INFLIGHT AMENITIES

Austrian offers premium meals and amenity kit in Economy for a fee

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In their quest to increase the average revenue per passenger, a large number of full-service airlines now charge a fee for the reservation of Economy seats with extra legroom (e.g, exit row seats), while a growing number of full-service carriers (mainly in the USA) also charges for checked bags.

Besides monetizing for services that used to be free, full service airlines are also looking to introduce premium services to passengers travelling in Economy for a fee. Think paid fast track through security and early boarding.

Premium meal
Up in the air, about ten full-service carriers around the world currently offer passengers in Economy the option to upgrade their meal for a fee.

For example, Austrian Airlines’ ‘A La Carte’ service lets passengers on long-haul flights pre-order a premium meal for 15 euro. The airline’s catering partner Do&Co has even opened a last-minute ordering desk at Vienna Airport where passengers can pre-order their meal up to just one hour before the departure of their flight.

Paid amenity kit
Austrian’s latest ancillary initiative is the introduction of a paid amenity kit in Economy. Whereas the likes of Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Korean Air are among the few airlines that provide passengers in Economy with a complimentary amenity kit, Austrian regards it as a possible (minor) source of additional revenue.

Branded as the “Austrian Tascherl” (video here), the practical comfort kit contains a sleep mask, earplugs, a refreshing towel, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
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Beyond full-flat beds and slim-line seats » How airlines can differentiate the passenger experience ‘up in the air’

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This article is based on presentations that airlinetrends.com gave earlier this year at the 2013 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg and the recent FTE 2013 ‘Up In The Air’ conference in Las Vegas. 

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Airlines around the world are working hard to keep up with the cabin interior upgrade arms race by introducing bigger and better premium seats in Business and First, and smarter and lighter designs in Economy. Furthermore, the latest cabins are roomier, have improved air quality and feature mood lighting.

At the same time airlines are coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ elements of the inflight experience, such as  delivering a more personal service, providing passengers with real-time information, creating ‘virtual classes’, etcetera. Here are five ways how airlines can improve the hospitality part of the inflight experience.

1. Personal service 

In the past year, airlines such as Emirates, British Airways, Iberia, KLM and EVA Air have equipped their pursers with tablets. This allows the cabin crew to see which previous trips a passenger has taken with the carrier before and based on this, know their food, wine and seating preferences, and any issues a customer had during their previous travels. This enables crew to offer a more personal and relevant service to frequent flyers.

Obviously, the next step is to connect the crew tablets to the Internet as the availability of aircraft with onboard wifi grows. This will close the customer service loop for airlines, as they will be able to connect with crew and passengers up in the air. For example, iPads used by pursers onboard British Airways’ Business Class-only service between London City Airport and New York’s JFK receive live updates throughout the flight, thanks to the aircraft’s inflight connectivity provided by OnAir. It should be a matter of time before airlines such as Emirates – which already offers connectivity on the majority of its fleet and has equipped its pursers with HP Elitepad devices – will follow.

2. Real-time information

Within the next five to six years it can be fully expected for real-time customer service to be an industry standard. With the rise of passenger smartphone use, in-flight connectivity and airlines’ commitment to mobile technologies and social media, soon customers will be able to evaluate every aspect of their experience in real-time, thus enabling issues to be corrected on the spot.

For example, Delta passengers on domestic flights can use Delta’s smartphone app to track their checked baggage with the bag tag number that they received at the time of baggage check-in. Since Delta has equipped all its domestic aircraft with GoGo’s in-flight Internet passengers can check whether their bag has made it on their flight while being up in the air.
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Delta teams up with Westin Hotels for ‘Heavenly’ onboard amenities

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Delta Business Class customers will soon be able to have a more comfortable sleep as the airline has teamed up with Westin Hotels to create an in-flight version of Westin Hotel’s ‘Heavenly Bed’ pillows and comforters.

Dubbed ‘Westin Heavenly In-Flight Bedding’, the branded amenities will be available from June on for passengers on US transcontinental routes and between Atlanta and Hawaii. Passengers on flights longer than 12 hours also will receive a lumbar pillow. A few years ago, the hotel group had a similar agreement for a brief period with United Airlines on transcontinental routes in the U.S.

Says Joanne Smith, Delta’s SVP In Flight Service, “In recent surveys, customers have told us that the most important part of the in-flight experience is sleep. The new Westin Heavenly In-Flight bedding product is just one of the new amenities Delta is introducing to ensure customers achieve a restful, rejuvenating in-flight experience.”

The Delta x Westin tie-up is part of a series of investments in several other products and services to revamp the in-flight sleep experience. By the end of 2013, 70 percent of all Delta aircraft will have flat beds and by  early 2014, Delta’s entire widebody fleet is scheduled to be complete.

To create a more restful cabin environment, flight attendants also are now proactively adjusting for appropriate lighting based on the time of day and streamlining cabin announcements to decrease noise disruptions. Delta has also introduced an ‘Express Meal’ service that features lighter fare and a one-step delivery process on all international flights departing after 9 p.m. and flights between JFK and London’s Heathrow Airport, and will add a so-called ‘white noise’ channel on its IFE system. Delta declined to say how much money it was putting into the new sleep strategy, describing it as a “substantial investment, in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” which would also cover the installation of flat-bed seats.
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Finnair partners with iconic Finnish designers Marimekko for inflight amenities

By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Finnair‘s inflight product has always been efficient, clean and simple, perhaps seen by most as more ‘bland’ than ‘brand’. However, they have recently launched a brand new partnership with Finnish designer Marimekko to provide them with new table-wear and fabrics for their airline.

Marimekko’s simple and elegant retro prints are all about great splashes of colour and with this injection into the airline, they will bring the fun back to flying Finnair, targetting specifically their Asian routes.

Finnair earlier this month showed off their new Marimekko liveried A340, that is adorned with Maija Isola’s iconic ‘Unikko’ flower motif, currently flying Asia routes from Finland. In the spring, when the new in-flight products will be rolled out, a second Marimekko livery with join the long haul fleet.

Stated on the reveal of the new design partnership, “Finnair has a strong design heritage, and this cooperation brings our design thinking to a new level,” says Mika Vehviläinen, Finnair CEO. “Our goal is to become a design airline, and bring our customers unique experiences for all five senses. Cooperation with Marimekko is an important step towards this target. Finnair aircraft will become roving ambassadors of timeless Finnish design and creativity, giving our customers a special experience when they fly with us.”

They will eventually be selling limited edition Marimekko-Finnair products onboard, in a move recently taken by KLM with their design partnership with Hella Jongerius for their Wold Business Class cabin, also being launched next year.
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Cathay Pacific teams up with local lifestyle brand G.O.D. for new amenity kits

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Cathay Pacific has unveiled its new amenity kits for Premium Economy Class passengers which feature exclusive designs by home-grown Hong Kong brand G.O.D. (which stands for Goods of Desire). Cathay says its design collaboration with G.O.D. took inspiration from the “vibrant culture of Hong Kong, where East meets West and age-old traditions blend with cutting-edge technology.”

G.O.D. is a leading Hong Kong lifestyle brand, whose self-proclaimed mission is to “define a new Asian derived lifestyle concept as an alternative to the established Western way of living.” The company designs and retails stylish, affordable home furnishings and tableware, as well as some fashion items and “signature items with a quirky Hong Kong feel.”

Local design
Cathay Pacific General Manager Product Toby Smith said: “As Hong Kong’s home carrier, Cathay Pacific supports local design and creative culture. G.O.D. is known for its fun, niche and lifestyle designs, which is a good fit for our Premium Economy Class. The plan is to have four designs per year, two outbound and two inbound. The hope is that they will become real collectibles and that passengers can look forward to receiving a new design every time they travel.”

The first two designs on board are called ‘Joy’ and ’Fortune’. The ‘Joy’ design depicts Chinese gods enjoying themselves inflight by sipping coffee, using the computer or reading, and is available on flights departing Hong Kong, while the ‘Fortune’ design features a Chinese-style image of auspicious clouds and will be distributed on inbound flights. The kits will be progressively made available in Premium Economy for long haul flights from mid-October.
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Sign of the times: Amenity kits double as iPad case

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

To prevent frequent flyers from accumulating heaps of identical amenity bags, many airlines change their amenity kit designs on a regular basis, while other carriers work together with amenity kit suppliers to design bags that for example can be re-used as a pencil case or travel wallet.

As many passengers today carry a tablet computer (according to a recent TripAdvisor survey one in four passengers in the U.S. calls their tablet device carry-on essential, while another survey found that one-third of passengers say they use tablets while flying), several airlines have recently introduced amenity bags that can be re-used as an iPad case.

Turkish Airlines
Rapidly growing Turkish Airlines is one of the few airlines in the world to provide passengers in all classses with a personal amenity kit, both on short- and long-haul flights. The airline earlier this year renewed its contract with amenity kit supplier FORMIA to introduce a new range of amenity kits, which includes a bag for passengers in Business Class that doubles as an iPad case.

The iPad case features Turkish Airlines’ logo on the flap and is made of a leather-look material that creates a high-tech appeal, while a ribbed texture creates a protective framework to the iPad. Each amenity bag/iPad case includes a drawstring pouch and a small pencil case holding a selection of items and cosmetics by Crabtree & Evelyn.

Says Elif Ergezen, Product Manager at THY, “Turkish Airlines highly regards the added value of providing a memorable amenity kit to its passengers. A souvenir of the trip that demonstrates an understanding of customers’ behavior.”
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Etihad adds Swarovski amenity kit and onboard chef to its First Class experience

While European airlines such as British Airways (new First), KLM (Delft Blue, Dutch Design) and Austrian (new amenity kit) are looking at their heritage to differentiate their travel experience (see our recent whitepaper “How airlines can use their heritage to add some storytelling to the travel experience”), fast growing Etihad is taking a more opulent approach towards luxury.

Etihad’s First Class private suites, available on the airline’s A340-600s and A330s, have their own sliding door, a personal wardrobe, a mini bar and a 23-inch LCD screen. The leather seat and furnishings are upholstered by Poltrona Frau, which also provides interiors for Ferrari cars. Already voted as ‘Best First Class’ at the 2010 Skytrax ‘Airline of the Year’ awards, Etihad is further upping the ante by introducing new amenity kits and onboard chefs in its First Class.

Swarovski
Etihad’s new amenity kits for women include a black cosmetic purse detailed with crystals by Swarovski and products from Swiss luxury brand La Prairie, such as moisturiser, hand cream and lip balm. The male version of kit is a black leather cufflink box with amenities such as a shaving kit with a Schick Xtreme 3 razor and shaving cream. Other items include toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs, socks and eyeshades.

For Swarovski, who has collaborated with consumer brands such as Philips and LG before, this was the first time it teamed up with an airline. Says Lee Shave, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Product and Services: “In our market research, we found that very few airlines are developing product suited to the needs of female travellers, so we created these separate amenity product line.“
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KLM goes Dutch Design with tableware and amenity kits

Airlines such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines have teamed up with traditional French and Italian luxury brands like Bulgari, Ferragamo and Givenchy to offer passengers quality in-flight amenities, such as toiletry kits, tableware, blankets and pyjamas.

Dutch airline KLM is taking a slightly different approach as it is upgrading its onboard experience. Instead of teaming up with the classical luxury houses, the airline is emphasizing its Dutch origins by partering with contemporary Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf and Marcel Wanders for the creation of its onboard amenities. According to KLM, customers have indicated that they appreciate KLM’s typically Dutch character, so it decided to embrace Dutch Design.

Viktor & Rolf
At the start of the summer schedule on 27 March 2011, KLM has introduced Viktor & Rolf-designed comfort bags for passengers travelling in Business Class on long-haul flights. Different bags are available for men and women, and also contain a Viktor & Rolf branded toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, eye mask, lip balm, pen and ear plugs. A new design will be created each year over the next four-year period, and a new colour will appear every six months. The fashion duo’s bags proves to be popular: A few hours after KLM announced the Viktor & Rolf amenity kits, the first requests for them already started appearing on online marketplaces.

Marcel Wanders
On 27 March 2011, KLM also began serving meals in Business Class on both short- and long-haul flights offered on tableware designed by Marcel Wanders. The designer (of Moooi and Droog Design fame) has created porcelain, glassware, cutlery, linen and a tray for the airline in his signature shapely style. In designing the new service elements, Wanders has taken into account the wishes of its customers, the working procedures of cabin crew, and the weight and space restrictions of air travel (video here).
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