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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.
Read full article

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

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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

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

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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

Dutch Railways promises passengers a guaranteed on-time arrival at the airport

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Dutch rail operator NS and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport are trialling an innovative new service, called Schiphol Warranty Service, that provides train passengers – who signed up for the service – a guaranteed on-time arrival at the airport so they will catch their flight.

Travellers who have signed up for the service and have paid the euro 5 fee will be monitored for any disruptions throughout their journey from the NS rail station of departure until the check-in desk at the airport. Passengers have to choose one out of three schedule options suggested by the Dutch Railways which all should transport them to airport arriving at least 2 hours (Schengen countries) or 3 hours (non-Schengen) before departure.

Their journeys will be monitored via an app that will track the participants’ departure station, date and time of the departure flight, flight number, number of people travelling and how many suitcases they carry. NS then will check for any travel disruptions and/or changes along the way.

If anything will go wrong during the journey, the app will notify passengers with alternative routes or any travel advice. If there are no train options available in time to bring customers to the airport, NS will then search for other travel options via bus or taxi.

Then, as soon as passengers arrive at the airport, they will be picked up by customer service staff and escorted to the nearest check-in desk. In worst case scenario, if the guarantee cannot be met and passengers miss their flight, NS then will organise hotel stay and rebooking or refund of the flight.

“If there are any failures along the way, we will ensure that passengers catch their flight, even if it means calling them a taxi,” says Commercial Director of NS Hans Peters.

More than 10,000 NS customers have received a letter inviting them to participate in the trial which takes place between mid-July and September 1st. NS hopes that eventually some 1,500 customers will take part in the programme.

How airports are responding to today’s connected travellers with mobile services and tech amenities

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By Hildegard Assies, airporttrends•com

Consumers today want to be online and connected all the time, wherever they are. Travel is no exception, and this is often a time when travellers need information the most. Passengers are increasingly more connected as they travel and are empowered by smartphones. With the majority of air travellers (70 percent at last count) now carying one or more personal devices – a much higher penetration than among the population at large – there is an opportunity for airports to differentiate the airport experience through mobile-based services.

So how have airport operators been doing so far? In this briefing we take a look at how airports are responding to today’s connected travellers with mobile-based services and ‘tech amenities’.

The Intelligent Airport
Mobile technology and ubiquitous connectivity enable airports to continuously interact with their customers throughout their journey and as described in reports such as SITA’s ‘The Intelligent Airport’ [PDF here], mobile will be the game changer enabling airports (and airlines) to create personalised experiences.

According to SITA, ‘The Intelligent Airport’ is an airport which leverages the convergence of three trends: passenger self-service, mobility and collaborative decision-making – to create a smart predictive environment for the most effective flow of passengers and goods through an airport, both during normal operation as well as during times of disruption. Possible scenarios include:

Says Francesco Violante, CEO of SITA, “The rise of self-service and the growing impact of trends like big data, business intelligence, analytics, cloud and, of course, mobility, are making the ‘always-connected’ traveler a reality.” […] “What is clear is that most passengers want information services on their mobiles to help them through the journey, including flight search and flight and baggage status. So it is no surprise that the vast majority of passengers think technology helps when traveling.”

Although the realization of the ‘intelligent airport’ vision is still in an early stage, several forward-looking airports have come up with innovative mobile-based services:

READ FULL ARTICLE AT AIRPORTTRENDS•COM »»

Local Heroes: How local stores and restaurants are gaining presence at airports

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By Hildegard Assies, airporttrends•com

The long-standing relationship between people and brands is broken. According to Havas Media, 54 percent of consumers worldwide do not trust brands. Much of the trust, respect and loyalty people had for many global brands have been falling for the last three decades. Due to irresponsible business practices and food scandals that have recently been in the news around the world, the dominant sentiment is that many organisations have become big by doing wrong.

This confrontation of consumers with the consequences of mass consumption, results that consumers are slowly changing the way they live and consume. Consumption has moved beyond the merely transactional an instead of looking for “more”, consumers are on the look out for honest products and services in an authentic environment. They search for unique places and brands that they do want to be associated with and improve their wellbeing but most importantly, they can trust.

The rise of local flavor
Trust starts from scratch again by smaller companies and brands that are quite close to us. Brands which want to do right instead of doing less worse. And that’s why we see the rise of local flavor. Just have a look at the rising number of urban farmer markets or eco-friendly products in supermarkets. And why is it that we search for this radically good coffee made by a passionate barista in a place where we feel at home?

Tyler Brûlé from Monocle underlined in his keynote speech at the recent ACI Trading Conference in Zurich that the age of mass, uniform, global sameness has passed. Mature consumers move on to products that offer a full story of tradition and craftsmanship. Connecting your products or services to specific locales will make them more relevant, more exclusive and correspondingly more exciting and desirable. Read full article

Easyjet to trial drones, virtual reality glasses, e-paper to improve operations

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

We were reminded of one of our favourite quotes from sci-fi writer William Gibson: “The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed,” when we read easyJet’s announcement that the airline will use unmanned drones to inspect its aircraft.

Drones
The drones will be programmed to assess the carrier’s fleet of Airbus A319 and A320 planes, reporting back to engineers on any damage which may require further inspection or maintenance work. As EasyJet put it on Twitter: “Drones will help carry out detailed inspections, allowing us to move around every axis of the aircraft.”

EasyJet’s engineering head, Ian Davies, said: “Drone technology could be used extremely effectively to help us perform aircraft checks. “Checks that would usually take more than a day could be performed in a couple of hours and potentially with greater accuracy. […] For example, dones could be used to pick up damage caused by a lightning strike, the kind of incident that can require a full day of inspections.”

EasyJet is working with the Coptercraft and Measurement Solutions companies as well as Bristol Robotics Laboratory on modifying existing technology so it can bring in the drones. Dr Arthur Richards, head of aerial robotics at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “Aircraft inspection is a great application for drones. Coupled with smart navigation and computer vision, they can get accurate data from really awkward places.”

The airline hopes to introduce the drones as early as next year following trials in the next few months.

Virtual reality glasses
EasyJet also announced that it was looking at deploying new technology to enable a remote engineering team to see exactly what a pilot or engineer is seeing using virtual reality glasses.

The glasses use the world’s first high definition see-through display system, providing augmented reality to help easyJet remotely diagnose a technical issue. At the moment engineers and pilots email pictures and call Easyjet’s Operations Control Centre to try to resolve issues over the phone, but with the wearable technology they will be able to relay images directly back to base. Read full article