SAS’ new A330 Business Class features Hästens bedding and a snack bar


By Raymond Kollau,

As cabin interior upgrade cycles are becoming shorter, airlines around the world are working hard to keep up with this ‘arms race’ by introducing bigger and better premium seats, as well as smarter and lighter designs in Economy.

At the same time airlines are coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ service elements of the inflight experience. For example, as full-flat beds have now become the industry standard in Business Class, airlines are looking for ways to differentiate the premium passenger experience by ‘dreaming up’ service touches that improve the chance passengers can enjoy a good night of sleep onboard.

Examples include Virgin Atlantic’s Snooze Zone and Delta’s partnership with Westin Hotels. Qantas, meanwhile, has introduced what it calls ‘Business Suites’ on its A330s that let passengers recline from the moment they board until touchdown at their destination.

SAS A330 Business Class
Following years of restructuring in order to create a competitive cost platform, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has recently introduced its first refurbished A330 aircraft. Similar to Aer Lingus’ new A330 Business Class – which offers passengers a well thought-out combination of product and service innovations – SAS’ new premium cabin shows how carriers with a relatively limited long-haul network can respond to the passenger experience standards set by airlines from the Gulf and Asia.

SAS’ new business class cabin features Thomson’s Vantage XL seats – which have currently only been installed by one other airline, Qantas. Designed by UK-based FactoryDesign, the seats are a modern interpretation of Scandinavian design, including metallic edging, gold accents and electric blue in-seat lighting.

As Jonny Clark from TheDesignair puts it nicely: “With touch points of wooden veneer, dark charcoal fabrics with topstitching and electric blue details, the designers have gone for a mix of business elegance with contemporary cool.” Read full article

SAS to open ‘Café Lounges’ at gate areas at Scandinavian airports

SAS_Cafe Lounge_680x372

By Raymond Kollau,

While passengers travelling in Business and First and upper-tier members of frequent flyer programs can wait for their flight in the comfort of the airline lounge, Business Class passengers still have to wait with the ‘hoi polloi’ at the gate before boarding the aircraft via a fast lane (ideally). First Class passengers often have a transfer to the aircraft from the lounge in a private car, or are escorted onboard directly.

SAS ‘Café Lounge’
To improve waiting time at the gate for premium passengers, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has announced it will open a new Café Lounge concept at Trondheim and Tromsø regional airports in Norway this spring.

The SAS Café Lounges at the gate will complement existing SAS lounges at these airport and can be used by the airline’s ‘Plus Class’ passengers, Business Class passengers travelling with Star Alliance airlines and Gold and Diamond members of SAS’ EuroBonus loyalty program.

SAS says it aims to provide passengers with a dedicated, relaxing and working environment close to the departure gate and offer WiFi internet access, tea, coffee and pastries. They are designed so that business travellers can work right up until boarding the aircraft.

Says Eivind Roald, EVP Commercial at SAS, “Our most frequent flyers appreciate time saving services such as Fast Track, which is why we are now offering an additional service designed especially for them. Fast flows are important on our domestic market and customers can work effectively in our Café Lounges located close to the gate.”

The SAS Cafe Lounge at Trondheim airport is scheduled to open in April and the facility at Tromso airport in May. Later this year, the airline will open further SAS Cafe Lounges at other Scandinavian airports.
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AirBaltic and SAS surprise passengers travelling during Easter

Airlines are increasingly organizing onboard events for passengers flying on festive days such as Christmas Day, Valentines Day or national holidays. These kind of experiental initiatives resonate with passengers as they give an extra dimension to their flight, and if the airline really makes an effort, the news will spread fast via social media, providing the airline with some relevant exposure.

Spanair, Qantas, Delta
For example, (now defunct) in the week before Christmas, Spanair surprised children flying on the Barcelona – La Coruña route with Christmas presents at 10,700 meters altitude. A Spanair flight attendant announced that Santa Claus himself just flew by and left some presents. Each kid’s name was then called and a personal remark (submitted by parents earlier) was made how he or she had behaved during the year before receiving a present (video here). In Australia, Qantas surprised 500 passengers travelling on Christmas Day with free gifts in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. As passengers were waiting for their luggage to arrive, the airline placed gifts tagged with the passenger’s name on the luggage carousel (video here).

On a similar note, on Valentine’s Day, Delta Air Lines worked with Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio, USA to deliver individually-labeled red gift bags with boxes of chocolate for every passenger on flight DL5256 via the baggage claim belt (video here). Southwest, meanwhile, offers passengers a free drink of their choice on special ocassions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, as well as the airline’s ‘birthday’ on June 18.

The latest airline to engage passengers with an ‘act of kindness’ is Latvian-based airBaltic, which surprised passengers travelling on Easter Sunday (April 8th 2012) by hiding Easter eggs containing gifts onboard its flights. Up to five flat paper eggs were hidden inside each aircraft, to be exchanged for prizes for passengers who found them. All in all 450 prizes, containing gifts such as an airBalticBag, airBaltic Shoe, romantic weekend vouchers at hotels in Riga, Scandinavia, Europe and Russia, where hidden inside seat pockets, inflight magazines, overhead bins, behind folded tray tables, or underneath seats. Each passenger was also given chocolate eggs by airBaltic staff dressed as Easter bunnies as they entered the gate to the aircraft.

Another Nordic airline, Scandinavian Airlines, surprised passengers with candy-filled Easter eggs at the gate, onboard the planes and on the baggage belt during the Easter holiday season. Eight hundred large Easter eggs were handed out to passengers and the airline also attached 2,500 labels with an Easter greeting to baggage arriving on the luggage belt (images and video).

The Easter surprise was sponsored by SAS’ IT supplier Snowfall in order to demonstrate the importance of a good ground handling service as part of the travel experience, as well as to increase the involvement and job satisfaction of SAS employees.
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SAS promotes free coffee and tea on short-haul flights with design contest

Scandinavian Airlines is one of the few ‘full-service’ airlines in Europe that let passengers in Economy on European flights pay seperately for their drinks and meals. Brussels Airlines and Iberia are among European airlines with a similar catering service on short-haul flights, while no doubt other European full-service carriers are contemplating this concept for their loss-making short-haul operations.

However, as complimentary coffee and tea in Economy is “one of the most asked for products by customers”, SAS at the end of January 2012 reintroduced the free amenity on all its domestic and European routes.

“Free tea and coffee, but the design is up to you”
To promote the introduction of the ‘upgraded’ service, SAS has just launched a public contest for the design of a new paper mug (current design here) to be used on its flights. In the airline’s words: “Now we serve free coffee and tea to everyone on our flights, both domestic and to the rest of the world. You can make sure that we do it in style. Take part in our competition to design the new coffee cups on SAS flights. If your design is the best one, not only will we serve coffee and tea in YOUR design to more than 70.000 passengers every day, but you will also get 100.000 EuroBonus Extra-points.”

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Participants in the contest have to use a template for their design and can submit it at before February 29th 2012. A SAS jury will then select the ten best designs, which will presented on the campaign website and on SAS’ social media channels in the first week of March. After the general public has casted their votes for their favourite design, the winning design will be announced 20 March 2012 and will be featured on the cups for 3 to 6 months.
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SAS lets Facebook fans decide its next summer route

The airline industry is busy experimenting with various social media initiatives that aim to use the power of the crowd. Airlines such as Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and British Airways have been tapping into the creativity of the general public to crowdsource products as diverse as designs of loyalty cards, eyemasks, and catering items such as cocktails, snacks and desserts. Meanwhile, Virgin America and Southwest, among others, have recently held ‘crowd clout’ campaigns with group buying site Groupon, offering consumers a deal when enough buyers would commit to the offer.

SAS ‘Sommerflyet’
Scandinavian Airlines’ (SAS) ‘Sommerflyet’ (‘summer plane’) campaign has tapped into ‘the wisdom of crowds’ to determine its next destination. The airline recently announced it would start 21 new leisure destinations for its summer 2012 schedule and reserved one of its aircraft next summer in order to let its more than 110,000 Facebook fans choose a 22nd destination.

Says Christian Kamhaug, Head of Social Media at SAS, “Every summer SAS reduces capacity on its domestic networks in Scandinavia. These are mainly business-driven, high-frequency routes, and as we all have 4 to 5 weeks of vacation here in Scandinavia, business traffic grinds to a halt in June and July. SAS used to park planes and send crews on vacation, but in the last couple of years costs have been cut by 23 percent and now it’s more profitable to operate these planes, even to low-yield  leisure routes.” […] “More than 110 000 people follow Scandinavian Airlines on Facebook and we think it is great to let our most dedicated fans influence our product in this way.”
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SAS launches ‘crewsourced’ city guide app and sells new magazine via newsstands

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has just launched two interesting media initiatives that are an indication where the publication business of airlines is heading to. The airline is making its ‘crewsourced’ city guide available as a free app for mobile phones and has launched a new lifestyle magazine that is also available for sale at newsstands and bookstores. 

SAS Crew Guide app
The annual ‘SAS Crew Guide’ is a pocket-sized guidebook consisting of recommendations by SAS cabin crew and pilots for accommodation, shopping, dining, sightseeing and nightlife in many of the cities served by SAS. In the airline’s words: “When you’re visiting a new city, surely the best person to show you around is someone who visits regularly. And who’d be better travelled than airline crew?” The 350-pages guide also contains 13 personal profiles by individual crew members and their favourite cities and is sold online for EUR15 (or 4,410 SAS Bonuspoints) as well as in select bookshops in Scandinavia, the UK and the U.S. 

With the launch of its first direct flight from Oslo to New York at the end of March 2011, SAS decides to also launch a mobile app of the New York section of its Crew Guide city guide. The SAS ‘Crew Guide app for New York’ is based on the SAS Crew Guide and features guides to five of New York’s most interesting areas as well as personal profiles of the crew that contributed to the New York edition. All the content (except the map) is downloaded to the phone once the application is installed, so users don’t have to worry about roaming charges when travelling. 

Besides the free app (available for the iPhone and Android-based phones), SAS will also launch the Crew Guide as a separate website and as a tab on its Facebook page
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Smart design innovations that make life onboard a bit more comfortable

The A380 has 50 percent more floor space than a B747, but on average only has a third more seats, which leaves the remaining 15 percent of space available for larger seats and customized areas. This has allowed airlines to launch flagship products that have generated lots of attention, such as First Class suites, onboard bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, bars and lounges. At the other end of the spectrum, and also as a sign of more modest cabin interiors in leaner times ahead, airlines have gotten creative in designing  small practical innovations that make life a bit more comfortable onboard. Some examples. 

Air New Zealand (ANZ) in January 2010 unveiled a radical new design of the cabins on its new B777-300s, including the ‘SkyCouch’ seat in Economy and the ‘Spaceseat’ in Premium Economy. The airline’s new design also extended to small comfort innovations, such as a ‘slip on pillow’ which goes over the winged headrest in Economy and eliminates the nuisance of pillows falling down and the need for inflatable neck cushions. In Premium Economy, ANZ’s new Spaceseat has no legrests, but instead features a bean bag style cushion, which the airline affectionately calls ‘Otto’ (short for ottoman). Otto can be moved around freely and enables passengers to create their own position for sleeping rather than being restrained by an uncomfortable, stiff leg rest. 

On a long flight, it is advisable that passengers stretch their legs from time to time. SAS took this advice a step further and installed a ‘stretch bar’ between the premium economy and business class cabins, so passengers can stretch their backs as well. Read full article

In-flight magazines increasingly find a niche audience

With audio and video on demand (AVOD) a standard in-flight entertainment feature today, and with travelers increasingly carrying their personal entertainment devices with them onboard, passengers may start to lose their interest in in-flight magazines amidst all the media overload. To make in-flight magazines more relevant to both passengers and advertisers, a number of airlines have begun to publish special-interest and route-dedicated in-flight magazines.

LAN Chile has just launched an in-flight magazine, called ‘in-Wines’ targetted at wine lovers traveling in business class. The first edition of in-Wines includes essays by Chilean master sommelier Héctor Vergara, serving and pairing tips, a wine-tasting class, wine reviews and Chilean and Argentinian wine routes. Connecting with passengers “on a lifestyle subject they are passionate about” is the driver behind LAN’s launch of the wine-dedicated in-flight magazine. Says LAN’s manager in-flight entertainment Violeta Garcia, “the magazine gives us the opportunity to reinforce our credibility as wine connoisseurs”. According to Spafax, which also publishes LAN’s regular ‘in magazine’, “in-Wines is already a huge hit with readers and advertisers – with over 20 major brands buying space in the first edition.”

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