Qantas lets passengers in First Class try out Samsung Gear virtual reality headsets

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

The future is here and no, this is not an April Fools’ joke. Qantas has partnered with Samsung Electronics Australia to launch a futuristic trial entertainment service that uses Samsung virtual reality (VR) technology to give customers a spectacular three dimensional experience in a 360 degree style interactive format.

Qantas’ clunky yet “Apple generation” stylish headsets will completely envelop customers in an immersive virtual world. Currently the entertainment features the sights and panoramic vistas of Qantas’ destinations, new product and of course a selection of the latest inflight blockbuster movies.

3-month trial for First Class passengers
As part of the trial, a number of Samsung Gear VR headsets will be made available to customers in Sydney and Melbourne International First Lounges as well as a worlds first: in the First Class cabins on select A380 services.

The trial will run for three months to assess customer feedback on how this kind of VR offering might add to their overall travel experience on long-haul flights – we have doubts that customers on-board will fully enjoy the experience – as it hasn’t ever been trialled in an environment that has inherent motion before (see our reasoning below). That said, you can’t help but applaud the airline, to embrace new technology like this – at it is a catalyst for other airlines to follow.

Qantas Group Executive, Brand, Marketing & Corporate Affairs Olivia Wirth said the technology will open up a new world of lounge and inflight entertainment for customers, as well as give Qantas a powerful way to preview destinations and experiences. Read full article

Qantas new A330 Business Suite to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ recline

Qantas_A330_Business Suite_recline_b680x291Images courtesy Australian Business Traveller

By Raymond Kollau,

In the past years airlines around the world have been busy installing seats in Business Class that can be turned into fully flat beds, making ‘full flat’ the industry standard. In an effort to further differentiate their premium product, airlines are increasingly coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ service elements of the inflight experience. Examples include Virgin Atlantic’s Snooze Zone, Delta’s partnership with Westin and Aer Lingus’ new Business Class which offers passengers a well thought-out combination of product and service innovations.

Gate-to-gate recline
In an effort to provide frequent flyers in Business Class with the maximum amount of sleep, Qantas is introducing Business Class seats on its A330s that let passengers recline from the moment they board until touchdown at their destination. The innovation, for which Qantas is awaiting regulatory approval, could let passengers get more than seven hours of shuteye on an Australia to Southeast Asia trip.

As aircraft seats are traditionally locked upright during take-off and landing, when most accidents happen, the innovation would allow Qantas to offer the world’s first seats that let passengers recline in their seat from take-off through to landing.

Key to the break-through product’s safety is an over-the-shoulder belt — much like a car seatbelt — that connects with the usual around-the-waist belt to provide extra restraint during takeoff and landing.

The seats won’t be able to recline less than 25 degrees from the horizontal on international flights and 21 degrees domestically. That’s sufficient to allow the shoulder belt to work, withstanding the 16G forces that can be exerted in a survivable accident. The berths can be switched to fully-flat mode once the plane is in level flight. Read full article

Qantas trials location-based ‘social listening’ in its airport lounges

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By Raymond Kollau,

Airlines such as KLM and Delta are among the carriers that are the most advanced in monitoring social media such as Twitter and Facebook for passenger inquiries and feedback. KLM’s Social Media hub, for example, employs around 100 staff that respond to social media conversations within the hour, 24 hours a day, in ten different languages.

Location-based social listening
However, to allow airlines to pick up a conversation on social media about their brand, the messages have to feature the airline’s name or a strong reference to it.

Qantas is now trialling technology from Australian start-up Local Measure to help it monitor social media conversations by passengers sitting inside its airport lounges, regardless of whether the user mentions Qantas by name.

The airline already uses other social media monitoring tools such as’s Radian6 for word-based search but people don’t necessarily mention keywords like ‘Qantas’ when they share for example an photo taken inside the Qantas Club Lounge.

The Local Measure tool will pick up social media conversations in a specific location, but only if the consumer has chosen to share their location by turning on geo-location in Twitter or checking into a service such as Foursquare or Facebook Places.

Positive conversations
Qantas Head of Digital Communications, Jo Boundy, tells Australian business magazine Business Review Weekly that the airline’s the social media team, which sits within the marketing department, is tapping into the positive feedback for its content marketing strategy. “It’s insanely positive and that’s been a real contrast to what you see on our Facebook page, which is pretty toxic, it’s a complaint forum and the people there are not always our customers,” Boundy says.

“We can amplify [positive feedback] but it’s so much more powerful when it’s not us talking about ourselves but customers talking about their experience or even better when it’s celebrities because of their huge following.”
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Qantas commissions books that can be completed in flight time


By Springwise

In today’s world of non-stop information and endless social network notifications, it’s hard to find the time to concentrate on just one story, never mind finishing a full-length novel.

The Netherlands’ VertragingsApp has already encouraged train passengers to discover short story authors based on their delay time, and now a new project has created a range of fiction titles for customers of Australia’s Qantas airline, selected to correspond with flight times.

Titled ‘A Story For Every Journey’, the project is a collaboration with Sydney-based ad agency Droga5. The campaign used statistics from publishing house Hachette to discern that the average reader can finish around 200 to 300 words – or one page – each minute. Taking into account time set aside for meals and naps, customers should be able to read the books in exactly the time it takes to set off and land.

The range was selected while keeping in mind the airline’s Platinum Flyers demographic – mostly male customers – meaning they suitably span the thriller, crime and nonfiction genres. Penned by notable Australian authors and stylishly designed by UK-based agency Paul Belford, the airline is hoping to attract an upmarket audience by offering the novels on its extended flights. Video of the campaign here.

Given that airplanes are one of the few places where use of electronic devices is actually discouraged, the books could take off with those who fly regularly. Are there other ways to tailor literature to different reading environments to help consumers rediscover the novel?

Qantas turns catering trolleys into onboard iPad ‘sync & charge’ carts

Hot on the heels of the announcement that Qantas has started the rollout of its new Q-Streaming wireless inflight entertainment service comes an interesting look behind the scenes. Qantas’ Q-Streaming service will see every seat on Qantas’ B767 aircrafts get an iPad that provides passengers with access to more than 200 hours of content, streamed from an onboard server. Passengers who own an iPad, laptop or smartphone will also be able to view the same content through a separate application, but it is unclear when this feature will be introduced.

Qantas has also indicated that it is looking at ways to evolve the Panasonic-based technology platform further. According to the airline’s Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi, “This could include the addition of internet access, live television and the ability to order food, drinks and duty- free goods via the iPad.” More on the Qantas’ Q-Stream system in this report by Australian Business Traveller.

iPad galley carts
In order to keep all 256 iPads onboard the B767 fully charged for return flights, multiple flights during the day, as well as to simplifly logistics, Qantas has partnered with Australian IT equipment designer and manufacturer PC Locs that will see the company deliver a fleet of customised galley carts to support the airline’s new IFE service.

PC Locs will supply Qantas with iPad charging carts, which essentially are normal galley trolleys that have been re-kitted to store, transport, sync and charge up the devices onboard. The iPad carts will be deployed on the airline’s Boeing 767 fleet, which operates on routes across Australia and between Australia and Honolulu, Hawaii.
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Qantas updates Boeing 767 fleet with iPad-friendly seats

images: Australian Business Traveller

By Raymond Kollau,

Airlines around the world are responding to the explosion in passenger use of smartphones, notebooks, tablets and e-readers – plus the increasing expectation that these devices can be connected inflight – by incorporating power sockets and USB ports in aircraft seats (including Economy) and introducing onboard Wi-Fi. Furthermore, several carriers have also introduced wireless inflight entertainment (IFE) systems.

These new developments result in the emergence of an alternative eco-system to today’s traditional seatback-based  IFE systems, which sees tech-savvy passengers bring their own digital devices (or airlines providing tablets), and connect them to an onboard server to stream content from it.

Qantas ‘Q Streaming’
The lastest initiative in this field comes from Australian airline Qantas, which is the first airline in the world provide all passengers on its refurbished fleet of 16 Boeing 767s with free use of an iPad during the flight, which can be connected to a wireless IFE system. Following a trial earlier this year, Qantas’ so-called ‘Qstreaming’ service, which is based on Panasonic’s eXW system, gives passengers access to more than 200 hours of on-demand content. More on Qantas’ Q Stream system in this report from Australian Business Traveller.

iPad holder
Australian Business Traveller also reports that the new seats on Qantas’ refurbished 767s have been fitted with a special iPad holder built into the upholstery. Each of the Qantas-issued iPads, which all 254 passengers can find in the backseat pocket, comes with a flipcase which folds back and slides into a slot on the headrest, so passengers can continue to watch their  movie or TV show ‘hands-free’ during meals. Passengers who carry their own tablet should also be able to slot in their own devices.
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After wave of new low-cost carriers, booming Asia sees launch of premium business carriers

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.

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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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Qantas’ epiQure community connects food-loving frequent flyers

Despite the large number of travel-related social networks around, several airlines have launched social networks of their own in the past years. Think BA’s Metrotwin, Virgin Atlantic’s, Air France-KLM’s Bluenity and American Airlines’ Other airlines, such as KLM (Club China, Club Africa, Flying Blue Golf), Lufthansa (Miles & More MemberScout), BA (Face-to-Face, and Etihad (Golf Club, IndiaConnect) have launched business-oriented social networks for members of their frequent flyer programs.

The fortunes of these communities have been mixed, as shown by a lack of conversations between members and outdated feature content. The basic idea f an airline-facilitated online community makes sense though, as the airline business is essentially about connecting people. The latest kid on the block is Qantas, which in June 2011 launched a community build around food and wine.

Qantas epiQure
Aiming to tap into its 7.8 million members-base, Qantas Frequent Flyer, the loyalty program of Qantas, has launched EpiQure as a more in-depth feature of its existing program. Combining the online community with real-life events, the wine and food community gives members access to “on-line forums to gain knowledge from industry experts, wine selected by the Qantas Wine Panel, personalised winery tours in every Australian wine region and invitation to dinners with globally renowned chefs.” Among the Australian chefs to be part of the community is Qantas in-flight consultant and celebrity chef, Neil Perry, who designed the airline’s international in-flight menu.
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Qantas unveils iPhone app for frequent flyers, adds augmented reality

As the number of airlines that have rolled out applications (apps) for mobile devices such as the iPhone grows (around 30 at last count), the types of apps are becoming more specific. Qantas has just released a dedicated app for the seven million members of its ‘Frequent Flyer’ loyalty program. Standard elements of the carrier’s new iPhone app include access to current point balance and personal profile, features which are also offered by several ‘general’ apps of other airlines. 

Earn and burn
The main focus of the Qantas Frequent Flyer app, however, is to show members the wide range of earn and burn options of the loyalty program. In the past years, Qantas has been turning its frequent flyer program into one with a broader appeal, and in 2009 teamed up with Australia’s largest retailer Woolworths to combine their loyalty programs. Qantas’ objective is to turn Frequent Flyer into Australia’s dominant loyalty program, much like Aeroplan in Canada. Aeroplan, which manages Air Canada’s loyalty program, was spun off from the airline via an IPO in 2005, and today Aeroplan’s market value is more than three times that of Air Canada.

Points goals
The Qantas Frequent Flyer app has a number of interesting features. Users can ‘flip’ easily – ‘iTunes style’ – through award flights (including an estimate of the surcharges, fees and taxes payable) and through a large catalogue of non-flight awards, to find out how many points they need. Based on their preferred flights or goods, members can set themselves points goals, track progress, and get notified once their goal has been achieved. It is also possible to let others know via Facebook and Twitter when a points goal has been reached. Read full article

Low-cost carrier Virgin Blue transforms itself into a full-service airline, with lower costs

In a bid to become a more potent, direct competitor to Qantas, Australia’s Virgin Blue is planning to transform from a cheap and cheerful low-cost carrier to a serious business and leisure airline that has low costs. With the remake Virgin Blue wants to double its share of Australia’s domestic corporate travel market from 10 percent, cut its reliance on leisure travel in the process and limit investments in its network by creating international alliances. The carrier is targeting business flyers as competition from low-cost airlines Jetstar (part of Qantas) and Tiger (50% owned by Singapore Airlines) is driving down leisure fares. The catalyst for the changes at Virgin Blue has been the appointment in May 2010 of John Borghetti, formerly Qantas’ executive general manager.

Consolidating brands
The Virgin Blue Group has a number of substantial issues to resolve. The first one is consolidating its four disparate brands: Domestic carrier Virgin Blue, short-haul international airlines Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue and long-haul carrier V Australia. Virgin just hired Hans Hulsbosch, who designed the Qantas flying Kangaroo logo, as creative director for the airline. While it is unlikely the Virgin Blue brand will be abandoned, it is possible a number of the sub-brands such as V-Australia and Polynesian Blue will be scrapped. An agreement between Virgin Atlantic and its 49% stakeholder Singapore Airlines however prevents the Virgin name from being used outside Australia. 

Business travelers
The second challenge is to position Virgin Blue for a head-to-head battle with Qantas for a significant stake in the Australian business passenger market. As of May 2011, Virgin Blue will introduce A330s on domestic trans-continental trunk routes such as Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. The A330s will have a separate business class cabin (details have yet to be announced), which may also bring a bit of V Australia’s ‘boutique experience’ to Virgin Blue. To compete with Qantas’ Business class cabin, Virgin Blue launched Premium Economy seating in 2007. It was not successful, however, because there was no clear distinction with the rest of the cabin, and it left Virgin Blue somewhat stuck in the middle. Read full article

Qantas unveils ‘next generation’ check-in for its frequent flyers

Qantas has unveiled what it calls a ‘next generation’ check-in experience. The new ground service provides premium Qantas passengers on domestic flights with a smart card-based check-in, as well as electronic bags tags that keeps track of their luggage. The new check-in is designed by renowned designer Marc Newson who earlier created Qantas’ A380 cabin and its first class lounges

The ‘next generation’ check-in will be trialled from August 1st in Perth among 100,000 Qantas premium Frequent Flyer members, who will receive a new smart chip-embedded Qantas Frequent Flyer card, called the ‘Q Card’. Passengers arriving at the airport who have not already checked in either online or on their mobile, can check in simply by tapping their Q card against a scanning point. A visual alert confirms a successful check-in, and the frequent flyer card is turned into an electronic boarding card, which the passenger can use to self-board at the gate. Travelers also receive a confirmation SMS with details such as seat number, departure gate and boarding time. Read full article

Qantas launches onboard recycling scheme

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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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Qantas and Cathay Pacific latest carriers to adapt premium cabins to ‘the new normal’

The economic downturn and the resulting sharp decline in premium business travel is forcing network carriers to re-think the seating configurations in their long-haul aircraft. As recovery seems not to be coming soon, airlines one by one are taking steps to rightsize their premium seating. For example airlines with a relatively large exposure to business travel, such as Lufthansa, BA,  and Qatar Airways, have already reduced their premium seat capacity, while Air France says it is accelerating the roll-out of its new premium economy class to appeal to cost-conscious business travelers.

Qantas is the latest airline to announce a reconfiguration of its long-haul fleet, saying it will replace a number of first and business class seats due to the drop in premium demand. About 15% percent of premium seats are expected to be cut. According to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce “it is very clear the productivity is not right – we have too many premium class seats on many aircraft.” Joyce admits the reconfiguration of aircrafts may cost the company “a lot of money”, but says the plan will provide “a better revenue-generating alternative.” Earlier this year, Qantas already suspended its First Class cabin on several routes, upgrading  some business class passengers to First Class instead (with business class catering) at no extra cost. Read full article

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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