By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project
8 July 2012 | Following Singapore Airlines, Korean Air (June 2011) and China Southern (October 2011), this year two more Asian carriers will add the first Airbus A380 to their fleets, adding capacity, space and subsequently, innovative solutions for their passengers. Singapore Airlines, who took delivery of the aircraft in 2007, now operates a total of 17 superjumbos, which feature the airline’s latest iteration of fully flat Business Class seats as well as individual suites in First Class. Korean Air, meanwhile features an all-business class upper deck, Absolut Vodka branded bars and lounges and an in-flight duty-free shop.
Joining the list of superjumbo carriers this year are Malaysia Airlines (June) and THAI (September), who both are launching their new A380s amidst ambitious restructuring plans.
Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) A380s are configured in a spacious 494-seat layout and feature 8 First Class suites on the lower deck, 66 lie-flat Business Class seats on the upper deck (in a 2:2:2 configuration) and 420 economy seats split between the two floors. The new interiors have been designed by Priestmangoode.
First Class: widest seats in the sky
Indicative of the airline’s clever usage of space on board the A380 as well as its newly-grounded emphasis on luxury, Malaysia’s First Class suites are the widest of any airline’s, measuring 40 inches by 87 inches – 5 inches more than the next-widest, Singapore Airlines – and a 23 inch IFE screen. Additionally, Business Class passengers have the option to order meals through the airline’s ‘Chef On Call’ service – previously only offered to First Class passengers – which “allows travelers to preorder from a substantial menu of gourmet meals.”
Kids-Free Upper Deck
Perhaps the most differentiating factor between Malaysia Airlines’ A380 configuration and others is the airline’s bold decision to implement a ‘kids-free’ space throughout the entire upper deck of the aircraft. The controversial decision was made last year by the airline in order to cater to its anticipated heavy business traveller load on upper deck seats, where all business class seats are located, as well as to make the 70 economy class seats on the upper deck more attractive to the growing number of business travellers who fly in Economy. The implementation followed a similarly controversial ban on babies in MAS’ 747 First Class cabins.
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15 December 2011 | GDP growth, increased trade flows, the rise of a new middle class, and market liberalization are the main drivers behind the rapidly growing demand for air travel in Asia Pacific over the coming decade. Airbus, for example, projects that by 2030 the region will account for 33 percent of worldwide revenue passenger kilometres, up from 28 percent today.
The growth in the region’s aviation market is resulting in a large number of new airline launches. In the past year, full-service airlines such as ANA (Peach, AirAsia Japan) and JAL (Jetstar Japan) have announced their own low-cost initiatives in order to take advantage of market deregulation in Japan, while the region’s largest LCC’s – AirAsia, Jetstar and Lion Air – continued their expansion. Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, has launched a low-cost long-haul subsidiary, called Scoot.
At the other end of the spectrum, the region’s booming economies and the resulting growth in business travel have led ‘challenger airlines’ such as Skymark from Japan (low-density A380) and Hong Kong Airlines (Hong Kong – London ‘Club’ service) to announce all-premium long-haul flights, while in Southeast Asia, Qantas, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes have all revealed plans to set up their own regional premium carrier.
Qantas ‘Red Q’
Because of intense competition from Gulf-based and Asian carriers, Qantas’ international market share in Australia has fallen from 39 to 14 per cent over the past decade. The airline’s cost base for its international operations is said to be 20 per cent higher than that of its competitors. With its dominance at home eroded, Qantas in August 2011 announced a plan to establish an Asian hub, which is is expected to reduce its operating costs with tens of millions of dollars.
Says Qantas CEO Alan Joyce: “Our aim is to position ourselves in the Southeast Asian marketplace in advance of planned aviation liberalisation. In five years we plan to have a hub in the world’s fastest growing aviation region, feeding traffic into both our Qantas and Jetstar networks. This is how we will end the disadvantage of being an end-of-the-line carrier.”
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2 March 2011 | Malaysia Airlines in partnership with technology provider SITA have launched a new Facebook application, called MHbuddy, that allows users to search, book and pay for flights with the airline directly through Facebook. Malaysian is not the first to introduce such functionality (see “Delta first airline to sell tickets on Facebook”), but the airline has gone several steps further by integrating the booking process with the user’s Facebook profile, allowing members of the popular social network (over 800 million active users worldwide) for example to identify friends who might be on the same flight.
Says Amin Khan, Executive VP Commercial Strategy at Malaysia Airlines, “Our passengers are spending more and more time using social networks. […] With MHbuddy we are pleased to provide our fans an easy way to book a ticket without having to leave Facebook. In doing so, we have also opened another distribution channel for ticket sales.”
The Social Flight
During the search and booking phase, Facebook users can open an additional box to see if any of their Facebook friends are on the same flight or expected to be in the same destination during the selected period. Users can then send a message to notify friends of their trip plans.
For the outbound flight, passengers can also check-in from within the Facebook module, and obtain an email booking reference and boarding pass or, on domestic routes, an SMS mobile boarding card. And here it gets really inventive: At this stage users are also shown any seats which have been selected by friends who are travelling on the same flight, so they can choose to pick nearby seat. With this feature Malaysia Airlines and SITA take a first step towards Internet guru Jeff Jarvis’ concept of ‘The Social Flight’, an idea which is also behind social network Satisfly.
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14 October 2010 | Latvian national airline airBaltic is the first airline in Europe (and the second airline worldwide) to introduce the Apple iPad for inflight entertainment. The airline has teamed up with Bluebox Avionics to make the devices available to airBaltic passengers in the coming winter season, which starts in December 2010. The fee to rent an iPad inflight is expected to be a bit more (EUR9) than the amount airBaltic currently charges for its portable IFE device. The announcement by airBaltic is the latest in a series of introductions by airlines of the popular iPad device which was launched in January 2010. An overview of the initiatives sofar.
In June 2010, Qantas low-cost subsidiary Jetstar became the first airline in the world to offer the iPad for rent in a month-long trial on the Melbourne-Gold Coast and Melbourne-Cairns routes. Passengers could rent the device for AUD10 (USD8.50, EUR7.00) for the duration of the flight. The carrier at that time said it had bought several hundred iPad devices, with thirty units available on each test aircraft. Jetstar recently revealed the test was a success and that it is negotiating with Apple for ”thousands” of the devices for its fleet. The carrier is reportedly planning to begin roll-out of the device on 55 aircraft later this month and says that, based on the popularity of the trial, the number of iPads allocated to each aircraft has substantially increased.
According to Flight International, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) also plans to introduce iPads onboardwithin the next six months. The carrier plans to initially introduce iPads on its A330s, which only offer main-screen entertainment, and MAS is also considering bringing iPads on board some of its B737s. Despite being a full-service carrier, MAS has not ruled out charging passengers a fee or deposit to use the iPad. One option could be for passengers to book an iPad with their ticket purchase. Read full article »
14 July 2010 | Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has developed an ‘augmented reality’ app for the iPhone 3GS and 4. Augmented reality combines a camera, GPS and compass in a smartphone to enable the phone’s camera to recognize an object or place that a user is pointing to. The MAS MHdeals app lets the user see the cheapest MAS tickets when they point their handset in the direction of a destination the airline flies to. See this video for a demo of the app.
In Malaysian’s own words: “MHdeals is an iPhone augmented reality application that uses the GPS to determine your location and display the nearest airports from which you can access great deals. You simply hold the phone in front of you in the direction of surrounding airports and select one to view flight offers. Passengers can then book their flights through the MHmobile application.” “It’s a fun and interactive way to choose your destination, book a ticket and then fly,” says CTO Jim Peters of aviation technology specialist SITA, who developed the app. Read full article »