Star Alliance

Star Alliance develops common long-haul economy seat for its member airlines

Airline alliances so far have been about codeshares, trans-atlantic and trans-pacific joint ventures, reciprocal frequent flyer programs, shared lounges and in some cases shared airport terminals (a.k.a. ‘move under one roof’). Star Alliance, the largest of the three global airline alliances, is now adding a new dimension to alliance collaboration by launching a joint long-haul economy seat.

Star Alliance has selected aircraft interior manufacturer B/E Aerospace as the development partner for its common seat programme. Lufthansa, Austrian and Air China will be the initial member carriers to install the seats on their long-haul fleets, with first deliveries scheduled to begin in 2012.

The joint procurement initiative is designed to offer all Star Alliance members a standardised base for their long-haul economy seats. B/E Aerospace is developing a base and advance version of the seat and airlines will pick their own colors, cushions and IFE system. According to a Star Alliance spokesman, the goal of the joint procurement initiative “is not to come up with a standardised economy-class seat across Star Alliance, but rather to select a seat base that those carriers who wish to participate can use and adapt to their needs in terms of color, fabric, in-flight entertainment systems, etc.”

The vendor selection process was coordinated by Star Alliance and included initial market research along with joint customer trials conducted in both China and Germany earlier in 2011. Air China was among the Star members participating in the seat study and selected 200 of its Phoenix Miles members to test three seat concepts from various manufacturers at a seating simulation zone set up at Beijing Capital Airport in March 2011. According to Air China each participant spent 1.5 hours testing the seats, before completing questionnaires on aspects such as comfort, design and possible improvements.
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Next in passenger self-service: DIY lost luggage recovery

Self-service has been progressing rapidly in the airline industry in the past decade, providing passengers with more control, choice, and efficiency. Airlines such as KLM and Air Canada even let passengers print their own baggage tags, attach it to their baggage and place their bags on the conveyor belt at the drop-off area. Lufthansa lets passengers board independently. A scanner reads the bar code on the boarding pass or cellphone and flaps on the gates open (like in the subway) as each passenger is cleared by the airline computer. 

Next in line is self-service baggage recovery. Announced mid-2009 by SITA, two kiosks are now up and running at Copenhagen Airport in a test by Star Alliance to improve service to customers whose bags didn’t arrive with them. Now when bags are lost, the passenger has to spend considerable time filling out forms and making arrangements with the airline for the return of the missing cases. SAS and six other Star Alliance airlines (bmi, LOT, TAP, Blue1, Adria Airways, and Thai) are participating in the project. The kiosks will be tested for three months after which a decision will be made whether to expand the kiosk programme to other airports. In August 2009, ground services provider Swissport in partnership with SkyAssist introduced a similar ‘Lost & Found self-service kiosk’ at Geneva Airport. 
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