Smart design: Fixed headrest support on Etihad’s new Economy seats

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At we love smart design innovations, especially in the space-constrained Economy cabin. Think Air New Zealand’s innovative Skycouch (which will also be installed on China Airlines’ upcoming B77-300ERs), as well as the airline’s cleverly designed headrest pillows.

Economy Smart Seats
Lost a bit in the press blitz around Etihad’s new über-premium A380 comes a smart design innovation of the airline’s new Economy seats. The so-called ‘Economy Smart Seats’ (video here) feature a ‘fixed wing’ headrest, designed to provide a firm surface for passengers to lean on while sleeping.

The new Economy seats will first appear on Etihad’s A380 and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. On the A380, the economy seats will be nearly 19 inches wide and arranged in a 3-4-3 fashion with a 31-32 inch pitch. On Etihad’s Boeing 787 the seats will be configured 3-3-3 with a seat width of 17.2 inches and seat pitch ranging from 31 to 33 inches. Each Economy Smart Seat reclines 6 inches and has adjustable lumbar support.

Etihad Design Consortium
Etihad’s new interiors are the work of the so-called Etihad Design Consortium, which consists of British agencies Acumen Design Associates, Factorydesign and Honour Branding. Acumen has been  responsible for seating for First Class, Business, and Economy, while Factorydesign was assigned passenger experience and interiors elements such as galleys, lavatories and passenger destination zones. Honour Branding was responsible for the coordination of the project and advising Etihad on the innovation process. Read full article

Four airlines to receive their first A380 superjumbo in 2014

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By Raymond Kollau,

As more airlines are bidding farewell to the last 747 in their fleet and opt for the 777-300ER or the A380 as their flagship product instead, this year will see four more airlines welcoming their first superjumbo.

The A380 provides 50 percent more floor space compared with the Boeing 747, but airlines on average install only 35 percent more seats, using the extra space for roomier cabins and customized areas. Well-documented examples of ‘A380 extravaganza’ include the onboard First Class shower on Emirates’ A380 and the Absolut Vodka-branded lounge and inflight duty free store on Korean Air’s A380.

10 airlines currently operate an A380
As of end of January 2014, 16 airlines have ordered 304 aircraft of the passenger version of the superjumbo. Currently 123 A380s are in operation worldwide (graph here) and 10 airlines have taken delivery of an A380 so far: Singapore Airlines (2007), Qantas, Emirates (2008), Air France (2009), Lufthansa (2010), Korean Air, China Southern (2011), THAI Airways, Malaysia Airlines (2012), and British Airways (2013). With a total order of 140 A380s, of which 44 have been delivered, Emirates accounts for nearly half of the orders.

This year, four more airlines will receive their first A380, including three carriers who regularly show up in the various ‘best airlines in the world’ rankings: Qatar Airways, Etihad, Asiana, plus Japanese hybrid low-cost carrier Skymark. These airlines will be followed by the final round of first A380 deliveries to Transaero in 2015, while orders at Hong Kong Airlines (2015) and Virgin Atlantic (2018) seem questionable. At the same time, Turkish Airlines reportedly will add four A380s to its fleet this summer for operation on slot-constrained routes to China.

Becoming the eleventh carrier to add the A380 to its fleet (just before Qatar Airways), Korea’s Asiana Airlines will introduce its first superjumbo in June this year on regional routes, before deploying the aircraft on the Seoul – LAX route in July or August. Asiana will take delivery of a total of six A380s — two in June of this year, two next year, and two in 2017.

Asiana’s A380 will be configured with 12 ‘OZ First Suites’ and 66 staggered ‘Smartium’ Business seats on the upper deck and 417 economy seats (106 on the upper deck and 311 on the lower deck), carrying a total of 495 passengers.
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Babies (and parents) love flying thanks to these ‘sky nannies’

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By Debbie Pappyn, Classe Touriste

In 2003, Bahrain-based Gulf Air was one of the first airlines to introduce a special service for traveling families with kids: the Sky Nanny program. Gulf Air’s Sky Nannies offer help with boarding and disembarkation, hand out goody bags and give parents a much needed break during a long flight when it is time to take a nap.

Every Gulf Air Sky Nanny is specially trained for inflight childcare services so parents can relax more during the flight. The nanny arranges drinks or convenient dining times (with on-board baby food) for the children and sets up the bassinet for the baby and check on them if the parents are sleeping. Sri Lankan Airways offers a similar ‘Child Care Stewardess’ service.

Recently, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways also introduced a ‘nanny in the sky’ concept (video here). The airline’s brand-new in-flight child assistance program, Flying Nannies, is designed for all travellers on long-haul flights and is available for every passenger, regardless of which class they are flying in. In the past year, Etihad Airways has trained 300 crewmembers to become experts in childcare. By the end of 2013, there will be 500 Flying Nannies trained in child psychology and sociology at the Norland College in England.

The Flying Nannies, who will be dressed in a bright orange apron, help young families to have more comfortable and relaxing flights. From single parents traveling alone with a baby to families with several kids that all need attention, the nanny will help families with children as well as unaccompanied minors. She (or he) will serve special kids’ meals, see to it that the parents can enjoy their meal more comfortably and will even hand out drinks like full milk bottles, fruits or snacks for after the flight.
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Etihad adds Swarovski amenity kit and onboard chef to its First Class experience

While European airlines such as British Airways (new First), KLM (Delft Blue, Dutch Design) and Austrian (new amenity kit) are looking at their heritage to differentiate their travel experience (see our recent whitepaper “How airlines can use their heritage to add some storytelling to the travel experience”), fast growing Etihad is taking a more opulent approach towards luxury.

Etihad’s First Class private suites, available on the airline’s A340-600s and A330s, have their own sliding door, a personal wardrobe, a mini bar and a 23-inch LCD screen. The leather seat and furnishings are upholstered by Poltrona Frau, which also provides interiors for Ferrari cars. Already voted as ‘Best First Class’ at the 2010 Skytrax ‘Airline of the Year’ awards, Etihad is further upping the ante by introducing new amenity kits and onboard chefs in its First Class.

Etihad’s new amenity kits for women include a black cosmetic purse detailed with crystals by Swarovski and products from Swiss luxury brand La Prairie, such as moisturiser, hand cream and lip balm. The male version of kit is a black leather cufflink box with amenities such as a shaving kit with a Schick Xtreme 3 razor and shaving cream. Other items include toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs, socks and eyeshades.

For Swarovski, who has collaborated with consumer brands such as Philips and LG before, this was the first time it teamed up with an airline. Says Lee Shave, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Product and Services: “In our market research, we found that very few airlines are developing product suited to the needs of female travellers, so we created these separate amenity product line.“
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‘Flying Families': Kids are getting their own airline lounges

Many airports offer playgrounds for kids to keep them entertained while waiting for their flight. For example, Singapore Changi features several children’s playgrounds and even a 4-storey slide, while Schiphol Airport has a ‘Kids Forest’. Airports have also teamed up with brands to offer ‘brand spaces’ for kids and babies. At Amsterdam Schiphol, baby food brand Nutricia runs a ‘Nutricia Babycare Lounge’, while at Paris’ Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports kids can play at the ‘Gulli area’, a playground povided by Gulli, a French children’s TV channel. Jetblue’s T5 terminal at New York JFK features a ‘Fisher Price Play Space’.

Air France
Besides these public facilities, airlines have recently began opening their own dedicated lounges for kids. Air France just launched its first lounge for unaccompanied minors at Paris-Orly airport, which the airline mainly uses for domestic and regional flights. Nearly 380,000 unaccompanied minors travel on Air France every year, and approximately 70% of them travels within France and to the French Overseas Departments. Under the watchful eye of Air France staff, children can play, rest, read or watch DVDs in the new 40 sqm lounge. Air France has also opened a summer-only 200 sqm lounge At Paris-Charles de Gaulle during the school vacation period for kids traveling alone. Airlines such as KLM (‘Junior Jet Lounge’), Lufthansa (‘Kinderlounge’) and BA (‘KidZone’), Emirates and Etihad have also been operating similar unaccompanied minors lounges for several years.

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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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Etihad latest airline to install remote TeleMedicine technology

With people traveling longer distances, ultra-large aircraft such as the A380, and people of all ages and medical conditions traveling, the probability of a medical emergency occurring in flight has increased over the years. Airlines such as Lufthansa have created ‘Doctors on board’ programs, and many airlines have arrangements with specialised call centres that their aircraft can contact in the event of an in-flight emergency. 

Equipment that puts an ill passenger in touch with a doctor who can see their vital signs and who is trained in trauma medicine, takes this process forward a few steps. Telemedicine systems such as the Tempus IC Telemedicine system from Remote Diagnostic Technologies (RDT) allows a non-medical user to collect and transmit eight key vital signs routinely measured in an emergency room – including blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygen, breath gas analysis and heart condition – and pass these together with relevant photographs and video directly to a ground-based medical response center.
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Etihad and Lufthansa launch loyalty apps for the iPhone

There are travel-related iPhone applications (apps) abound, devoted to everything from ticket search and booking (Kayak), airport codes (Airport Codes), airport gates (GateGuru), airplane seating charts (Airline Seat Guide), to flight tracking (FlightTrack), flight delays (Flight Tracker), and aircraft specifications (aeroguide).  

Compared with the above, the list of airline-branded apps remains relatively sparse. British Airways led the way in July 2008 with the first iPhone app launched by an airline. Qantas soon followed suit, while Air Canada became the first North American carrier to launch an application. Other airlines that have launched iPhone-based services include Lufthansa, Swiss, Southwest, Cathay Pacific, DragonAir, Viva Macau, and Air New Zealand. Apps from these airlines mainly provide general travel information, such as timetables, and the ability to change booking details. Some airlines also offer the passengers the ability to check in, or let them check their FFP mileage balance. For a full overview of airline iPhone apps, see this blog by mvolution (in German). Lately, airline applications have been getting more specific, with Virgin Atlantic’s ‘Flying without Fear’ app, and Air New Zealand’s mobile boarding pass app.
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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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ANA’s new cabin upgrade raises the bar in all classes

Japanese carrier ANA has unveiled a serious upgrade of all its four cabins, as part of its ‘Inspiration of Japan’ campaign. The new classes of service where originally meant for the Boeing 787 of which ANA will be the launch customer in late 2010, but due to the B787’s production delays the new cabins will already appear on ANA’s new B777-300ER in February 2010 (Tokyo to New York). According to the ANA: “We were hoping to unveil our new cabin experience on the 787, but we decided we couldn’t wait anymore, so it’s going on our new 777s from early in the new year”. ANA’s new 777s will have eight first-class seats, 68 business-class seats, 24 premium-economy seats and 112 seats in economy. 

Re-branded as ANA First Square, ANA’s new first class features a private suite with a fully lie-flat bed, a 23-inch LCD touch screen, a baggage compartment and coat closet. At Tokyo Narita airport, ANA will introduce a ‘Suite Lounge’ in October 2010 for First Class passengers and Diamond tier members. Passengers will have their own private suite on the ground as well, where they can work or relax while they get checked-in and wait for their flight. Two other eye-catching features in the premium cabins are washrooms with warm-water bidet-toilets by Toto, which ANA says is a world’s first, and the option for passengers to select and order their meals via the touch screen of their IFE system (from April 2010). ANA’s new business class also has a full-flat bed (configuration is 1-2-1, so all seats have aisle acces), a 17-inch LCD touch screen, a large side table, and storage space for shoes. Read full article