Vueling launches world’s first ‘smart watch’ boarding pass

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By Raymond Kollau,

Many of today’s airline product and service innovations contain a major digital component, as the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, the possibility to be connected anywhere and anytime, and the self-service mindset of connected travellers, have created a huge momentum.

This year, wearable tech devices are joining the digital revolution, with Virgin Atlantic’s six-week trial – featuring Google Glass and Sony SmartWatch 2 devices – in its Heathrow lounge creating a huge wave of publicity for the airline.

Commenting on the launch of the Virgin Atlantic trial, Jim Peters, chief technology officer of SITA stated that “2014 is shaping up to be the breakout year for wearable technology.” In fact, market forecaster Canalys estimates that worldwide shipments of smart watches will exceed 5 million unit shipments in 2014 – growing tenfold compared with the 500,000+ units shipped in 2013 – as a new generation of devices from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and others are launched this year.

Vueling x Sony
Spanish hybrid LCC has joined Virgin Atlantic as an early adapter of wearable technology and together with Sony has launched the world’s first application that allows passengers to “carry both their boarding pass and flight information on their wrist,” as both companies put it.

Conceived for Sony’s SmartWatch 2 intelligent watch, the Android-based app – due to launch on Google Play from the end of the month – allows passengers to display a 2D boarding card barcode on the watch’s display, as well as displaying details of upcoming flights – similar to the functionality offered in many airlines’ smartphone apps. Read full article

New hotel that mirrors plane and airport interior to be launched by Vueling

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By Louise Driscoll, Terminal U

These days you can find a themed hotel to suit any interest – from stylist fashion hotels to Vegas’s mega-resorts that pay homage to world cities.

We’ve seen plane-themed hotels before, but now a budget airline plans to take the idea further by opening hotels based around the flight experience.

Spanish airline Vueling is working with hotel chain Hoteles Catalonia (HC) to open its first themed hotel in downtown Barcelona next year.

But instead of showcasing a few plane models in the lobby for novelty value, the hotel will make guests feel that they’ve just boarded a Vueling flight. Artist impressions of the hotel show a reception area that will recreate an airport check-in counter and a bar-restaurant inside a mock aircraft cabin.

The themed experience doesn’t stop there. A breakfast area will be made to look like it’s inside an airport terminal, with overhead information screens.

Vueling’s yellow and grey brand colours will also play a big part in branding the experience, from the seat back covers in the restaurant area to the throws on the guest beds. The airline even plans to name each room after the destinations it serves.

But Vueling will leave its partner, Hoteles Catalonia (HC) to operate and manage the hotel chain, under the “Vueling by HC” brand. The first hotel, ‘Vueling BCN by HC’ is expected to open in March 2013. (BCN stands for Barcelona airport). More hotels openings are planned in destinations that Vueling serves, the hotel chain said.

Low-cost airline Vueling departs point-to-point model, starts transfer service at Barcelona hub

Departing the traditional low-cost carrier business model which emphasizes point-to-point routes instead of transfers at hubs, Vueling Airlines will start connecting passengers through its base at Barcelona El Prat Airport from July 5, 2010. Passengers will have to buy only one ticket when booking the flights, and Vueling will connect baggage at no additional charge. 

Vueling said that although the new hub model would  result in new costs such as luggage handling and transfer counters at the airport, the additional costs are in line with its low cost base ethos. Says Vueling CEO Alex Cruz, “There will be no changes to our scheduling. We remain fundamentally a point-to-point airline. As a ‘new-generation carrier’ we won’t stop implementing ‘traditional’ products/services as long as we don’t break our main premise that a short-haul operation cannot survive today without obsessing on having the lowest cost structure.”
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Iberia to set up new ‘lower-cost’ feeder airline to serve Madrid hub

Picture courtesy of Matt Hintsa 

The economic crisis and fierce competition from low-cost carriers and high-speed rail are forcing European network carriers to think about structural changes in their short-haul operations. One of the hardest hit airlines is Spanish flag carrier Iberia which has lost some of its most lucrative domestic routes to Spain’s expanding high-speed train network, while low-cost carriers (Ryanair, Easyjet) have hit its European services. In what Iberia calls nothing less than a ‘paradigm shift’, the airline has announced plans to replace its domestic and European operations with a new lower-cost feeder airline and focus the main Iberia operations on profitable long-haul sectors, mainly to Latin America. 

Iberia said previous measure taken, including cuts in staff and capacity and the grounding of aircraft, had proved insufficient and that the current situation is unsustainable, saying: “We have a structural problem in our domestic and European operations. Thus we are proposing a total different model, with markedly lower operating costs and no ‘legacy’ work practices, which will allow us to compete with other carriers and the high-speed train.” As part of its restructuring plan Iberia will also lay off all flight attendants above the age of 55, and wages are frozen for two years for all employees.
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