Emirates introduces wireless charging of electronic devices in its lounges


By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Catering to frequent travellers who are suffering from so-called ‘battery anxiety’, Emirates has installed 30 wireless ‘inductive charging’ trays in its First Class and Business Class lounges in Concourses A, B and C at Dubai International Airport. The trays allow customers to wirelessly charge up their smartphones simply by placing them on top of the tray.

The carrier said it placed the trays — which use the Qi wireless charging standard and are compatible with Android, Blackberry and, with a cable, iPhone devices — in “highly visible” locations. Each tray can charge two devices simultaneously.

Commenting on the new services, Mohammed Mattar, Emirates’ divisional SVP of airport services, said: “Mobile devices are an intrinsic part of our lives, and at Emirates we see free wifi and wireless charging on the go, as becoming the norm in the future travel experience.

IKEA, Starbucks
In the past few years, wireless charging of personal devices has becoming more mainstream. For example, battery brand Duracel now offers a ‘MyGrid’ charging pad (In Duracell’s words: ‘drop & go charging’) for around USD 40, while IKEA has launched a furniture range that has wireless charging technology integrated into the surface.

Starbucks is also rolling out wireless charging pads at its coffeehouses in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

Delta lounge, Toronto Pearson Airport, SSP
Emirates introduction of the wireless charging pads follows several airlines and airports that have also jumped on this novel technology.

For example, Delta has installed Duracell’s wireless Powermats in the seating areas of its domestic SkyClub lounges. The wireless charging pads are designed for lower power charging devices such as cell phones, smart phones and e-readers. Adapters for a variety of different devices are available from Delta staff in the lounge. Read full article

Emirates and Cebu Pacific latest airlines to equip airport agents with digital devices

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

At the recent Future Travel Experience event in Las Vegas, Eash Sundaram, CIO at JetBlue Airways, rightfully noted that the traditional check-in procedure is very much a “1960s process,” and check-in will become an automated activity. JetBlue in July of this year introduced automatic check-in.

In the meantime, however, FTE reports that “the industry has failed to embrace auto check-in en masse, even though it is an important step in the ultimate process change of fully automating and even removing check-in as a distinct element of the travel experience.”

Roaming agents
Nevertheless, as many passengers today feel no need to use the traditional full check-in process with staffed airport desks, opting for self-service – either online or via airport kiosks – instead, there will be fewer staffed desks. Instead, for passengers who need assistance there will be roaming airline agents equipped with tablets to assist passengers.

Currently, a limited number of airlines – including American Airlines (YADA), United, Iberia (IBHelp), Air France, easyJet (Halo) and IndiGo – have deployed ‘mobile agents’ to help passengers check in or rebook.

Emirates ‘Journey Manager’
Emirates has empowered its airport staff with a mobile application called Journey Manager wich enables them to get real-time information regardless of where they are in the airport. Developed by Emirates in cooperation with Samsung and Etisalat, Journey Manager runs on the recently launched Samsung Note 4 smartphone.

Emirates’ managers and supervisors can use the application to check the status of both inbound and outbound flights, which helps them to assess potential areas of concern and better manage operations, especially in the event of a disruption.

“The size and scale of our operations at the airport can be a challenge, especially during peak times where we can see up to 140 departures and arrivals in a four hour window,” said Mohammed Mattar, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president, airport services. Read full article

Emirates ranked as world’s most valuable airline brand

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This case appears in the March 2014 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 » 

Each year, British brand evaluation consultancy Brand Finance releases its Global 500 report, which ranks the world’s most valuable brands by assessing the dollar value of a company’s reputation, image and intellectual property.

The top 4 brands on the global list – repectively Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft – have remained the same for the past two years, while Verizon replaced Walmart on the fifth spot this year.

2014’s top 500 ranking includes six airlines and for the third consecutive year Emirates is regarded as the most valuable airline brand worldwide. The airline finished 234th out of the 500 evaluated global brands (up from last year’s 287th spot) with a a brand valued at USD 5.48 billion, a 34 percent increase on Emirates’ 2013 valuation.

Hello Tomorrow
Equal to its fleet expansion plans (on top of its current fleet of 200 widebody aircraft, ‘super-connector’ Emirates has over 350 widebodies on order), the airline has big ambitions for the positioning of its brand, aiming to evolve the airline from a travel brand to a global lifestyle brand.

Emirates’ current global brand campaign ‘Hello Tomorrow’ was launched in April 2012. The brand platform is designed to appeal to what Emirates calls “globalistas – a new generation of global consumers who are looking for new experiences across cultures,” with Emirates being the brand that is enabling this global lifestyle. Read full article

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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 airlinetrends.com 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.

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

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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Emirates new ‘Executive A319’ features private jet lounge and First Class suites

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Emirates has always been a luxurious airline, and their First Class is amongst one of the best in the skies, so no surprise that they have decided to include the award winning First Class suite in their new executive jet. Many airlines have taken to providing an executive jet service, from Qatar Airways to Lufthansa, but none have really considered offering something to this level of luxury. Your own private A319 jet will take you wherever you and 18 of your associates want to go.

Dubbed ‘Emirates Executive‘ the new service is the epitome of luxury, and no doubt will have a hefty price tag associated with it, but that price tag includes 10 private First Class suites, a lounge with chairs and a sofa, table and all the executive mod cons you would require, and to top it off, a shower, once only available on the super-giant A380s.

We have always looked at executive jets as a little less luxurious than first class suites, lacking in the privacy or exclusive touches such as personal TVs, AVOD, bedding etc, and finally it seems that the airline has learned that exclusive jets should mean the same, (or if not more) level of quality in the product as their first class suites and this aircraft layout seems to work perfectly. We love the fact the branding of the aircraft is subdued, with just the Emirates logo appearing by the door, and the rest of the airframe with a simple white exterior [video here].

The ten Private Suites are each equipped with sliding privacy doors, fully-flat bed seats, visitor’s seat, personal mini-bar and a 32” screen displaying our award-winning ICE entertainment system. Full Wi-Fi, mobile phone connectivity, and video conferencing are also available throughout your flight. One thing is for sure, we are going to start playing the lottery a lot more now….

Emirates provides 1,000 pursers with HP tablets as part of ‘knowledge-driven’ in-flight service drive

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Already launched back in 2004, Emirates ‘Knowledge-driven Inflight Service’ (KIS) allows the airline’s cabin crew to see which previous trips a passenger has taken with the carrier before and based on this, know their food, wine and seating preferences, or any issues a customer had during their travels. Pursers use KIS to brief the cabin crew before every flight and check passenger’s special needs, as well as see who is enrolled in Emirates’ frequent flyer programme Skywards in order to enable the crew to provide a more personalized service. Cabin crew can also use the KIS system to perform in-flight upgrades to Business or First Class, as well as post customer feedback that’s emailed to headquarters upon landing.

Until now, Emirates’ KIS tool was tied to a Lenovo Thinkpad laptop that pursers tote around (video here). However, the laptops proved to be too bulky to use on a full flight. Says Anita Grillo, purser for Emirates, “The laptops had to be unpacked and plugged in because they had a short battery life. We had to ask passengers to come back to the galley to verify information, and passengers would have to wait until we clicked through pages that were sometimes slow to load.”

HP ElitePad 900
In order to solve the issues with the rather outdated device, as well as further enhance its knowledge-driven inflight service, Emirates just announced it has become the first global customer of the HP’s new ElitePad 900 tablet which runs on Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. According to Kevin Griffiths, SVP of cabin crew at Emirates, the airline tried numerous other devices but was attracted to the ElitePad by its looks, lack of weight and bulk and support for legacy (Windows-based) applications.

Emirates IT staff redesigned the KIS application to run on Windows 8 and deployed it on the ElitePad tablets. “We quickly rebuilt the application to include images and gestures,” Griffiths told Techradar. “The whole project from the development starting has been about six months. We have already trained 100 people and they will go online in December. In January after the launch of the ElitePad we’ll be rolling out over about four months and all of our pursers will have a device each then.”

The ElitePad is 3G enabled and Emirates has airtime agreements in place in most of its 120 destinations, so the tablet is synchronised with the back end applications and loads the final status just before departure, as well as will on landing.
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Airlines ‘crew-source’ new onboard duty free products

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As airlines around the world are looking to increase the average revenue per passenger beyond only the ticket price, carriers are getting more creative with their onboard retail offering. Korean Air, for example, features an onboard duty-free showcase on its A380 superjumbo (which takes up the space of 13 Economy seats), while Virgin America’s feature-rich RED IFE system contains the first ever seatback digital shopping platform, including an ‘open tab’ functionality that allows passengers to make multiple purchases during the flight and pay just before landing. Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, has added a ‘Delta Picks’ shopping list to its retail program that lists the best travel products picked by its well-travelled flight attendants.

Emirates ‘The Big Idea’
On a similar note, the duty free division of Emirates recently called on all cabin crew to awaken their inner entrepreneur with a competition called ‘The Big Idea’. Crew were asked to come up with ideas for potential inflight duty-free products, present their proposals individually or as a team, for a chance to win USD5,000 in prize money.

The competition, which ran for two months, attracted 200 entries and eight ideas were selected to be pitched by the finalists to a judging panel. Besides the first prize of USD 5,000, each of the finalists would receive gifts from in-flight and travel retail supplier Scorpio, who sponsored the contest.

The winner of the competition was Emirates flight attendant Michelle Carbonell, whose ‘Spectrum’ design – a piece of jewellery reflecting all colours of the rainbow in crystals – will be produced by Scorpio and be available on board by July 2013 as part of Emirates’ own duty free brand ‘Eduardo Verde’ collection.
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Emirates offers parents in transit free use of baby strollers at its Dubai hub

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Airlines from the Gulf Region tend to make an extra effort to accommodate passengers travelling with young children. Witness for example Gulf Air’s Sky Nannies who offer help with boarding and disembarkation and keep a watchful eye on children during the flight should parents doze off or just want to get engrossed in a book or a movie. A Sky Nanny is also present in Gulf Air’s lounge at Bahrein Airport. On a similar note, Etihad’s ‘Family Room’ at its Abu Dhabi hub, has nannies meet and greet families travelling with children at the lounge entrance before taking the kids to the family room, where they can play with toys, read books and watch television all under supervision of the nannies that have professional training in childcare and first aid.

Stroller service
Meanwhile in Dubai, Emirates – which sees the majority of its passengers transfer to another flight at its hub – for several years has been offering a complimentary baby stroller service for passengers arriving and transiting at Dubai International Airport.

The baby strollers are available to passengers on arrival at every Emirates gate at the airport. The colourful strollers, easily identifiable with their prominent Emirates branding, are manufactured by MacLaren and include a disposable hygiene seat cover. The baby strollers are placed in specially-marked cupboards located at arrival gates for passengers disembarking their Emirates flight so they can conveniently help themselves to a stroller. Emirates baggage staff are on hand to ensure these strollers (including twin versions) are available round-the-clock and that the cupboards are always stocked. For passengers ending their journey in Dubai, strollers can be returned at designated areas in the arrivals baggage hall and for passengers in transit, strollers can be deposited at their next departure gate.
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How Lufthansa and British Airways are competing with Emirates on Indian routes

By Vivek Mayasandra

As the global economy dynamically changes, all major airlines are focusing on the rapidly growing middle class and business markets of the BRICs and the ‘Next 11’ as a new source of growth. According to Boeing’s latest outlook, these emerging economies will collectively occupy over 60 percent of passenger flows by the year 2030.

Last month we discussed how Emirates is capitalizing on new passenger flows, for example connecting Asia with Africa and with Latin America via its Dubai hub. A good showcase of the challenge that the rise of Emirates is posing to European legacy carriers is India, since the subcontinent is the second largest market for both British Airways (50 weekly flights to 5 destinations in India) and Lufthansa (52 weekly flights to 7 destinations), after the United States.

India is also Emirates’ largest operational market with 185 flights a week to 10 destinations. Says Orhan Abbas, vice president India and Nepal at Emirates, “The Indian market is a very important one for us as Indians have overtaken the British as the single largest tourist group on Emirates.” In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Emirates’ revenues from India grew 24 per cent to USD1.7 billion, while traffic grew with 10 per cent.

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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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As it turns Dubai into a global hub, Emirates embraces a diverse passenger base

By Vivek Mayasandra

Over recent years, Gulf-based carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad have dazzled the global airline industry with their aircraft orders, premium services and rapid expansion. Besides targetting traditional routes such as Europe – Australasia, Emirates, the leader of Gulf aviation growth, has aggressively capitalized on new passenger flows, connecting Asia with Africa and with Latin America via its Dubai hub – markets which will collectively occupy over 60 percent of passenger flows by the year 2030, according to Boeing’s latest market forecast.

As Emirates states in its latest annual report: “The future of our industry is being written not only in long-established air routes, but also in places like China, India and Africa – markets where the demand for air transport, both passenger and cargo, is growing at an incredible rate.” […] “Our strategic hub in Dubai plays a key role in establishing new trade routes by linking emerging markets to more developed ones, such as connecting Moscow to Durban, Beijing to Luanda or Hyderabad to Sao Paulo.”

This focus has enabled Emirates to position and brand itself to a newly global customer base – and more importantly – develop solutions in service, dining and entertainment for a wide array of diverse passenger tastes.

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Cabin crew
In the air, Emirates’ diverse cabin crew is indicative of its global focus – the airline employs cabin crew from more than 130 nationalities. This lets Emirates typically staff their flights with speakers of Arabic, English and the local language of the flight’s destination. Being an Gulf-based carrier, Emirates’ crew are also trained for a variety of Arab and Muslim cultural situations – from being taken to mosques, learning how to serve the traditionally Arab meal of coffee and dates, to properly serving veiled Muslim passengers.

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Innovative airlines 2011: #10 Emirates Airline

Number 10 on our innovative airlines list is  rapidly growing Emirates, already the largest airline in the world in terms of international passenger kilometers, and mostly known for its aggressive fleet expansion. For example, Emirates’ total order book in November 2010 stood at 201 widebody aircraft (including 76 A380s, 48 B777s and 70 A350s). Other well-known amenities of the airline include its state of the art ‘ICE’ IFE system and the inflight extravaganza (suites, showers, and a staffed lounge bar in First) on its A380 flagships.

Besides its dazzling growth and premium amenities, Emirates has also introduced some smaller, lesser known innovations in response to trends such as the growing middle class in emerging economies, the need for connectivity, and co-creation.

More diverse travellers
The growth of the middle class in emerging economies such as the BRICs and the ‘Next 11,’ as well as the growing economic importance of these countries is resulting in airline passengers with more diverse cultural backgrounds and tastes. Emirates’ wide range of cabin crew nationalities – now numbering more than 130 – allows the airline to roster cabin crew on each flight who speak English, Arabic and the language of the destination. On a related cultural note, during the holy month of Ramadan Emirates provides fasting passengers observing Ramadan with small ‘Iftar’ snack boxes at the boarding gates of Dubai Airport on flights departing close to sunset, so that passengers can break their fast immediately.

Inflight connectivity, e-zone
In March 2008, Emirates was the first carrier to introduce inflight GSM connectivity on a large scale, and currently passengers on 87 of its 145 aircraft can use their cellphones and pda’s to make voice calls and send sms-messages. Emirates is also in the process of rolling out inflight WiFi on its A380s. Enhancing its digital entertainment offering on the ground, Emirates in 2009 teamed up with Microsoft to create an entertainment zone in its Business Class Lounge at Dubai Airport. The so-called ‘e-zone’ features several Microsoft Surface tables, a 3-screen Xbox 360 car racing simulator, and a Xbox 360 ‘pentapod’.
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Emirates, Cathay, Air New Zealand latest airlines to ‘crowdsource’ new products

Earlier this year we reported how airlines such as KLM and  Virgin Atlantic are using the Internet to co-create products with the general public. Recent examples from airlines such as Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand, who are introducing crowdsourced products such as loyalty card designs, inflight cocktails, snacks, desserts and eyemasks, show that ‘open innovation’ is here to stay. 

Emirates ‘Skywards Future Artist Programme’
In August 2010, Emirates launched the first edition of its ‘Our Future Artists’ competition, asking artist around the world to submit their artwork for a chance to be featured on the 2011 membership cards of the airline’s frequent flyer programme, Skywards. Entries needed to reflect and interpret the mood of each of the three membership levels of the Skywards program: ‘Luxurious, elite and precious’ for the Gold tier, ‘sophistication, intelligence and richness’ for the Silver tier and ‘bold, visionary and modern’ for the Blue level. All styles and sizes of art, including sculpture, photography and paintings could be submitted. 

Out of more than 3,500 entries, a panel of industry professionals and experts created a shortlist of 4 entries for each brief, with the winning designs voted for by Skywards members. The three winning artists were Nedim Kufi (Netherlands) for the Gold card, a 3-D computer-generated image of bronze nuggets, Amir Vafaei’s (Iran) silver geometric design motif of Turkoman rugs for the Silver card, and Kambiz Sabri (Iran) was the winner for the Blue card design, a sculpture of light and transparency featuring enlarged rain drops. The winners also receive USD5,000 and will be flown to Dubai where their portfolio will be displayed at the Art Dubai fair in March 2011. Distribution of more than 5 million cards with the new design to Skyward members will begin in January 2011. 
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Emirates orders 32 more A380s, grows A380 fleet to 90 aircraft

Dubai-based Emirates has signed a deal to buy 32 additional A380 aircraft in an order with a list price of USD11.5 billion. This brings the airline’s total A380 order to 90 aircrafts, nearly 40 percent of worldwide orders for the superjumbo. Emirates president Tim Clark said that all 90 A380s will be operating at the same time in the future, as “The first A380 aircraft we ordered will be retired from the fleet in 2020, and the last of this order will be delivered in 2017.” 

The central location of the Gulf Region on the world map lets aircraft access almost every destination non-stop, as 85 percent of the world’s population is located within a 8,500 km range from the Gulf. Governments in the region have been developing their carriers over the past decades to help diversify their economies and reduce dependence on oil revenues. The so-called ‘Gulf Gullivers’ are increasingly redirecting passenger flows from Europe, Asia and the Americas through their hubs, making them serious competitors for established airlines.
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Inflight connectivity takes off in the Middle East

2009 was the year of inflight connectivity in the USA with the rollout of Aircell’s Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on nearly 700 U.S domestic aircraft (roughly a quarter of the domestic fleet). Inflight Internet access is now being offered (or will soon be offered) by 10 North American airlines. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, a similar development is taking place. Airlines such as Emirates and Wataniya currently offer GSM-based connectivity on cellphones and pda’s, and several carriers in the region will follow during 2010, with onboard cellular as well as Wi-Fi access. 

Introduced in March 2008, passengers on 70 Emirates aircraft (out of Emirates’ 145-strong fleet) can currently use their cellphones and pda’s to make voice calls and send sms-messages. Emirates says 200 flights a day throughout 55 countries are currently mobile-equipped and each month passengers send and receive over 140,000 sms texts. The airline is installing the Aeromobile system at 2 to 3 aircraft a month and by mid-2010 will also add GPRS technology to its cellular service, providing pda users who need a quick internet fix with a limited Internet connection. Aeromobile together with Panasonic will also equip Turkish Airlines with full inflight broadband when the first of the airline’s 12 new B777-300ERs and 10 A330-300s enters service in the fourth quarter of 2010.
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Advertising campaign at London Heathrow uses interactive Microsoft Surface tables

JCDecaux Airport and Tag Heuer watches have launched an interactive table-top advertising campaign at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. For a  month, two Microsoft ‘Surface’ tables carrying TAG Heuer content have been installed in the airport’s Terminal 5 gate room and lounge.

The Tag Heuer Surface tables let passengers to find destination-specific tourist information, as well as details of TAG Heuer watches. Using an interactive world map passengers could choose popular destinations and explore local time, travel duration and view local landmarks. Travelers could also enter their email address on the tabletop to receive further details. JCDecaux says it is considering to roll out the technology to other airport locations.
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Gulf Gullivers keep expanding amidst global downturn

The rise and rise of Emirates (Dubai), Etihad (Abu Dhabi) and Qatar Airways has been well documented. These so-called ‘Gulf Gullivers’ have placed multi billion-dollar aircraft orders, expanding their airports and developing their tourism infrastructure, with the aim to  turn the geographically ideally situated Gulf region into the world’s aviation hub. Some of the ingredients of their model: high frequencies to major urban destinations, target large metropolitan areas without direct connections (for example, Manchester, Birmingham in the UK, Düsseldorf, Hamburg in Germany) so passengers can bypass busy hubs in their region and transfer at the carrier’s 24/7 Gulf hubs, and large investments in their premium services.

The past year, major airlines in Europe, North-America, and Asia-Pacific have put their brakes on fleet expansion amid significant drops in passenger volumes and yields. Nevertheless, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have continued their aggressive fleet and network growth, introducing more than 30 new widebodies between them during 2009. Middle East airlines saw passenger grow 11.2 percent in 2009 according to IATA. By contrast, passenger demand dropped 5 percent in Europe and 5.6 percent in the Norh America, as well as in Asia Pacific. And plans remain bullish: With a new wave of aircraft coming, most notably Emirates and Qatar Airways are now turning their attention to other European metropolitan catchment areas and to Japan.
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Air France takes a less extravagant approach to cabin features in its new A380 flagship

Last Friday (October 30), Air France became the first European airline to take delivery of the Airbus A380. Air France will operate the aircraft – of which it has 12 on firm order – in a three-class 538-seat layout (9 seats in first, 80 in business and 449 in economy), the highest density A380 configuration sofar. Air France’s A380 won’t have the carrier’s new premium economy class installed, which Air France will roll-out to its entire long-haul fleet by the end of 2010, because retrofitting the A380 might have upsetted Airbus’ tight production schedule.

Compared with Singapore Airlines (First Class suites, extra-wide business seats, USB in all seats), Emirates (suites, showers,  staffed lounge bar in First), and Qantas (upgraded First, full-flat business beds, slim-line economy seats), Air France has taken a relatively modest outfit for its A380 flagship. This may have been a wise decision given the current economic recession and the expected post-crisis ‘New Normal’. At the other hand, surprisingly little upgrades in seat design have been made, other than improved seat covers in First, a larger IFE screen in Business, wider armrests in Economy, and USB sockets in all classes. Most notably, Air France has chosen not to install full-flat beds in its A380 flagship, at a time when even U.S carriers are going ‘horizontal’.
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