-attendant scheduling updates.

From smartphones to phablets
Now Delta has just announced it will be replacing the smartphones with larger Nokia Lumia 1520 ‘phablets’ and this fall will equip more than 20,000 flight attendants with the 6-inch screen devices. Dictribution will start in October with all flight attendants receiving the device by the end of the year.

In addition to its functionality as an in-flight sales device and replacement for the on-board manual, the Nokia Lumia 1520 phablet, running Windows Phone 8.1, will, as it develops, enable flight attendants to take customer meal orders, receive detailed information about their flight and provide information for personalized service, including customers’ frequent flyer status and potential need for special services during flight.

Personalization platform
Delta flight attendants were initially given Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones to do things like process on-board purchases more efficiently, according to Delta’s SVP In-Flight Services, Joanne Smith. “It’s just a start. […] “The emerging high-value customer expects us to know about them. Millennials want us to know where they like to travel, what their experience has been. Our flight attendants spend more time with our customers than any other group. They can supply that.”

According to Delta, the new devices are meant to serve as a platform for future, more personalized in-flight customer service. Says Delta CIO Theresa Wise: “The phablet is a great foundation for future software applications that, in time, will allow our flight attendants to readily access customer preferences, previous travel experiences with Delta and worldwide connectivity to the company, enabling them to provide the more tailored experience many customers have come to expect.”
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Delta offers the public the chance to be seated next to a star of the ‘creative class’

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By Raymond Kollau,

Pioneered by Silicon Valley-favourite Virgin America, more and more airlines are aligning themselves with the creative, entrepreneurial and technology industries and position themselves as forward looking.

American x SXSW
For example, pushing hard to shake off its old image, American Airlines at the 2013 SXSW event in Austin created a #newAmerican ‘brand space’ and together with AT&T organized a hack-a-thon at the event, 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.

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.

Delta  x TED
Meanwhile, Delta has aligned itself closely with TED, the world-renowned gathering of “ideas worth spreading” that has become the go-to event for those thinking different.

In 2011, Delta 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. Delta also features TED Talks on its IFE radio channel.

In 2013, Delta showcased its renewed focus on sleep at TED by hosting a talk from renowned Oxford neuroscientist and sleep expert Dr. Russell Foster addressing jet lag. The airline demonstrated 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 Innovation Class
Delta’s latest initiative aimed at the ‘creative class’ is called ‘Delta Innovation Class’. In what the airline calls “a mentoring program taking place at 35,000 ft,” Delta has picked a select number of leaders in the field of art, business and technology who will be traveling to select events around the globe during 2014. Delta is offering one lucky person per flight the opportunity to sit next to one of these persons, “to meet face-to-face with some of the world’s most interesting people in a truly unique one-on-one,” as the airline puts it. Read full article

Delta pops up in central Tokyo with ‘Flight Therapy’ brand space

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Special thanks to Daniel Baron, LIFT Strategic Design
for spotting the Delta ‘Flight Therapy’ brand space

In order to connect and engage with ever more experienced, connected, and informed consumers, who routinely ignore the commercials and ads thrown at them, airlines around the world are becoming more sophisticated in their marketing activities and are finding new ways to break through the advertising clutter. As such, we are witnessing the birth of many creative campaigns from airlines, be it experiental, social, mobile, digital or traditional media initiatives.

Delta ‘Flight Therapy’
Delta Air Lines, possibly the most active airline when it comes to incorporate so-called ‘brand spaces’ such as its Sky360 Lounges, in its marketing mix, held a ‘Delta Flight Therapy’ sensory experience pop-up event in Otemachi, one of Tokyo’s business districts. The purpose-built space was set up in front of an office building between 23 and 25 October.

Inside, visitors could try out the fully flat bed installed in the airline’s business class on 747-400s. The Delta Flight Therapy module sported an organic, futuristic ambience, including mood lighting by Izumi Okayasu Lighting Design that changed dramatically in both color and intensity. Ambient background music was produced with Koone, a high resolution sound system developed by Victor Entertainment.

The pop-up space also gave visitors a chance to experience Arobalance, a relaxation aroma developed by Australian company Air Aroma. Each visitor received a sample of the fragrance.

Tokyo is a major hub for Delta, with daily flights to cities in the US and Asia.

Delta ‘Photon Shower’
Delta earlier this year also showcased its renewed focus on sleep at the annual TED conference. The airline hosted a talk from Oxford neuroscientist and sleep expert Dr. Russell Foster addressing jet lag and demonstrated 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.
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Moving beyond shirt sponsorships, Emirates and Delta open lounges at sports stadiums

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This branded sports lounge case appears in the November 2013 edition of the Airline Marketing Benchmark, a monthly report by and Simpliflying, which identifies the latest innovative marketing capaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Learn more »

Soccer’s huge popularity in much of the world and its fast-growing following in Asia have made it a magnet for international carriers looking to raise their profile. Over the last few years, airlines from the Gulf Region, in particular, have been using using soccer to build their brand names and reach a broad audience. Emirates has been sponsoring major soccer teams such as Arsenal, Paris St Germain, AC Milan and HSV in its major markets of the UK, France, Italy and Germany, while the airline at the end of May signed a five-year shirt sponsorship with Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Etihad has been the main sponsor to Manchester City since 2009. while Qatar Airways shows up on the jerseys of FC Barcelona.

Emirates ‘brand space’
As part of their sponsorship of Real Madrid, Emirates at the end of September 2013 also opened a branded VIP Lounge at the team’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The 375 sqm lounge, modelled on the cabin design of a Boeing 777 – which currently serves the Dubai-Madrid route – can host around 200 guests on match days. Interior features such as windows and space illumination aim to mimic the experience of walking through an Emirates aircraft, and the ‘brand space’ features imagery of Emirates’ on-board experience, global network, and promotional images.

Expected to host over 6,000 guests every season, the Emirates Lounge is open to invited guests an hour before and after matches and visitors can relax before, during and after games in comfortable seats, consume food and beverages and watch the action on large plasma screens.

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Delta 360˚ lounge at Stamford Bridge
The Emirates Lounge at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium follows a similar initiative by Delta Air Lines at London football club Chelsea.

Following Delta’s announcement to become the official airline of Chelsea FC, the airline in September 2012 opened its first ever SKY360 lounge outside the U.S. at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge home stadium in London. In the lounge, the airline hosts VIP guests of oficial Delta partners on matchdays, providing a Delta-branded experience through features such as airline-style tickets that invite attendees to ‘check-in’ for matches, while a LED-lit runway leading guests to a dedicated entrance to watch football games. The 108 square metre SKY360 lounge includes a dining area and full service bar and is located in the attached Millennium & Copthorne Hotel at Stamford Bridge. Accessible for hotel guests and visitors on non-matchdays the lounge is expected to receive 250,000 visitors each year.
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Delta provides cabin crew with Nokia Lumia ‘onboard retail’ smartphones

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By Raymond Kollau,

Equipping airline cabin crew with tablets and smartphones is the latest step in continued efforts by airlines to increase their onboard retail revenues.

Since the end of 2012, American Airlines has been equipping its 17,000 flight attendants with Samsung Galaxy Note handheld devices, saying trials revealed that crew liked the fact that they could hold the device in one hand and easily slip it into a pocket – which is not always possible with a larger tablet. Besides being a means to provide crew with the latest passenger information, American uses the devices for onboard transactions such as the purchase of food and beverages inflight.

Meanwhile in the US, low-cost carrier Allegiant has provided its cabin crew with iPads that feature the FlyDesk app from its subsidiairy Allegiant Systems, while in Europe TUI (Arkefly) has deployed MI.Airline’s Connected Crew solution using 7-inch Samsung tablets.

Delta x Nokia Lumia
The latest airline to provide its crew with a next-generation point-of-sale (POS) device is Delta Air Lines. The airline at the end of August started the roll-out of Windows Phone 8-based Nokia Lumia 820 handheld devices to flight attendants (or inflight professionals as Delta likes to call them) around the world in an effort to streamline the process for purchasing items on board and to put key flight information at their fingertips.

Under the agreement, AT&T will equip more than 19,000 Delta flight attendants with Nokia Lumia devices powered by Microsoft Dynamics mobile point-of-sale platform on Windows Phone 8, with a Delta-specific customer experience developed by Accenture-subsidiary Avanade to operate over Wi-Fi and AT&T’s 4G LTE Network.

Flight attendants began testing the Nokia smartphones during flights in June 2013 and in-flight trials have shown that the new solution is already around 10 percent faster than Delta’s previous systems.

Says Michael Griffiths, Global Managing Director, Retail and Distribution, Microsoft Dynamics, “The company decided to make the move after running into significant challenges with the limitations of its legacy point of sale devices. Yes, they could capture transactions for food, headphones and duty-free items. But they were bulky. They had to stay on the plane. They were costly in terms of maintenance. Information had to be uploaded from them manually. They did not have high-speed wireless connectivity. There simply wasn’t a lot of additional value they could drive beyond basic, transactional interactions, and even those were suboptimal.”

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Delta invites passengers at London Heathrow to test their table tennis skills against Serena Williams

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This Delta Air Lines sports marketing case appears in the July 2013 edition of the Airline Marketing Benchmark, a monthly report by and Simpliflying, which identifies the latest innovative marketing capaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Learn more »

Taking a cue from the likes of Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Etihad, which all have invested heavily in sponsorships of major sports such as soccer and basketball to create brand recognition among the general public, Delta has teamed with major baseball league teams in the USA and earlier this year opened a Sky360 lounge inside Stamford Bridge stadium, home of British Premier League soccer team Chelsea FC as part of a wider sponsorship agreement.

In a fun gesture to passengers leaving from London Heathrow Airport on June 18, Delta surprised  travellers flying out of the airport’s Terminal 4  by offering them the chance to test their table tennis skills against none other than defending Wimbledon Champion Serena Williams, who had just arrived from JFK on an overnight Delta Air Lines flight on her way to the 2013 edition of the tournament. Video here and more images here.

With the surprise appearance of the current number 1 of woman tennis, Delta aimed to showcase its renewed long-haul Business Class product with fully flat beds and new Westin Heavenly Bedding. Says Tim Mapes, Delta’s SVP for Marketing, “We’ve gone flat-out to give customers a great night’s sleep on board our flights into London, and Serena’s form today shows that Delta’s BusinessElite flat-bed seats ensure customers arrive rested for a day’s work or play.”

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Passengers on Delta’s ‘Beta Plane’ can submit their ideas via Wi-Fi

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By Raymond Kollau,

We have reported several times before how airlines and airports are teaming up with the general public in order to generate ideas for new products and services.

As this trend matures, airlines such as KLM, SAS and Finnair have gone beyong incidental crowdsourcing campaigns by launching broad co-creation programs to improve the passenger experience.

KLM ‘Bright Ideas’, for example, asks Facebook fans to share and discuss their ideas to improve KLM’s products and services. Scandinavian Airlines’ ‘My SAS Idea’ is an online community where anyone can share their ideas and others can join in to further improve on each idea. Finnair’s Quality Hunters – now in its third year – invites a select group of enthusiasts to come up with ideas which are then shared online with the larger community.

Delta ‘Ideas In Flight’
In 2011, Delta teamed with “scientists and thinkers” conference TED – whose slogan is “ideas worth spreading” – to generate innovative crowd-sourced ideas to improve the travel experience. Called ‘Ideas in Flight’, the program uses curated TEDTalks as thought-starters to inspire participants across technology, entertainment, design, etcetera. Ideas could be submitted through a dedicated tab on the Delta Facebook page.

In February of this year, Delta launched the second edition of Ideas In Flight. Similar to the 2011 edition, any Delta Facebook fan could contribute via Delta’s Facebook page and a voting system allows Delta and users to see what ideas are popular, and which ones will be considered to be implemented on the flight.
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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 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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Delta teams up with Westin Hotels for ‘Heavenly’ onboard amenities

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By Raymond Kollau,

Delta Business Class customers will soon be able to have a more comfortable sleep as the airline has teamed up with Westin Hotels to create an in-flight version of Westin Hotel’s ‘Heavenly Bed’ pillows and comforters.

Dubbed ‘Westin Heavenly In-Flight Bedding’, the branded amenities will be available from June on for passengers on US transcontinental routes and between Atlanta and Hawaii. Passengers on flights longer than 12 hours also will receive a lumbar pillow. A few years ago, the hotel group had a similar agreement for a brief period with United Airlines on transcontinental routes in the U.S.

Says Joanne Smith, Delta’s SVP In Flight Service, “In recent surveys, customers have told us that the most important part of the in-flight experience is sleep. The new Westin Heavenly In-Flight bedding product is just one of the new amenities Delta is introducing to ensure customers achieve a restful, rejuvenating in-flight experience.”

The Delta x Westin tie-up is part of a series of investments in several other products and services to revamp the in-flight sleep experience. By the end of 2013, 70 percent of all Delta aircraft will have flat beds and by  early 2014, Delta’s entire widebody fleet is scheduled to be complete.

To create a more restful cabin environment, flight attendants also are now proactively adjusting for appropriate lighting based on the time of day and streamlining cabin announcements to decrease noise disruptions. Delta has also introduced an ‘Express Meal’ service that features lighter fare and a one-step delivery process on all international flights departing after 9 p.m. and flights between JFK and London’s Heathrow Airport, and will add a so-called ‘white noise’ channel on its IFE system. Delta declined to say how much money it was putting into the new sleep strategy, describing it as a “substantial investment, in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” which would also cover the installation of flat-bed seats.
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Innovative Airlines 2012: #3 Delta Air Lines

By Brian Pillsbury

Delta Air Lines has again earned a top 5 finish on our ranking of most innovative airlines, thanks to a number of ongoing and innovative investments that, in Delta’s words, have the aim of “building a better airline, not just a bigger one.” On the heels of its 2008 acquisition of Northwest, Delta’s consumer rankings suffered as passenger complaints increased.  Airline mergers and their associated integration activities typically impact negatively customer satisfaction.  However, Delta’s response to that in the form a USD 2 billion dollar investment program (which runs through 2013) put in place to improve the quality of its products and services deserve particular attention in our view.

Customer Service
As part of the multi-billion quality improvement program, Delta is focusing significant attention on the training of its customer-facing staff. The enhanced training programs and seminars are being targeted to the roughly 11,000 Delta passenger service agents and supervisors who are the day-to-day face of the airline to the travelling public. It has been over a decade since Delta undertook such a large-scale training effort, and the renewed focus on service standards comes in light of Delta’s poor customer satisfaction scores in industry surveys in recent years.

Responding to passenger feedback for a more personal touch on the ground, Delta has already revived its ‘Red Coats’ service agents. In their role as a ‘super’ passenger service agent, the Red Coats’ primary mission is to fix customer problems.  Easy to spot in busy airports thanks to their trademark red blazers, the Delta Red Coats carry hand-held computers that allow them to handle an array of issues on the spot, such as helping customers make flight connections, issuing new boarding passes or providing food vouchers when necessary. Over 800 agents are currently deployed airside at airports across the US, as well as at Delta’s Asian hub at Tokyo Narita.

Expanding on its customer service footprint in the social networking space, Delta became the first airline to offer dedicated customer support via Facebook, as it brought the ‘Delta Assist’ Twitter service to the social network in March 2011, providing real-time travel assistance. To better serve its Spanish language customers, it also launched the @deltaassist_ES Twitter channel in the fall of 2011.

Innovative services
Delta was also the first airline to roll out mobile bag tracking capabilities via its Delta app for smartphones, allowing passengers to track their checked baggage in real-time. The airline also quietly introduced a premium service in partnership with the German automaker Porsche at its Atlanta hub for its highest-tier Diamond Medallion customers. Selected arriving passengers are escorted from the plane to a waiting Porsche luxury vehicle for a ride to their cars in the parking lot or another terminal for a connecting flight. Porsche has provided the vehicles to Delta free of charge, but has placed information about the car models in the vehicles and in Delta Sky Lounges at the airport.
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Delta teams up with Porsche to offer passengers a ‘branded ride’ to the aircraft

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While many airlines around the world offer their premium passengers a complimentary door-to-door transfer by luxury car from their home, office or hotel to the airport, a handful of carriers (including Air FranceLufthansa, SWISS, Qatar Airways and Oman Air) also provide their most valuable customers a limousine transfer from the airport terminal or airline lounge straight to the aircraft.

Portuguese carrier TAP, meanwhile, offers its passengers a paid option (euro 110 to 140) for a fast track through security at the airport and a transfer by private car to the aircraft, as part of its Personalised Assistance program.

For airlines looking to enhance the ground experience for their premium passengers, but who have limited funds to invest or do not want to charge separately for the service, Delta Air Lines has come up with an innovative solution. Delta and German automaker Porsche have partnered at Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson Airport to shuttle some of the airline’s most important passengers to and from the aircraft in one of six Cayennes or two Panameras. For example, arriving passengers are escorted to a Porsche and chauffeured to another terminal for a connecting flight or to their cars in the parking lot.

Porsche has provided the vehicles to Delta free of charge, but has placed information about the car models in the vehicles and in Delta Sky Lounges at the airport. The partnership is a good example of the ‘tryvertising’ trend (coined by and featured several times before on

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The premium service is available for select Diamond Medallion — those who fly more than 125,000 miles a year — members of Delta’s Skymiles loyalty program. Says spokeswoman Chris Kelly Singley: “For Delta, it’s a way to surprise and delight high-value customers.” According to Delta, the service is targeted at passengers with tight connections, or passengers not based in Atlanta who might find the airport confusing and difficult to navigate, and, time-permitting, other high value customers who “we might not have thanked recently according to our records.” Says Delta’s Singley: “Delta occasionally grants perks to let those high-value customers know it is paying attention to their travels. The gestures are a way to show Delta’s appreciation of their business. “It’s a quick and easy way to make life easier. Sometimes, it’s the small things.”
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Delta Picks – airline sells products curated by its flight crew

Airline crew are one of the most important assets an airline has. Witness Southwest, who is actively encouraging its employees to make a difference, and describes them as someone “who dares to make mistakes; dares to be different; finds a way to utilize people’s special talents; and lives a little on the edge” (examples include a Southwest pilot who held his plane so a passenger on his way to a funeral could make it, or the airline’s famous rapping flight attendant David Holmes).

Cathay Pacific
Airlines such as Cathay Pacific and SAS are also putting their employees in the spotlight. Cathay’s ‘Meet the Team’ campaign has been running for some years now – and recently took some hitting– and introduces a dozen of the airline’s staff through profiles and behind-the-scenes stories in print ads, YouTube videos, on Facebook, and via an iPad app.

On a similar not SAS has just introduced ‘The Face of SAS’ on Facebook, which highlights several of its employees every week as the airline’s Facebook profile-picture, as well as present themselves and what they do at SAS. In SAS’ words: “We believe that our employees are our single most important asset. Here’s your chance to get to know them – and SAS – a little better.”

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SAS also publishes an annual ‘SAS Crew Guide’, a ‘crew-sourced’ guidebook consisting of recommendations by SAS cabin crew and pilots for accommodation, shopping, dining, sightseeing and nightlife in many of the cities served by SAS. The 350-pages guide also contains 13 personal profiles by individual crew members and their favourite cities and is sold online for EUR15 (or 4,410 SAS Bonuspoints) as well as in select bookshops in Scandinavia, the UK and the U.S. The New York section of the SAS Crew Guide is also available as a free iPhone and Android app. Read full article

Delta to let passengers rent iPad at the airport for onboard use, return it via mail

Delta Air Lines and airport food and beverage operator OTG Management have teamed up to modernize the food and beverage offering at Delta’s Concourse G in Terminal 1 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) Airport. As part of the plans, Delta will upgrade its current food and beverages offerings with 12 new local restaurants and several fresh food markets (images here), and similar to Delta’s New York JFK and La Guardia terminals, seating will be equipped with iPads which passengers can use to order their food and beverages to have it delivered to their seat by a server in less then 10 minutes.

OTG Media Bar
Delta and OTG will also introduce the ‘OTG Media Bar’, a virtual newsstand where Delta passengers can rent an Apple iPad, loaded with the content of their choice. At what looks like a traditional magazine stand, except it will be filled with Apple iPads, passengers can flip through the iPads to see what publications, movies, and music they like, download the content of their choice, and then rent the device for their trip. Once the passenger reaches his or her final destination, a pre-paid postage box received at time of rental is used to return the iPad. This concept of returning rented goods via the mail has been popularized in the U.S. by DVD subscription service Netflix in recent years.
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Delta to offer local food and rental iPads to take onboard at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport

Delta Air Lines and airport restaurateur OTG Management have announced a new concept at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport (MSP) that taps into two major consumer trends: a growing interest in local and healthy food and the popularity of personal digital devices such as the Apple iPad.

Local food and iPads
At its Concourse G terminal at MSP Airport, Delta will upgrade its current food and beverages offerings with 12 new local restaurants and several fresh food markets. Chefs from the ‘Twin Cities’ will work with local farmers and producers to create a sustainable, health-conscious approach to dining. Restaurants will include Custom Burger – which uses regional farm-sourced meats – a Minnesota Beer Hall serving locally produced beers and Cibo Gourmet markets that emphasize local and artisan foods.

Similar to the food ordering concept introduced by Delta and OTG at New York JFK and La Guardia airports in late 2010, passengers at MSP Airport will be able to order their food and drinks at seating areas equipped with iPads located at the gates and have their orders delivered to their seat.

Media Bar
Delta and OTG will also introduce the OTG Media Bar, a virtual newsstand where Delta passengers can rent an Apple iPad, loaded with the content of their choice. The devices will be available at Cibo Gourmet markets located through the terminal and customers can download publications, movies, music and apps to enjoy during their flight. Those with their own iPads will be able to download material as well. Once the passenger reaches his or her final destination, a pre-paid postage box received at time of rental is used to return the iPad. This concept of returning rented goods via the mail has been popularized in the U.S. by DVD subscription service Netflix in recent years.
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Delta lets passengers track their checked luggage in real-time

Online tracking and tracing of packages shipped via parcel delivery companies such as FedEx and DHL has been possible for years, and has even spread to services like pizza delivery. For example, Domino’s Pizza ‘Pizza Tracker’ lets customers track their pizza from the moment they place the order until it leaves the kichen en route to them. Examples from the airline industry include Yapta, which offers alerts when fares drop for specific flights or hotels, and FlightStats, which notifies passengers on flight delays and cancellations. Says consumer trends agency “Tracking and alerting is the new searching, as it saves consumers time, makes it impossible to forget or miss out, and thus ultimately gives them yet another level of control.” 

Delta checked bags tracking
In a move to make the baggage process more transparent for customers, Delta Air Lines is now bringing ‘tracking and alerting’ to checked luggage. The airline has just launched a new ‘Track Checked Bags’ service in order to give passengers a sense of confidence that their luggage has made it to the same aircraft. As Delta scans the bag tags during each part of the journey, passengers can track their baggage in real-time as it makes its way through the Delta system. Available for domestic flights, Delta passengers can go online – for example via their smartphone – to track their checked baggage with the bag tag number that they received at the time of baggage check-in. 

Furthermore, as Delta has equipped all its 549 mainline domestic aircraft with GoGo’s in-flight Internet – and is currently installing the service on 223 Delta Connection jets as well – passengers may even check up in the air whether their bag has made it on their flight. 
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Wireless charging for electronic devices comes to airports

These days most travellers carry multiple electronic devices (e.g, laptop, smartphone, iPad). Once they arrive at the airport and are waiting for their flight, for many their main need is a comfortable place to sit, Internet access and a source of power for their electronics to stay charged.

Charging stations
As power outlets at airports are often hidden in uncomfortable places, Samsung Mobile spotted an opportunity and in recent years in cooperation with JC Decaux has installed free branded charging stations at airports in the USA, Europe, and most recently at Tokyo Haneda Airport. On a similar note, airline alliance Oneworld introduced ‘Oneworld Charging Stations‘ at airports in Europe and the U.S.

Today, at many airports a ‘recharging infrastructure’ seems to be more or less in place as several examples from North America show. For example, Minneapolis St Paul Airport has a Raddisson Hotels ‘Recharge Area’, Las Vegas Airport sports a Verizon-sponsored ‘Recharge Zone’, while in Canada, Toronto Airport’s ‘FlyAway Power Stations’ integrate seating with a desk, WiFi and power outlets. At Boston Logan Airport, seats that incorporate a power outlet are marked with a clear charging icon.

Adding to this, airlines such as Southwest and Delta offer respectively ‘Powerstation’ and ‘Relax and Recharge’ counters at several arports in the U.S., and  Delta is currently installing ‘Delta re-charging stations’ in gate areas at 19 airports across the U.S.

Wireless charging
Meanwhile, developments in wireless re-charging have advanced rapidly in recent years. For example, battery brand Duracel now offers a ‘MyGrid’ charging pad (In Duracell’s words: ‘drop & go charging’) for around USD 60. Several airlines and airports have also jumped on this novel technology and are currently rolling out wireless charging pads at airports and in lounges.
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Innovative airlines 2011: #4 Delta Air Lines

Delta has earned its 4th place because of its massive USD 2 billion investment program (through mid-2013) to upgrade its ground and inflight experiences, as well as introduce some innovative services. Having completed the integration of Northwest, which it acquired in 2008, Delta has shifted its focus towards drastically improving the customer experience, stating that “addressing gaps in customer product, technology, facilities and fleet is key to generating superior revenues and returns.” 

In-flight: Full-flat seats, Premium Economy, Wi-Fi
Since September 2009, Delta has been upgrading its long-haul business class to offer full-flat beds. By June 2011, half of its long-haul fleet will be upgraded and by mid-2012, Delta will offer full flat-bed seats on its fleet of over 100 trans-oceanic aircraft. The airline will also be the first customer to install Panasonic and Weber’s integrated lightweight touchscreen IFE and slim carbon fibre economy seat on 16 former Northwest B47-400s in mid-2011. 

Furthermore, Delta will reportedly introduce a Premium Economy cabin in 2011. Since the gap between the carrier’s premium and economy class has increased because of its upgrade to flat-beds, there is room for a value-for-money alternative in between. The new class is likely to resemble United’s Economy Plus or KLM’s Economy Comfort offerings, which are essentially normal economy seats with increased leg room. 

In November 2010, Delta completed the installation of inflight Wi-Fi on all 549 mainline domestic aircraft, the largest number of ‘connected aircraft’ by far. The carrier also recently announced plans to add Wi-Fi to 223 regional jet aircraft operated by Delta Connection carriers. Last but not least, Delta just revealed it is considering an order of 100 to 200 narrowbody aircraft — possibly with options for 200 more — to replace its aging domestic fleet, with deliveries to begin in early 2013. Read full article

New Delta food areas at JFK let passengers order food at the gate via iPads

Delta Air Lines and airport restaurant operator OTG Management have just launched a novel restaurant concept at New York JFK Airport. Rather than make travelers leave their departure gates to go to a restaurant, Delta passengers can order food and drinks via a custom application on one of 200 Apple iPads installed at dining areas near the gates. A server then delivers the food to the customer’s seat. Food can also be taken to go or brought onboard. 

Prior to completing their order, customers using the new dining stations will be informed of their meal delivery time to ensure their order is received before their flight departure time.  The orders will be delivered by OTG servers in approximately 10 minutes or less. The iPads are affixed to the booths and counters at the gates and also offer other applications that allow travellers to check flights, read articles, play games, etcetera. OTG says the wireless Internet connection for the iPads is free, there isn’t a time limit on customers’ use and travelers don’t have to buy food to use the devices. The newly designed gate dining areas accommodate single and group travelers with most seats also outfitted with power outlets for charging electronics. 

The iPad dining stations located at JFK’s Terminal 2 (gates 21 and 22) feature food from Croque Madame, a French-inspired dining concept developed by Michelin Star-winning chef Andrew Carmellini from New York, while Terminal 3 (gate 15) offers cuisine from Bar Brace, an Italian dining concept from New York restaurateur Jason Denton. The chefs composed their respective restaurant’s menus and will continue to consult on the eateries. 
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Delta opens SKY360 lounges at events to let visitors sample its product

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. Last month, we wrote about the Southwest Airlines ‘porches’ in New York and Denver, while Delta Air Lines has opened a series of ‘SKY360 lounges’ at sports venues as well as film and culinary festivals in the U.S. to let the general public experience its product.

SKY360 lounges at sports venues
As part of a recent marketing push into New York, Delta has become a major sponsor of the New York Mets and the New York Yankees baseball teams. The add an extra dimension to the sponsorships, Delta has opened a ‘SKY360 Suite’ at the New York Yankees stadium, and a ‘SKY360 Club’ at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. Both lounges (video here) are located directly behind home plate and are accessible for baseball fans in the premium seat sections. Delta also regularly invites its most valuable frequent fliers to the SKY360 lounges.

The Delta SKY360 venues feature a dining room, a cocktail and wine bar (which serves Delta’s signature in-flight cocktails), and the seats have in-seat waiter service. TV screens air live games in addition to Delta content, and there is a computer terminal available for baseball fans that would like to sign up for Delta’s loyalty program. In 2011, Delta will also open a ‘SKY360 Club’ at the Madisson Square Garden in New York.

Atlanta-based Delta in April 2010 also opened a SKY360 Lounge at the Atlanta Braves baseball stadium, and a ‘Delta SKY360 Legends Club’ in March 2010 at the Minnesota Twins ‘Target Field’ stadium in Minneapolis (home of Northwest Airlines, which was acquired by Delta in 2008). This SKY360 Club at Target Field features a concierge desk staffed by Delta employees outfitted in the airline’s signature ‘red coats.’
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New ‘Sky Club Cafe’ at Delta’s JFK airport lounges offers premium meals for a fee

Freshly prepared a-la-carte restaurant dining is mainly a service offered by airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France, BA, Qantas,  and Etihad to passengers in their dedicated First Class lounges. A select number of airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific, serve full breakfast and meals to all guests in their airport lounges, while BA and BMI offer passengers the option to dine pre-flight so they can sleep longer in the air. In general, however, full-service airlines offer their premium passengers just a light self-service buffet service on the ground. 

Responding to passengers requests for more substantial meal options in its lounges, Delta Air Lines has just opened a new café concept at four Delta Sky Club lounges at New York JFK Airport. The new full-service cafés offer made-to-order breakfast, sandwiches, salads, small plates and desserts for purchase, as well as premium beverages. Meals are USD10-15 and premium drinks USD12 and bring another source of ancillary income to Delta. The café include dedicated seating areas within the lounge, but visitors also can order from the menu and dine anywhere in the lounge. Delta emphasizes that it continues to offer members the same selection of complimentary snacks and beverages in its lounge.
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Delta first airline to sell tickets on Facebook

Delta Air Lines has become the first airline to allow Facebook users in the U.S. to buy flight tickets without having to leave the social network. Dubbed ‘Ticket Window’, users can select different search criteria and then view results from within the application, including route options, aircraft type, times and inclusive prices. Once a fare is selected the user can enter the usual passenger and payment details and the booking is complete. Facebook members can also share their travel plans with friends on the social network. Delta says future releases will contain more social elements, such as coordinating group travel more easily. 

Delta says it plans to expand the Ticket Window functionality to other sites, including online banner ads to allow full booking capabilities within the airline’s advertisements. Says Bob Kupbens, Delta’s vice president eCommerce, “Our customers are spending more time online and are looking for new ways to connect with us. “We’re now bringing Delta to our customers rather than the other way around.”
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American Airlines equips customer service agents with mobile ‘YADA’ device to help travelers on the spot

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

Thai Airways’ catering division launches ‘off-flight’ catering brand

‘Puff & Pie’ is a bakery chain owned by Thai Airways Catering. Until recently, the 81 outlets across Thailand primarily offered a wide range of bakery items and beverages served onboard Thai Airways (THAI) and produced by the airline’s catering facilities. THAI Catering has just announced it will expand the product range at the Puff & Pie bakery chain in an effort to generate additional revenues to its regular airline catering operation. 

Puff & Pie will offer a range of Thai and Chinese take-away meals, seven kinds of ready-made curry sauce and five styles of salad dressing, which are also used in THAI in-flight meals. The products will be sold under the airline caterer’s new ‘Eurng Luang’ brand and will initially be available at its Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket Puff & Pie Bakery shops. THAI says it is aiming for the business traveler who had a good in-flight culinary experience, but has no time to prepare quality Thai food at home. 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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Delta partners with Yotel to use capsule rooms as arrival lounge at Heathrow Airport

Delta Air Lines has partnered with capsule hotel Yotel to provide arrivals facilities for premium passengers at London Heathrow’s Terminal 4. Eligible travelers arriving into Heathrow on Delta flights from Atlanta, New York-JFK, Minneapolis or Detroit will be able to freshen up in one of Yotel’s 32 cabins. Facilities of the 7 to 10 sqm grey, white and purple pod-like cabins include a handmade bed, a bathroom with monsoon rain shower, a work area with free Wi-Fi, a flat screen HDTV, iPod docking station, and mood lighting. Guests can check-in using an automated kiosk.

Delta recently announced an USD1 billion investment through mid-2013 to upgrade and harmonize its ground and in-flight product. The airline is currently upgrading its long-haul business class and since September 2009 offers full-flat beds on all trans-atlantic flights to London. Says Delta: “We’re already offering a good night’s sleep to London thanks to our full flat bed seats, but our premium travellers expect the convenience of an arrivals facility after a long-haul flight. Our partnership with Yotel offers passengers a convenient, private and comfortable space to change before an important meeting, or freshen up before getting on the road.”
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Delta upcycles aircraft seat covers into fashionable bags

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials, which would otherwise go to landfill, into new products or materials of better quality. Companies like Tierra Ideas in the U.S and WornAgain (slogan: “Every product has got a story to tell”) in the UK work with large corporations to create fashionable upcycled products. The benefits are three-fold: waste is recycled, companies add an eco-friendly touch to their brands, and many consumers like the story behind the upcycled product. 

Tierra Ideas  just announced its new 2010 ‘Aero’ bags collection in partnership with Delta Air Lines. Delta has donated worn and retired seat covers, blankets and curtains from its aircraft as well as from all Northwest aircraft that were refurbished when Delta acquired Northwest in 2008. After separating the fabrics by pattern (frequent fliers will recognize the different Northwest and Delta patterns) Tierra Ideas has turned them into messenger bags (price: USD219), laptop sleeves (USD55), and duffle bags (USD62). 
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Delta and Continental latest airlines to introduce uber-elite loyalty tier

In order to recognize their highest-value customers, several major airlines maintain unpublished programs that operate as ‘top tiers’ to existing frequent-flier plans. These über-elite tiers are often by invitation-only and offer VIP-perks such as personal concierges, exclusive express check-in lines at airports, access to high-end lounges even when the customer flies economy, and personal escorts to help travelers make tight connections. 

Airlines don’t discuss the selection process to get in these programs, and only say that a small number of passenger are invited based upon their annual spending in addition to mileage earned. For example, United Airlines’ 6-year-old Global Services program is granted to no more than 20,000 of United’s estimated 1 million elite Mileage Plus members. Says a United spokesperson: “It’s like the American Express black [invitation-only] Centurion card: We try to keep the mystique.”
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Qantas launches onboard recycling scheme

QF_Recycling Onboard_680x200

Qantas has just rolled out an inflight recycling scheme on its domestic routes. The airline is asking passengers to assist by separating their recyclable items for collection by the cabin crew, and place all other items in a special bag. Qantas says its onboard recycling initiative gives passengers the opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of their journey. With the new program the airline plans to recycle approximately eight-and-a-half million bottles, cups, tumblers and cans per year from its domestic services. Qantas says it already recycles newspapers on board (nearly 500 tonnes a year in Sydney and Melbourne) and glass and plastic bottles, papers and cans are recycled in Qantas Club lounges. Overall, Qantas aims to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in landfill use by 2011.

Qantas’ inflight recycling initiative follows earlier trials by Virgin Blue in which cabin crew were trained to separate recyclable waste from food scraps and other matter while collecting passengers’ rubbish before landing. A few years ago the airline also installed recycling bins at Sydney Airport.
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LineBusters, Red Coats and Tourist Angels: The return of customer service agents

Service Agents_c680x200

At a time when airlines are finding more ways to reduce face to face contact with customers at airports, as they are expanding the number of self-service options with do-it-yourself baggage check-in and self-boarding turnstiles, customer service agents seem to be reappearing at airports. 

During this week’s Thanksgiving holiday rush in the U.S, United Airlines is equipping United service agents with so-called ‘LineBusters’ devices at Chicago O’Hare airport. The handheld touch-screen device displays which customers have been automatically rebooked on another flight after a cancellation or missed connection. Agents in the post-security area will pro-actively approach customers standing in line to determine if they are better off going directly to a kiosk to print a boarding pass, thereby reducing the line and the time spent waiting for information.  Read full article

Is free sponsored Wi-Fi the shape of things to come?

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, 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