Finnair and Helsinki Airport invite ‘Quality Hunters’ to co-create new products

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By Nikos Loukas, InflightFeed

In the past years, airlines and airports have teamed up with the general public in order to generate ideas for new and/or improved products and services, with several airlines implementing some of the co-created concepts.

Quality Hunters
Possibly one of the most innovative crowdsourcing initiatives is Finnair’s and Helsinki Airport’s ‘Quality Hunters’ program – which began in 2010 with Finnair seeking applicants from around the world to travel around the Finnair network, share their experiences and thoughts – with the aim to create new ideas to improve the passenger experience.  In 2010 Finnair received more than 5,200 applications from 90 countries from people wishing to become a Quality Hunter.

One of the innovations to come out of the Quality Hunters program is the popular second hand book-swap, which was implemented by Helsinki Airport after the 2011 program, whilst a popular idea that was shortlisted by Finnair and the community was ‘Meat Free Mondays’ offering only vegetarian meal options on Mondays.

Aku Varamäki, Social Media Manager Finnair explains “In 2010, [pr agency] Miltton initiated the idea of the program which saw Finnair participating alone in the project during the first season. We included Helsinki Airport the following year and have been doing this together since, to cover a more complete passenger experience.”

2013 edition
This year’s Quality Hunters program took a different approach than the previous editions and focused on group participation including brainstorming and idea generation. The Quality Hunters focus groups involve participants who genuinely care about the airline passenger experience, either as a passenger or a professional, and these Quality Hunters – active members in the Quality Hunters community engaging with the airline on Twitter or via their website – are invited by Finnair to come together over a weekend to create new ideas that improve the passenger experience.
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Finnair bets on China with route to Chongqing, a.k.a. ‘Chicago on the Yangtze’

By Vivek Mayasandra

In the highly competitive aviation industry, airlines have to think differently to evolve and grow. The challenge has been especially strong for European carriers, whose base in the economically troubled Eurozone, coupled with strong competition from low-cost carriers and Gulf-based airlines, has required them to look to new markets for opportunities. As the global economic center of gravity is shifting from Europe and the USA towards Asia, with subsequent increases in income, many European carriers are looking East for growth.

Finnair’s Asia strategy
Along with megacarriers Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, Finnair is one of the most prominent players in the Europe to Asia market. The airline has built a niche strategy around “Asia’s growing market, the best flight connections and cost-competitiveness” and has invested significantly into expansion in the region and into developing its Helsinki base into a prime transit hub.

According to the Center for Aviation (CAPA), Finnair has a near 7 percent capacity share of one-way seats between South Korea and Western Europe, a 10 percent share of Japan to Western Europe (ahead of British Airways), and an approximate 6 percent share of the China to Western Europe.

Via Helsinki
By virtue of geography, Helsinki’s location makes it the closest European Union gateway for flights between Europe and Asia. Finnair has leveraged this fact by promoting its Helsinki hub as a transit hub for travellers between its 40 European and 11 Asian gateways. According to CAPA, Finnair in the second quarter of 2012 deployed about 51 percent of its capacity (in ASKs) on routes to Asia, and this segment represented 43 percent of passenger revenues.

According to the airline, some 40 million passengers travel between Europe and Asia annually, and about half of these passengers fly non-stop from a major hub like London Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle with the other half connecting via an intermediate airport in Europe or the Middle East. Finnair strives to be among the three largest operators in traffic between Europe and Asia involving transfers during the trip.
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Finnair partners with iconic Finnish designers Marimekko for inflight amenities

By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Finnair‘s inflight product has always been efficient, clean and simple, perhaps seen by most as more ‘bland’ than ‘brand’. However, they have recently launched a brand new partnership with Finnish designer Marimekko to provide them with new table-wear and fabrics for their airline.

Marimekko’s simple and elegant retro prints are all about great splashes of colour and with this injection into the airline, they will bring the fun back to flying Finnair, targetting specifically their Asian routes.

Finnair earlier this month showed off their new Marimekko liveried A340, that is adorned with Maija Isola’s iconic ‘Unikko’ flower motif, currently flying Asia routes from Finland. In the spring, when the new in-flight products will be rolled out, a second Marimekko livery with join the long haul fleet.

Stated on the reveal of the new design partnership, “Finnair has a strong design heritage, and this cooperation brings our design thinking to a new level,” says Mika Vehviläinen, Finnair CEO. “Our goal is to become a design airline, and bring our customers unique experiences for all five senses. Cooperation with Marimekko is an important step towards this target. Finnair aircraft will become roving ambassadors of timeless Finnish design and creativity, giving our customers a special experience when they fly with us.”

They will eventually be selling limited edition Marimekko-Finnair products onboard, in a move recently taken by KLM with their design partnership with Hella Jongerius for their Wold Business Class cabin, also being launched next year.
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Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and Finnair offer passengers free light therapy

Aéroports de Paris, which operates Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports, has dveloped a reputation when it comes to establishing innovative partnerships with well-known brands in order to enhance the airport experience. Following earlier initiatives with Sony (free Playstation ‘poles’), Sony (free mini HD-cinema), Gulli (branded play areas) and Samsung (music pods), the airport has now teamed up with Philips to develop light therapy pods, which passengers can use for free.

Last month, Paris Charles de Gaulle installed three so-called ‘luminotherapy spaces’ at the airport’s Terminal 2E. Passengers can use the pod 15-minutes for free to fight their jet lag or combat the winter blues, caused by a lack of ultra-violet light during the winter. The cocoons are equipped with Philips GoLiTE BLU lamps in different colors, a relaxing leather chair, and passengers can watch a didactic video that shows the benefits of luminothérapie. Aéroports de Paris operator says it wil decide whether to expand the service to other terminals at the airport based on feedback of passengers using the pods.

At the end of 2007, Aéroports de Paris and Philips also partnered for a limited time to offer a similar service during the winter season, while Philips has teamed with Westin Hotels & Resorts to offer guests at The Westin Chicago River North a stay in a specially designed Concept Room aimed at helping guests combat sleep troubles and jet lag.

Finnair light-emitting headsets
Meanwhile, Finnair just announced it will offer premium passengers on flights between Helsinki and Shanghai the ability to try out a “bright light headset” said to help passengers adapt to jet lag by channeling bright light into the brain via the ear canal. The bright light headsets, developed by Finish company Valkee, will be available free of charge to business class passengers during the month of April, before going on sale in-flight in May 2012.
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Finnair and Helsinki Airport employ ‘Quality Hunters’ to come up with new ideas

In a follow-up to last year’s campaign, Finnair in September 2011 launched a new public search for so-called ‘Quality Hunters’, this year in partnership with Helsinki Airport. Seven Quality Hunters, chosen from hundreds of applicants, travelled around the world for 48 days throughout October and November 2011, collecting ideas and insights on how Finnair and Helsinki Airport could improve the flight and airport experience. An eighth “Bonus Hunter” joined the group in November on the basis of his social media activities.

Seven categories
Each Quality Hunter was given a theme to focus on: food & beverages, entertainment, socialising, travel in business class, services, shopping and “on the move”. Their task was to collect product and service ideas and present them to Finnair and Helsinki Airport at the end of the project in early December. Finnair and Helsinki Airport in turn would commit to the best ideas for implementation. Says Finnair “We don’t need a list of flaws (we’re painfully aware of most of them already!) but we want to know how to fix things and go even beyond that.” […] ”As a part of renewing our entire service identity, we want to go further in charting the black spots of travel and finding creative solutions to resolve them.”

The Quality Hunters blogged and tweeted daily about their observations and ideas, made videos and acted as community managers. Visitors to the Quality Hunters website could set tasks for them, make comments and share their opinions, while passengers at Helsinki Airport could drop by at the Hunter’s Lounge, located between gates 32-38.
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Angry Birds take flight with Finnair

In a globalized world, airlines, especially legacy carriers, can differentiate themselves as a national brand ambassador. Think SWISS Air Lines’ ‘Taste of Switzerland’ food service, Alitalia teaming up with Italian luxury brands to improve the onboard amenities, KLM’s Dutch Design and British Airways renewed emphasis of its British heritage.

The latest addition to these ‘experiental marketing’ initiatives are onboard events. For example, Lufthansa currently operates so-called Oktoberfest flights, which sees cabin crew dressed up in traditional Bavarian costumes and serving hot pretzels. Estonian Air, meanwhile, has just operated its first ‘gourmet flight’, featuring a local restaurant chef personally introducing the menu of the month onboard. And today, Finnair operated an Angry Bird-themed flight between Helsinki and Singapore in partnership with fellow Finnish company Rovio, the creator of the popular Angry Bird game.

Angry Birds
In the Angry Birds game, players fling birds at structures to try to destroy pigs. It started on smartphones like the iPhone and on tablets like the iPad and then expanded to a large number of other platforms like web browsers and TV boxes that are powered by operating systems like Android. Since its launch two years ago, Angry Birds has turned into a worldwide phenomenon and has been downloaded over 350 million times. Thanks to the success of the game, it is also a sign of Finland’s prowess in technology (Nokia), entertainment (Sulake’s Habbo Hotel) and design (Helsinki is named world design capital 2012), something Finland’s flag-carrier Finnair intended to capitalize on with the launch of an Angry Birds themed flight, an idea which Rovio approached Finnair with last June.

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Service and entertainment onboard the flight were in ‘Angry Birds style’, with cabin crew wearing angry birds approns and serving items from an Angry Birds’ menu to passengers. A real live Angry Bird was also present and passengers were offered passengers Angry Birds plush toys. Eight people were specially selected to be part of the trip and given free tickets in advance, including two Singaporeans, winners of an Angry Bird ‘Face-off Challenge’ at Singapore Changi Airport, who were flown to Helsinki the previous weekend. Read full article

European airlines pioneer world’s first scheduled commercial biofuel flights

With the world’s population growing and becoming increasingly wealthy, IATA estimates 16 billion passengers will fly each year by 2050. But as passenger counts grow, airlines are needing ever-more fuel to keep their fleets in the sky. As air transport is the only mode of transport that will remain dependent upon liquid fuels for the foreseeable future, the aviation industry and the research community has no choice other than to develop and test alternatives. Furthermore, with oil prices rising and European emissions trading slated to begin in 2012, airlines will be faced with new expenses. Not only will they have to pay for the fuel the industry consumes, they’ll also need to acquire certificates for each ton of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

Airlines in June 2011 won approval from from the US standards body ASTM International to power planes with blends including biofuels for commercial flights. Biofuel refers to fuel made from renewable organic raw materials and is more efficient than kerosene and emits less greenhouse gas when burned. Depending on how the biomass used to make the fuel is produced, results could range between 50 and 80 percent less CO2 emissions. Although biofuel use is still not financially sustainable, as it is more expensive than ordinary aviation fuel and no large-scale production or distribution has yet been established, Europe’s first users of biofuel, KLM, Lufthansa, Finnair and Thomson Airways hope the increased interest from airlines in biofuel will encourage more companies to enter the growing market and help make it financially viable.

KLM, Finnair, Thomson
Following the world’s first demonstration flight carrying passengers with a B747 with one if its four engines running on a 50/50 blend of jetfuel and biofuel from the camelina plant, KLM aldo operated the world’s first commercial biofuel flight on June 29th 2011, using a blend of cooking oil recycled from restaurants to power a Boeing 737-800. The Dutch Inspectorate for Transport, Public Works & Water Management granted KLM permission to operate the return flight between Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Both flights had an almost full load of 171 passengers and KLM plans to operate some 200 AMS-CDG commercial flights powered in part by biokerosene from September 2011 on.
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Innovative airlines 2011: #5 Finnair

In 5th place is Finnair, which has found itself a niche by focusing on transfer traffic to and from Asia. As part of a renewed strategy, announced in June 2010, the oneworld carrier’s goal is to be among the three largest transit carriers between Asia and Europe. In terms of the travel experience, Finnair says it wants to be the airline of choice of the quality- and environmentally-conscious passenger, and is looking to answer customer needs and expectations with “open-minded and innovative solutions.” 

Via Helsinki
Since the start of this decade, Finnair has been promoting Helsinki Airport as the ideal geographic hub to connect Europe and Asia, as well as cities like New York and New Delhi. This strategy has proved to be successful: In eight years, the number of passengers travelling back and forth between Europe and Asia via Helsinki has grown from 300,000 to 1,5 million in 2010 (out of a total of a total 6.2 million scheduled passengers). According to Finnair, about 50 percent of its revenues already comes from Asia. 

Part of their strategy to accommodate transfering Asian passengers, Finnair and Helsinki Airport were one of the first to introduce Mandarin-speaking staff at terminals to greet passengers arriving from China and to have airport signage in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Also, passengers arriving from Asian destinations with under an hour to change flights are given boarding cards with a short connection notification which allow them to fast track security. 

Full-flat beds, Helsinki Spa & Saunas
With the phase out of its ageing MD-11 and the introduction of new A330s in early 2010, Finnair revamped its cabins on its long-haul aircraft, introducing full-flat seats in Business Class in a layout that gives 90 percent of the seats direct aisle access, while one third of the seats has no seat next to them. The airline also introduced a brighter furnishing in Economy and all classes feature mood lighting and in-seat power outlets. Read full article

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Finnair goes on an upcycling spree

We have reported earlier on how KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have teamed up with outside designers in ‘upcycling’ initiatives that gave old uniforms and aircraft seats a second life as bags and other accessories. Not only is upcycling a good way to re-use discarded materials, it also make a great story behind the new products that were created out of old aircraft interior materials. Now Finnair is the latest airline to announce a series of upcycling initiatives.

Uniforms, seat covers, seat belts, curtains and life vests
In 2009, Finnair assigned Globe Hope the task of giving a new use to the fabric of Finnair’s discarded uniforms. Helsinki-based Globe Hope specializes in the design and production of clothing and accessories from recycled materials. The dark-blue fabric used in Finnair’s jackets and ties was converted into toilet bags and Globe Hope also turned Finnair seat belts into toilet bags for men. In early 2010, Finnair also commisioned sustainable design firm EDEL City with the design of a stylish bag set from used aircraft curtains and seatbelts. In June 2010, EDEL City’s launched the first item of its so-called ‘F-air-line’ collection, a luxurious shopping bag which retails for EUR59. EDEL City says it is planning more upcycled ‘F-air-line’ items.

Furthermore, as the vivid yellow material of old life vests also lend themselves perfectly to be re-used as high-visibility safety clothing for school children, Finnair donated 200 yellow safety vests to the first graders of two local schools.

Video monitors
In another upcycling initiative, parts of Finnair’s recently retired MD-11 aircraft have been refashioned by Finnish design agency Seos Design into energy efficient LED lamps. Says Pekka Kumpula, creative director at Seos Design, “I went to have a look around Finnair’s Technical Services facilities and became especially interested in the potential of the support elements for video monitors, from which the ‘First Class / Eco Lighting’ LED lamps evolved.”
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Finnair lends iPads to passengers for free, apps include customer feedback tool

We reported earlier how airlines are increasingly making Apple’s popular iPad device available to passengers in their lounges (KLM, Cathay Pacific, ANA) or rent them out in the air (Jetstar, airBaltic, Malaysian Airlines). Finnair is the latest airline to offer passengers the free use of an iPad device. The airline has made five iPads available for passengers in its Helsinki ‘Via Lounge’ in a one-month pilot this November. Later this month Finnair will also distribute the iPads for free in economy and business class on select flights to and from Hong Kong. The iPads have been loaded with dozens of applications and entertaining content, such as newspapers and magazines, films, TV series and games. 

Custom-made Finnair feedback app
In an innovative move, Finnair’s iPad devices also contain a bespoke customer research  application developed by the airline, which invites passengers to “explore a few ideas and give us your opinion.” Says Finnair’s Vice President Global Marketing Jarkko Konttinen, “We are constantly seeking new, innovative means for product development.” The Finnair survey app holds a dozen new product and service ideas considered by the airline, for example on inflight catering and onboard shopping. Passengers can rate their interest on a 1 to 5 scale on ideas such as the option to order food and drinks from the IFE system (a feature already offered by Virgin America, ANA and Air New Zealand), whether they want to learn more about the background of wines served onboard, or their preferred selection of items available for sale inflight (for example exclusive local Finnish souvenirs).

On a similar note, from June to August 2010, KLM used three iPads for a survey among passengers on its regional subsidiary KLM Cityhopper to test the feasibility of the device for passenger research. The iPads were dedicated for the survey with no entertaining content offered. Read full article

Airlines go local and seasonal with their food offerings

Reflecting a growing food trend among hotels and restaurants, airlines are increasingly offering local and seasonal food onboard as they emphasize their national cuisine. This development also ties in with a number of other trends such as authenticity, storytelling, and the rediscovery of national and regional identities in a globalized world. Furthermore, offering local and seasonal produce supports local businesses and in some cases also results in a reduced carbon footprint. Some recent examples from around the world. 

SWISS ‘Taste of Switzerland
As part of its ongoing ‘Taste of Switzerland’ program, started in 2002, SWISS offers premium passsengers on medium and long-haul flights signature dishes from its cantons (regions). Every three months a new Swiss canton is selected (currently Vaud), and local produce is used as much as possible. Thanks to a recent collaboration with the country’s ‘Kaseunion’, Appenzell, Gruyere and Emmental cheeses are also served on board. 

Lufthansa ‘Discover Flavour’
On a similar note, Lufthansa’s ‘Discover Flavour’ catering concept, offers regional German specialities on board. The current program, ‘Discover Slow Food’, held in cooperation with the Slow Food organization, serves Business Class passengers on select long European flights four regional specialities, such as the ‘Diepholzer Moorschnucke’ (a rare breed of sheep from Lower Saxony) and the ‘Bamberger Hörnla’ (an old variety of potato grown near Bamberg). On domestic routes, Lufthansa currently serves marinated North Sea crabs on scrambled egg, and Hamburg vinegar-marinated meat as part of a ‘Discover Hamburg’ theme. Read full article

Finnair launches public search for mystery flyers

Finnair’s goal under its new Vision 2020 plan, announced in May 2010, is to be recognized as the number-one airline in the Nordic countries and to be among the three largest carriers in terms of transit traffic between Asia and Europe. In terms of the travel experience, Finnair says it wants to be the airline of choice of the quality- and environmentally-conscious passenger, and that it is looking to answer customer needs and expectations with “open-minded and innovative solutions”. 

In this spirit, Finnair has just launched a public search for four ‘Quality Hunters’, whose task will be to travel to cities in Europe, Asia and the US throughout October and November, assessing flights, airports and destinations. As independent advisors to Finnair, they are expected to communicate their impartial views and recommendations to the company on a regular basis throughout the two-month period.

In addition, the Quality Hunters will share their ‘mystery flyer’ experiences with the public through frequent updates on their personal blog on the Rethink Quality website. At the end of the two months, followers can vote for the Top Quality Hunter. In return, those who vote or comment on the blogs have the chance to win intercontinental flights for two between Europe and Asia with Finnair. Aspiring Quality Hunters can submit their applications online until 26 September 2010 and must be available for travel from 4 October on. 
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Monocle creates the perfect airline: Nippon Nordic Air

One of airlinetrends’s favourite magazines, Monocle has created their blueprint dream airline: Nippon Nordic Air (NNA). The global affairs magazine is well-qualified to determine what the perfect airline should look like. Monocle’s editor-in-chief, globetrotting style-meister Tyler Brûlé, has worked with BA, SWISS, and Porter Airlines, and in his weekly Financial Times ‘Fast Lane’ column points out the good and bad in airline services. 

Here’s what, in Monocle’s words, the Nippon Nordic Air experience would be like: “Nippon Nordic Air is a new type of airline designed to fill a void left by legacy carriers that have run out of ideas and money and upstart mega-carriers that lack social currency and good taste. The inflight experience will be a dignified one. With three classes of services, the emphasis is on good quality throughout and a healthy flying experience. Nippon Nordic combines the flying skills of Canada’s best pilots, the design ingenuity of Sweden and Japan’s best designers and engineers and the gracious service of a Kyoto ryokan.” Read full article

Finnair opens new lounge and spa at its ‘Via Helsinki’ hub and goes full-flat in business

Since the start of this decade, Finnair has been promoting its Helsinki hub as the ideal geographic hub to connect Europe and Asia, and cities like New York and New Delhi. This strategy has proved to be successful: In eight years, the number of passengers traveling back and forth between Europe and Asia via Helsinki has grown from 300,000 to over 1,3 million in 2009 (despite Finnair’s Asian traffic declining nearly ten percent this year). Part of their strategy to accommodate transfering Asian passengers, Finnair and Helsinki Airport were one of the first to introduce Mandarin-speaking staff at terminals to greet passengers arriving from China, and to display signs in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Also, passengers arriving from Asian destinations with under an hour to change flights are given boarding cards with a short connection notification which allow them to fast track security. 

To further position itself as the gateway between Europe and Asia, Finnair and Helsinki Airport have invested EUR143/USD207 million in a new terminal extension which opened earlier this month. The new Terminal 2 annex sports Finnair’s new 1,000 sqm lounge, and a 600 sqm spa, both with runway views. The Via Lounge has room for around 250 customers and its services include six private shower rooms, seating areas for working or relaxing, free Wi-Fi, three iMac PCs, and ‘Powerkiss’ workdesks (which use wireless technology to recharge mobile phone). The Via Spa is located just behind the lounge and offers 4 different saunas (including a traditional Finnish one). Designed with transit passengers in mind, the spa also has a cold water paddling pool and a mineral water pool to alleviate travel fatigue and the effects of jetlag. The rest area has loungers facing the runway, with the lower parts of the windows blacked out so people can’t see in.
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