AIRPORT / GROUND

Emirates introduces wireless charging of electronic devices in its lounges

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Catering to frequent travellers who are suffering from so-called ‘battery anxiety’, Emirates has installed 30 wireless ‘inductive charging’ trays in its First Class and Business Class lounges in Concourses A, B and C at Dubai International Airport. The trays allow customers to wirelessly charge up their smartphones simply by placing them on top of the tray.

The carrier said it placed the trays — which use the Qi wireless charging standard and are compatible with Android, Blackberry and, with a cable, iPhone devices — in “highly visible” locations. Each tray can charge two devices simultaneously.

Commenting on the new services, Mohammed Mattar, Emirates’ divisional SVP of airport services, said: “Mobile devices are an intrinsic part of our lives, and at Emirates we see free wifi and wireless charging on the go, as becoming the norm in the future travel experience.

IKEA, Starbucks
In the past few years, wireless charging of personal devices has becoming more mainstream. For example, battery brand Duracel now offers a ‘MyGrid’ charging pad (In Duracell’s words: ‘drop & go charging’) for around USD 40, while IKEA has launched a furniture range that has wireless charging technology integrated into the surface.

Starbucks is also rolling out wireless charging pads at its coffeehouses in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

Delta lounge, Toronto Pearson Airport, SSP
Emirates introduction of the wireless charging pads follows several airlines and airports that have also jumped on this novel technology.

For example, Delta has installed Duracell’s wireless Powermats in the seating areas of its domestic SkyClub lounges. The wireless charging pads are designed for lower power charging devices such as cell phones, smart phones and e-readers. Adapters for a variety of different devices are available from Delta staff in the lounge. Read full article

Delta’s ‘Early Valet’ service preloads passengers’ hand- luggage to speed up boarding

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

The process of boarding an aircraft is inefficient, as passengers entering the aircraft have to wait for other passengers who are busy placing their luggage in the overhead bins. They then quickly having to cram their own luggage into bins that are increasingly full, as many passengers try to take as much carry-on baggage with them into the cabin in order to avoid paying checked luggage fees.

In an effort to take some of the stress out of the boarding process and reduce expensive delays before take-off, many airlines have been looking for alternative procedures to optimize boarding, especially since a faster boarding process also speeds up aircraft turnaround times, reducing the time that aircraft needs to spend on the ground.

Pre-loading carry-on bags
Now Delta Air Lines is trying something new: This summer travel season, the airline plans to preload carry-on bags into the overhead bins on some flights.

The new system is called ‘Early Valet’ and will offer passengers on busy US routes the chance to have a steward take their luggage from them at the gate and place it in the compartment above their assigned seat.

Agents will ask customers seated in the gate area if they’d like to participate, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told NBC. “Their bag will be specially tagged, similar to what you’d see at a hotel for room delivery,” said Durrant, “and then taken down onto the aircraft before boarding and placed above a customer’s seat based on their seat assignment.” Read full article

Delta lets passengers on domestic routes track checked bags in real-time and guarantees a 20-minute delivery

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Back in 1973, Domino’s Pizza introduced a guarantee that customers would receive their pizzas within 30 minutes of placing an order or they would receive the pizzas free. Over the years, Domino’s reduced this service guarantee to the slogan “You Got 30 Minutes,” alluding to the earlier pledge but stopping short of promising delivery in half an hour. Instead, the company introduced the Domino’s Pizza Tracker, an app and Web-based widget that lets customers check on the pizza they have ordered at every stage, providing real-time information that relieves anxiety.

Delta ‘Track My Bags’
Taking a cue from the pizza delivery business, Delta in 2011 became the first airline to make the baggage process more transparent for passengers by launching its ‘Track Checked Bags’ service.

Since bag tags are scanned during each part of the journey by airlines, Delta’s service lets passengers track their baggage in real-time as it makes its way through the Delta system, providing them with some peace of mind when they learn their luggage has been loaded onto their flight.

Available for domestic flights, Delta passengers can go online to track their checked baggage with the bag tag number they received at the time of baggage check-in. Passengers can use the ‘Track My Bag’ functionality on the Delta mobile app to scan their baggage tag with their smartphone camera.

And, as Delta has equipped its entire domestic fleet with GoGo’s in-flight Internet, passengers can even check up in the air whether their bag has made it on their flight using the free access to delta.com and the mobile app.

Surprisingly, Delta’s ‘Track My Bags’ service hasn’t been introduced by any other airline so far, who are clearly less willing to share this kind of data with passengers. The fast developments in digital luggage tags (a.k.a. ‘The Connected Bag’) will no doubt change this status quo though. Read full article

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Charity organizations get creative in raising donations from travellers at the airport

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By Malgorzata Lach, smartaer.com

Obeying restrictions and rules put upon passengers by safety regulators and airlines is unavoidable in air travel. The nature of regulations can also vary, making it harder for the travelling public to get their travels organized. Furthermore, some of the limitations come up unexpectedly for inexperienced travellers and require immediate reaction.

In response, a few forward-looking airports in Northern Europe decided to turn things around and change those unanticipated situations into positive outcomes.

Overweight Baggage Dropp Point (Rygge Airport, Norway)
One rule that certainly affects the majority of the travelling public is the baggage weight limit. When dealing with an overweight bag issue, some passengers decide to stick to their plans and pay the additional charges in order to check in what they have packed, while others go through their suitcases and remove the stuff they need the least. In the worst case they will have to dump some of their belongings in a waste bin at the airport.

To ease the pain of leaving ones personal possessions behind, Fretex – a Norwegian chain of second hand stores that is run by the Salvation Army – came up with a creative solution. The charity organization partnered with Moss Rygge Airport, which is located 60 kilometres from Oslo, Norway, to install an ‘Overweight Baggage Drop Point’.

Consisting of a weighing scale and an used clothing container, the dedicated area allows travellers drop off their clothes to avoid extra charges and at the same time do something good by donating them to those in need. Video of how the charity service works here. Read full article

Air France lets passengers waiting at the gate play a digital game for a chance to win an upgrade to Business

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This case appears in the February 2015 edition of the Airline Marketing Benchmark, a monthly report by airlinetrends.com and Simpliflying that identifies the latest innovative marketing capaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Learn more »

To raise awareness in the Asia Pacific region of the new cabins on its B777s, Air France has developed a mobile game called Cloud Slicer, which allows travellers to compete for an instant upgrade on their flights.

This game was first launched at Singapore Changi and Osaka Kansai airport in late 2014 when passengers were handed tablets and encouraged to play Cloud Slicer, where they had to swipe the screen to cut up clouds and compete for high scores.

More than 400 passengers in the boarding gates participated in the 15-minute game. Scores were displayed in real-time on three larger screens located at the boarding gates. 15 lucky top scorers in Singapore and six in Osaka were instantly upgraded to Business Class on their flight and received their new boarding passed from the pilot himself. Video of the event here.

From January 19 2015, the competition has been extended to a regional level. All Air France passengers flying from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia or Japan can download the game (iOS or Android) and compete against each other. The best scorers of the month in each country will have the chance to be upgraded on their next flight to Paris.

Three top scorers were picked on January 31st and another three will be selected on February 27th to win free upgrades on their upcoming flights. The contest is only open to ticket holders who will travel between February 15 and December 31, 2015 and is based on seat availability on the travel date.

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

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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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Air New Zealand lets lounge guests order their favourite coffee via their smartphone

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Ordering food and beverages via tablet devices is rapidly becoming the new normal at casual dining restaurants across the USA (e.g, chains such as Applebees and Chili’s), while airport restaurateur OTG has installed thousands of iPads at half a dozen U.S. airports.

Furthermore, forward-looking airlines such as Virgin America, Air New Zealand and Norwegian allow passengers to order meals, snacks and drinks via the IFE system. Allowing passengers to order via their own smartphone will be a logical next step.

And, following the success of its mobile payment app, Starbucks last October introduced its first order-ahead mobile application in Portland, Oregon, in a bid to speed up service and boost sales. The first stores in Portland allow iPhone users to order using the Starbucks app before they arrive. Customers typically will have to wait about five minutes for their drinks and food to be ready after placing an order through the app.

Air New Zealand lounges
Tapping into today’s ‘coffee culture’ Air New Zealand has been featuring barista’s who make freshly brewed coffee to passenger’s preferences in its ‘Koru’ lounges for some time. Lounge guest could order their favourite coffee by ticking a few boxes on a piece of paper, add their name and hand it over.

In a clever move, flyers now can order barista-made coffee via ANZ’s tablet or smartphone app the minute they walk into one of the airline’s Koru Clubs around New Zealand, including its international lounge at Auckland Airport. Read full article

Turkish Airlines asks passengers for instant feedback at check-in counter

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Social media has provide passengers a powerful platform to voice their opinion on their travel experience. In a response, the airline industry is among the most pro-active sectors that monitor the online conversation.

Furthermore, instead of just waiting for passengers to share their experiences (both good and bad) online, several airlines have also started to encourage passengers to provide their feedback about the service they encounter in real-time.

KLM, Singapore Changi
For example, KLM has launched a mobile app that allows the airline’s passengers to give real-time feedback on how they perceived their experience at the airport. After downloading the KLM Feedback app, passengers first choose the airport they are currently at and then choose the area (check-in, lounge, boarding, arrival) and sub-area they want to rate. The rating consists of simply tapping a ‘thumps up’ or ‘thumbs down’ button, but passengers can also specify their rating with a comment.

Singapore’s Changi Airport has installed an instant feedback system at selected check-in desks, immigration counters, retail stores, dining outlets and washrooms. Passengers can rate frontline service staff or the level of cleanliness on a five-point scale using interactive touchscreens. They can also indicate what they like or dislike.

Turkish Airlines
Another recent example comes from Turkish Airlines, which last month implemented a customer satisfaction measurement system at its İstanbul hub in order to measure passenger perception of the check-in process at staffed desks in real-time.

The airline has placed survey devices – red and black-cased models to distinguish respectively Economy and Business Class service areas– on its check-in counters.

How it works
When the airport agent starts the check-in process, the survey device is activated and greets passengers by their surname. The welcome screen also shows the name of the serving agent and asks passengers to rate the service. Passengers can start the survey themselves by touching the sceen or alternatively a rating screen appears automatically when the check-in process is finished. Read full article

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Emirates and Cebu Pacific latest airlines to equip airport agents with digital devices

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

At the recent Future Travel Experience event in Las Vegas, Eash Sundaram, CIO at JetBlue Airways, rightfully noted that the traditional check-in procedure is very much a “1960s process,” and check-in will become an automated activity. JetBlue in July of this year introduced automatic check-in.

In the meantime, however, FTE reports that “the industry has failed to embrace auto check-in en masse, even though it is an important step in the ultimate process change of fully automating and even removing check-in as a distinct element of the travel experience.”

Roaming agents
Nevertheless, as many passengers today feel no need to use the traditional full check-in process with staffed airport desks, opting for self-service – either online or via airport kiosks – instead, there will be fewer staffed desks. Instead, for passengers who need assistance there will be roaming airline agents equipped with tablets to assist passengers.

Currently, a limited number of airlines – including American Airlines (YADA), United, Iberia (IBHelp), Air France, easyJet (Halo) and IndiGo – have deployed ‘mobile agents’ to help passengers check in or rebook.

Emirates ‘Journey Manager’
Emirates has empowered its airport staff with a mobile application called Journey Manager wich enables them to get real-time information regardless of where they are in the airport. Developed by Emirates in cooperation with Samsung and Etisalat, Journey Manager runs on the recently launched Samsung Note 4 smartphone.

Emirates’ managers and supervisors can use the application to check the status of both inbound and outbound flights, which helps them to assess potential areas of concern and better manage operations, especially in the event of a disruption.

“The size and scale of our operations at the airport can be a challenge, especially during peak times where we can see up to 140 departures and arrivals in a four hour window,” said Mohammed Mattar, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president, airport services. Read full article

Brussels Airlines partners with Microsoft on new ‘connected lounge’ concept

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This article first appeared on Future Travel Experience | Images from VielFliegerTreff.de

Brussels Airlines has unveiled its new lounge concept, which makes use of design, technology, and Belgian gastronomy to create an innovative lounge environment at Brussels Airport.

The design of the new lounge – which is called ‘The Loft’ and can be found in Brussels Airport’s A Pier – has been based entirely on feedback and interviews with frequent flyers.

Digital Experience
The lounge contains a total of eight different ‘hubs’, including a digital experience for which the carrier has teamed up with Microsoft and design and innovation firm Designit.

Lounge guests can borrow a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet, on which they can access the Brussels Airlines ‘digital lounge assistant’ app, called Connected Lounge, which enables them to book a shower room, view the availability of ‘nap boxes’ or book a meeting room. Passengers can also use the tablet to watch movies via Telenet’s Yelo service while they wait for their flight.

The showers feature LED lighting and music that changes depending on the mood chosen by the passenger, the nap boxes provide a space to rest, and meeting rooms and work stations include furniture from Belgium company Bulo and feature two Skype phone booths.

Living Zone
Among the many other highlights is the ‘Living Zone’, which is based on the universe of Tintin, the character created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, while a wide selection of Belgian foods and beverages are offered.

Service is also a central theme and the lounge hosts have received butler training to ensure they can offer hotel-style service to guests. Read full article

San Francisco Airport opens public lounge for the creative class to meet

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Forward-looking airports are realizing they have to differentiate the passenger experience. Not only by designing seamless, efficient, processes and fancy terminals, but also by creating a distinct ambiance with a unique and flexible portfolio of retail, food & beverage and service concepts.

Says Hildegard Assies, co-founder of trend research and innovation agency airporttrends•com, “This emphasis by airports on connecting culture, places and people is setting off a new phase in airport development. By creating an authentic identity airports are taking on a new role as a ‘cultural connector’ and story teller. Besides being a space that handles passenger flows with a great shopping centre attached, airports are evolving into meaningful destinations themselves – an urban place where technology, culture, work, leisure and people connect.”

San Francisco: Creative Capital of the World
A great example of this approach is San Francisco International Airport’s (SFO) newest amenity – a space inspired by the Bay Area start-up culture and dedicated to the exchange of ideas, where thought leaders, innovators, investors, and travellers are encouraged to meet, greet, inspire and create.

Named #Converge@flySFO, the public lounge is designed to allow travellers to meet and exchange thoughts on technology, start-ups, the sharing economy, disruption, travel, politics, and ways that could make the world a better place.

The 850-square-foot facility – which opened mid-September – is a free, open space furnished with tables, lounge-style chairs, power outlets, free Wi-Fi and a white board covering an entire wall. Video of the #Converge@flySFO lounge here.

Travellers looking to make the best use of the space are encouraged to promote their intended topic of interest, date and time on their personal social media channels using the hashtag #Converge and tagging @flySFO where possible. SFO will then repost on its social media channels. Read full article

American Airlines partners with Cadillac to offer tarmac transfer service

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

At airlinetrends.com we cover the global airline industry looking for innovative product and service ideas that differentiate the airline experience and have the potential to spread across the industry – thereby shaping customer expectations. One good example of such an innovation are the partnerships that airlines are forging with consumer brands in other industries – think Starbucks, Samsung, Westin, Hastens or Mercedes – in order to improve the passenger experience.

Co-branding initiatives are also an economical way to provide a premium service as consumer brands are increasingly willing to pay airlines to let passengers experience their product in a relevant setting, since airline passengers are an interesting demographic.

Delta x Porsche, United x Mercedes
In the spring of 2012, Delta has partnered with Porsche at its Atlanta hub to shuttle its most valuable passengers with tight transfer times to and from the aircraft in vehicles provided by Porsche free of charge. In return, Porsche has placed information about the cars inside the vehicles as well as in Delta’s lounges. The ‘branded service’ has been expanded last year to New York JFK, Los Angeles and Minneapolis St Paul airports.

United Airlines since June 2013 shuttles some of its First Class passengers and Global Elite members around the tarmac using Mercedes Benz cars. The program launched with two Mercedes cars at United Houston hub and following the rollout of the service at Denver Airport last month, United says it now offers the Mercedes tarmac service at all of its U.S. hub airports.

American Airlines x Cadillac
As the major full-service carriers in the U.S. are busy upgrading their premium passenger experiences, American Airlines is following suit and just announced a partnership with Cadillac to offer a series of benefits to AA passengers, ranging from luxury, on-site airport transfers, to AAdvantage miles earning opportunities, to Cadillac exhibits at major airports. Read full article

KLM’s ‘Lost & Found Team’ aims to return lost items to passengers on the spot

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

With nearly 7 million Facebook fans and 1.3 million followers on Twitter, and a wide range of social media initiatives, the KLM brand has become synonymous with social media innovation. The latest initiative by the airline is utilizing social media for an instant ‘lost & found’ service.

Instant lost & found
Every week, KLM receives 40,000 questions via social media. One of the most asked questions is about getting lost items back. This inspired KLM to set up a dedicated ‘Lost & Found’ team at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport which aims to reunite lost items as soon as possible with their legitimate owner. From a teddy bear found by the cabin crew to a laptop left in the lounge.

The team uses all available information like seat number, phone numbers and public social media details to reunite passengers with their belongings. Very often the Lost & Found team is able to surprise passengers by returning their personal belongings before they have even missed them. Despite the challenge of locating the owner, first results show that over 80 percent of the found items can now be reunited with their owners.

How it works
Air France-KLM SVP eBusiness Martijn van der Zee earlier this year explained to Dutch publication Marketingfacts how the new service works.

“The current situation is that if a passenger forgets his or her iPad on board and walks through customs, all we can do is to refer to the airport. This is very frustrating, especially when passengers realize shortly after they have left the aircraft that they have forgotten something, contact KLM and we can do nothing for them. The lost and found process can take a few weeks instead, which gives an enormous bureaucratic feeling. We know this is a weakness and we mostly know that through social media.”

“We have now appointed two people at the airport who constantly look for things that are lost. They walk past the gates to collect items and then try to find the owners on the spot by approaching them, often via social media. In many cases passengers have not even realized yet they have forgotten something and really go out of their minds when they receive their lost item back.” Read full article

Heathrow Airport launches ‘onboard picnic’ service, offering F&B from 118 outlets

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Realizing that a segment of passengers in Economy is willing to spend a bit more money in order to have a proper meal when flying, about ten full-service carriers around the world currently offer passengers in Economy the option to upgrade their meal for a fee, mostly on long-haul routes.

Austrian Airlines’ catering partner Do&Co has even opened a last-minute ordering desk at ViennaAirport where passengers can pre-order their meal up to just one hour before the departure of their flight.

Onboard picnic
Looking to take a (small) piece of the revenues that airlines generated with their buy-on-board F&B offerings, London Heathrow Airport has introduced a buy-before-you board initiative that offers passengers an ‘on-board picnic’ dining option where they can bring a bespoke ‘hamper’ (British for a meal takeaway box) with them on their flight.

The Daily Mail reports that the move from Heathrow comes after figures reveal about 20 per cent of passengers snub plane food, bringing their own airport-bought snacks on board a flight instead. A survey by the airport also showed that 70 percent of (British) passengers want flexibility about when they eat during their flight.

Available from all restaurants at Heathrow
Introduced by Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food at Heathrow T5 a few years ago – and expanded earlier this year to some 70 restaurants – the service is now available at all of Heathrow’s 118 restaurants across its five terminals, which range from from chain cafés such as Pret a Manger and EAT, to restaurants including Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionist Café and Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, as well as Caviar House and The Gorgeous Kitchen. Read full article

Passengers in Delta’s JFK T4 lounge can order paid meals and drinks via iPads

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In 2010, Delta and food and beverage operator OTG launched a novel restaurant concept at New York JFK Airport that allows passengers to order food and drinks via iPads installed at dining areas at the gate. A server then delivers the food to the customer’s seat within 10 minutes. The concept has since then been rolled out by OTG to other airports around the USA, including New York LaGuardia, Chicago, Minneapolis St Paul, Orlando and Toronto Pearson.

JFK T4 Sky Club
Last year, Delta opened its new Terminal 4 at New YorkJFKAirport. The new Delta T4 also features a 24,000 square feet Delta Sky Club where passengers can work, relax and dine at one of the more than 400 seats, 50+ work spaces and a ‘Sky Deck’ outdoor terrace (video tour and images of the lounge here and here).

Premium meals and drinks
Responding to passengers requests for more substantial meal options in its lounges, Delta in 2010 introduced a paid dining concept at four Delta Sky Club lounges at New York JFK Airport. The new full-service concept offers made-to-order breakfast, sandwiches, salads, small plates and desserts for purchase, as well as premium beverages. Meals are USD 10-15 and premium drinks USD 12 and the Delta Sky Club ‘Café’ includes dedicated seating areas within the lounge, but visitors also can order from the menu and dine anywhere in the lounge.

Tablet-based ordering
In its JFK T4 lounge, Delta has added a self-service element to its premium meals and drinks offering. Those who want to eat more than what is available on the buffet can order via iPad ordering stations, which is a similar concept to the Delta/OTG iPads that are installed at the public gates. Read full article