CABIN / SEATS
By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project
8 July 2012 | Following Singapore Airlines, Korean Air (June 2011) and China Southern (October 2011), this year two more Asian carriers will add the first Airbus A380 to their fleets, adding capacity, space and subsequently, innovative solutions for their passengers. Singapore Airlines, who took delivery of the aircraft in 2007, now operates a total of 17 superjumbos, which feature the airline’s latest iteration of fully flat Business Class seats as well as individual suites in First Class. Korean Air, meanwhile features an all-business class upper deck, Absolut Vodka branded bars and lounges and an in-flight duty-free shop.
Joining the list of superjumbo carriers this year are Malaysia Airlines (June) and THAI (September), who both are launching their new A380s amidst ambitious restructuring plans.
Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) A380s are configured in a spacious 494-seat layout and feature 8 First Class suites on the lower deck, 66 lie-flat Business Class seats on the upper deck (in a 2:2:2 configuration) and 420 economy seats split between the two floors. The new interiors have been designed by Priestmangoode.
First Class: widest seats in the sky
Indicative of the airline’s clever usage of space on board the A380 as well as its newly-grounded emphasis on luxury, Malaysia’s First Class suites are the widest of any airline’s, measuring 40 inches by 87 inches – 5 inches more than the next-widest, Singapore Airlines – and a 23 inch IFE screen. Additionally, Business Class passengers have the option to order meals through the airline’s ‘Chef On Call’ service – previously only offered to First Class passengers – which “allows travelers to preorder from a substantial menu of gourmet meals.”
Kids-Free Upper Deck
Perhaps the most differentiating factor between Malaysia Airlines’ A380 configuration and others is the airline’s bold decision to implement a ‘kids-free’ space throughout the entire upper deck of the aircraft. The controversial decision was made last year by the airline in order to cater to its anticipated heavy business traveller load on upper deck seats, where all business class seats are located, as well as to make the 70 economy class seats on the upper deck more attractive to the growing number of business travellers who fly in Economy. The implementation followed a similarly controversial ban on babies in MAS’ 747 First Class cabins.
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24 April 2012 | Having been one of the most glamorous airlines around for many years, as it challenged the dominance of UK’s flag carrier British Airways, Virgin Atlantic has seen its onboard experience slip somewhat in recent years. With the arrival of new aircraft – Virgin will take delivery of seven A330-300s during 2012 as part of a GBP 2.2 billion aircraft investment program – the airline has just unveiled its new ‘Dream Suite’ business class, which it promotes as “a first class experience for a business class fare.”
Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class ‘Dream Suite’ made its debut on April 21 on the airline’s London to New York JFK morning flight. Virgin Atlantic has invested GBP 100 million in its new business class product as the long haul-only carrier looks to increase its share of the business traveller market. “Fifty percent of our business is across the North Atlantic and the London-New York route is highly competitive because BA and AA have joined together,” Greg Dawson, a Virgin Atlantic spokesman, told Bloomberg earlier this year. “Whilst we’ve maintained our market share quite well, we want to keep innovating because our clear point of difference is product.”
The onboard enhancements to the initial New York service are supported by a refurbished Manhattan-themed Clubhouse at JFK Airport, which opened on March 5.
‘Upper Class Dream Suite’
Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class ‘Dream Suite’ is described by Australian Business Traveller as “a stylish evolution of the current design. It ditches Virgin’s trademark purple leather seat for darker chocolate-black tones accented by wooden veneer and brushed metal,” while Virgin summarizes the new interior as follows, “The cabin has a fabulous new look, with a stylish, uplifting interior, flashes of our famous red, and Swarovski crystal accents for that touch of Virgin Atlantic sparkle.” The new Dream Suite is more spacious than Virgin’s current Upper Class design and offers an extra 3.8cm of seat’s width while folding out to a massive 218cm long lie-flat be, which Virgin says is the longest offered by any airline. Other new features include a ‘literature pocket’ for stowing books and magazines plus a flexible LED reading lamp which snakes down from the top of the divider wall (images here and here).
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By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project
3 February 2012 | In September 2011, Boeing handed over the first keys of a 787 Dreamliner to Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA). This year, the other Japanese heavyweight, Japan Airlines, will be taking delivery of the aircraft in a fleet renewal and route restructuring effort. The 787 is a twin-aisle airplane that can accommodate between 210 and 250 passengers on distances up to 8,200 miles (15,200 km) – making it the only mid-size airplane capable of very long-range routes. The Dreamliner’s interior provides passengers a more spacious experience than on other twin-aisle planes, because of a ‘vaulted’ 8-foot ceiling and reshaped overhead luggage bins that drop down, while larger windows with electronic shades provide significantly more natural day light. Passenger comfort is further improved by maintaining air pressure at the equivalent of an altitude of 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) in comparison to 8,000 feet on previous aircraft, and higher levels of humidity.
While the 787 is known to burn 20 percent less fuel than jetliners of a similar size, production of the plane has proven to be a challenge over recent years – mainly due to the fact that it’s the first large passenger jet to have more than half its structure made of lightweight composite material instead of aluminum. The ‘All Things 787’ blog reports that up until now, the pipeline of 787 production has been flowing into a quagmire, as Boeing has parked about 40 Dreamliners that require extensive rework at its Paine Field base. It’s only from March 2012 that the first 787s will be delivered straight from the production line without any need for rework. Boeing’ own forecasts expect to deliver between 35 and 42 787s in 2012, though analysts have projected a figure of up to 55 aircraft as a possibility.
Of the 55 787s it has on order, ANA has thus far received its first five aircraft. Other airlines that are likely to receive their first Dreamliner in 2012 include Air India (spring 2012), Qatar Airways, China Southern, Ethiopian Airlines (all mid-2012), Hainan Airlines (fall 2012) and LOT (end of 2012), as well as reportedly LAN, Royal Air Maroc and United Airlines. After launch customer ANA, the next operator of the 787 will be Japan Airlines (JAL), who expects to receive its first aircraft in March 2012.
JAL 787 passenger experience
The passenger experience on board the 787 has been a huge selling point for the plane, and many airlines have announced their intent to introduce onboard features and configurations. ANA’s 787s feature the airline’s ‘Inspiration of Japan’ experience, which was launched in early 2011. Similar to ANA’s low-density 158-seat configuration on international flights, JAL has opted for their 787s to hold 186-seats, which will include 42 business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration and 144 economy class seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. In their 787 Executive Class cabin, JAL will use its angled lie-flat SHELL FLAT NEO seats, which are currently used on 777-300ER routes to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Jakarta.
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24 January 2012 | Southwest Airlines in October 2009 turned a B737-700 into a ‘beta-plane’ to test a series of sustainable interior materials, such as environmental-friendly leather and recycable carpet. This so-called ‘Green Plane’ has been operating in regular revenue service, so Southwest could evaluate normal wear and durability. Based on the in-flight test results and feedback from customers onboard the Green Plane, Southwest has just announced its new ‘Evolve’ interior, which will feature refurbished seats, more under-seat space, new carpets and a more stylish colour palette. Southwest says the materials used are “green” and lighter, reducing each aircraft’s weight by several hundred pounds per plane, thereby saving fuel and costs.
APEX reports that Southwest is retaining the B/E Aerospace-manufactured ‘Innovator II’ seat frames on its 737-700s, but will add fixed wing head rests, new, thinner, more durable foam fill, and synthetic ‘E-Leather’ seat covers – an eco-friendly, lightweight and scuff resistant alternative to traditional leather. The airline is also removing the under-seat floatation device – and instead adding smaller and lighter life vest pouches – to create weight savings of nearly six pounds per seat. A smart new feature are netted seat pockets, which have so-called ‘crumb catchers’ at the bottom that can be zippered open to allow the crumbs to come out. Furthermore, completely recyclable, carbon-neutral carpet from InterfaceFLOR will be laid in squares, rather than rolls, which eliminates the need for total carpet replacement.
The slimmer refurbished seats will also allow Southwest to reduce seat pitch from 32 to 31 inch and add an additional row on its 737-700s without sacrificing personal space. Southwest, however, emphasizes that “it was never our objective to add a row of seats, and the extra row isn’t the main reason for this redesign. Once we examined how much space would be saved, it was determined we could accommodate the increase, without sacrificing comfort.”
Southwest will receive its first 737-800 ‘Sky Interior’ aircraft with the new Evolve interior in April 2012 and subsequently will start a retrofit of its fleet of 372 B737-700s. The operation is planned to be completed by the end of 2013 and represents an USD60 million investment. The airline, however, anticipates the new interior – coupled with the gain in seat capacity – will produce savings of about USD250 million annually.
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By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project
11 December 2011 | With an enviable outlook ahead of them, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways are some of the world’s fastest-growing airlines. A recent report released by the Boston Consulting Group illustrates that the three carriers will collectively triple their capacity over the next 20 years. But while these so-called ‘Gulf Gullivers’ have a number of similarities – they have placed multi billion-dollar aircraft orders, large investments in their premium services, and expanded their airports in order to turn the Gulf region into the world’s 24/7 aviation hub – they have taken on different growth strategies.
We have highlighted before how Emirates, which will become the world’s largest operator of widebody aircraft by 2015, is combining its global Dubai hub with localized services on board. This time we are taking a look at Qatar Airways, who has been taken a slightly different expansion approach by seeking out markets that have yet been unexplored by fellow Gulf carriers.
Airline of the year
The national carrier of Qatar has experienced a rapid ascent to become one of the top airline brands in the sky. Earlier this year, 5-star rated Qatar Airways was named “Airline of the Year 2011” by Skytrax – which cited its roomy economy class cabin and the Business and First Class experience (including the Premium Terminal at its Doha hub) as key drivers for the ranking.
Qatar Airways currently operates a fleet of 102 aircraft to 109 destinations, and by 2013 plans to serve 120 destinations with a fleet of 120 aircraft. Receiving a new aircraft every 18 days, the airline is targetting an annual growth of 35 percent in the coming years, and has ordered more than 200 aircraft, including 10 a380s and 80 a350s, worth over USD 40 billion. Additionally, Qatar Airways is a key stakeholder in the construction of Doha’s brand new international airport, scheduled to open in 2012.
While Qatar Airways is likely to remain smaller in total size than its near neighbour Emirates for the foreseeable future, the Doha-based carrier seems keen to overtake its Dubai-based rival in the number of destinations served (109 versus 116 routes at the moment). Speaking at the recent Dubai Air Show, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said that the airline’s mission “…has been to operate to key business and leisure destinations around the world, but also to underserved markets where others dare not venture into. We take bold decisions to serve certain markets because we believe it makes strong business sense.”
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18 October 2011 | China Southern on 14 October became the first Chinese airline to receive the A380, when Airbus handed over the first of five superjumbo ordered by the Chinese carrier. The double-decker planes will spearhead the state-controlled company’s drive to more than double the percentage of capacity deployed on overseas routes to 35 percent by 2015, said Yang Bo, the head of its planning department. “Flying A380s will put us in a completely different league. We hope to use the planes to build a good brand image and to raise our profile overseas.”
China Southern has already boosted international capacity with 33 percent this year as it aims to develop Guangzhou airport in Guangdong province – China’s biggest region by economic output – into a global hub rivaling Hong Kong, which is located less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) away. China Southern plans to boost its total fleet to 645 aircraft by 2015 from 425 today. Says Si Xianmin, Chairman of China Southern, “The economics offered by the A380 will undoubtedly improve our competitiveness on international routes and it is the perfect asset to help China Southern Airlines achieve its goal of becoming a leading global carrier.”
Qantas is already noticing the increased competition from China Southern, as the Chinese airline has significantly grown its Australia services as part of its intercontinental push. Similar drives in Europe and North America will follow, partly to offset competition from high-speed trains on domestic routes in China. China Southern Airlines’ focus on domestic flights made it Asia’s largest carrier by passengers. As Qantas CEO Alan Joyce tells Bloomberg, “The Chinese carriers are in an amazing position. They have got the scale that will make them huge and I think they will be a big challenge for the Middle Eastern carriers as well as the Asian carriers.”
‘Pearl of the Skies’
China Southern has selected a three-cabin configuration for its new A380 flagship, which it has dubbed ‘Pearl of the Skies’. The airline’s superjumbo has 506 seats in total: Eight ‘Platinum’ suites in First Class, 70 lie-flat Business Class seats and 428 seats in Economy. The eight First Class suites are located at the front of the lower deck in a 1-2-1 layout and look like the ‘closed’ version of the Acumen/Countour First Class seat, an ‘open’ version of which is also installed on Korean Air’s A380’s. Read full article »
16 October 2011 | 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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By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project
16 September 2011 | Over recent years, Gulf-based carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad have dazzled the global airline industry with their aircraft orders, premium services and rapid expansion. Besides targetting traditional routes such as Europe – Australasia, Emirates, the leader of Gulf aviation growth, has aggressively capitalized on new passenger flows, connecting Asia with Africa and with Latin America via its Dubai hub – markets which will collectively occupy over 60 percent of passenger flows by the year 2030, according to Boeing’s latest market forecast.
As Emirates states in its latest annual report: “The future of our industry is being written not only in long-established air routes, but also in places like China, India and Africa – markets where the demand for air transport, both passenger and cargo, is growing at an incredible rate.” [...] “Our strategic hub in Dubai plays a key role in establishing new trade routes by linking emerging markets to more developed ones, such as connecting Moscow to Durban, Beijing to Luanda or Hyderabad to Sao Paulo.”
This focus has enabled Emirates to position and brand itself to a newly global customer base – and more importantly – develop solutions in service, dining and entertainment for a wide array of diverse passenger tastes.
In the air, Emirates’ diverse cabin crew is indicative of its global focus – the airline employs cabin crew from more than 130 nationalities. This lets Emirates typically staff their flights with speakers of Arabic, English and the local language of the flight’s destination. Being an Gulf-based carrier, Emirates’ crew are also trained for a variety of Arab and Muslim cultural situations – from being taken to mosques, learning how to serve the traditionally Arab meal of coffee and dates, to properly serving veiled Muslim passengers.
23 August 2011 | Airlines traditionally have been catering to the stereotype male business traveler in his forties, but the growing economic power of women, the greying of society, and the emergence of more travelers from non-Western countries is changing this archetypical passenger. For example, in the U.S. women already make up over 40 percent of business travellers and 50 percent of frequent flyer program members. Although still limited, some airlines have begun to offer specific amenities for female passengers, which go beyond the traditional amenity kit. Lufthansa and Air France publish dedicated lifestyle magazines for premium female passengers with titles such as Woman’s World and Madame, while Asiana offers additional services for expectant mothers, called ‘PreMom’. South Korean flag carrier Korean Air, however, is going the extra mile to cater to the growing number of female passengers, which make up 45 percent of its passengers.
Dedicated lounge area for female passengers
Korean Air recently opened an expanded Prestige Lounge at Incheon International airport. Among the lounge’s features is a dedicated area for female travellers, which to our knowledge, is a first for an airline.
Says Korean Air’s spokeswoman Mi Hyun Kim: “These days more and more female travellers are traveling around the world. In order to respond to their increasing needs, we have designed a special area fully dedicated to female travellers, which includes a female restroom, sleeping room and powder room. Also, female travellers can taste quality food and snacks and change diapers of their babies without any distraction in this area. In the powder room, there is a dressing table with a large mirror and a chair to help female travelers to do their make-up. In the sleeping room, there are two comfortable couch-type chairs which can be reclined upon adjustment.”
Women-only onboard bathroom
Korean Air is also among a handful airlines in the world that have dedicated bathrooms onboard for use by female passengers only. The airline has been offering this ‘ladies-only’ facility, which is available on long-haul aircraft such as A380s, B747s, B777s and A300s, since 2007. Korean Air’s ladies-only lavatory is decorated with pink coloured wallpapers, has a diaper board for babies and provides extra cosmetics.
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5 August 2011 | The prospect of an airline from Mainland China joining the top 10 ranks of the Skytrax world’s best airlines list may not sound that far off, if one takes into account that the ranking is dominated by Asian carriers, including ‘Chinese’ carriers such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. Airlines from China still have some way to go to improve their international competitiveness, but two of China’s largest airlines, China Southern and Air China, have recently embarked on major upgrade programs. Meanwhile, Hainan Airlines, China’s fourth largest airline group, recently has been awarded a 5-star status by Skytrax (although this status can be debated).
Air China is China’s flag carrier and third largest airline, as well as the world’s most profitable and largest carrier by market value. The airline’s major hubs are Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu and as of December 2010 the Star Alliance-member operated flights to 47 international and 91 domestic cities with a fleet of 393 aircraft. Compared with China’s other major carriers, China Southern and China Eastern, Air China leads in terms of international destinations, which make up 50 percent of its routes, followed by China Eastern (30%) and China Southern Airlines (25%). Air China holds interests in Cathay Pacific (29.99%), Air Macau (80.9%), Shenzhen Airlines (51%) and Shandong Airlines.
Cabin revitalisation programme
In mid-July, Air China took delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER, which features the carrier’s new premium products, including 180-degree flat bed seats in business (2:2:2 configuration) and first class (1:2:1 configuration) and a self-service bar, located between First and Business. The seats in Air China’s ‘Forbidden Pavilion’ First Class are Contour’s ‘Venus’ seating product with sliding privacy screens for centre seats and an adjustable ottoman that provides a seat for a guest as well as extra stowage. More images of the cabin can be found here).
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13 July 2011 | The advantages of high-speed rail have been well documented. Compared with flying, travelling by fast train offers city-center to city-center connections, no need for checked baggage, or repeated queuing for security and boarding. Also, trains are not prone to delays caused by bad weather, slow baggage handling, crowded runways and air traffic. Research has shown that business travellers are willing to travel to destinations by rail for up to 4 hours, while leisure travellers are even prepared to use trains for journeys of up to 6 hours.
In an effort to make rail travel even more attractive for business travellers, high-speed rail operators in China and Japan have recently introduced airline-like business class cabins on their latest fast trains.
Beijing – Shanghai ‘Harmony Express’
China is in the process of building the world’s largest high-speed network in record time, with rapid passenger lines already criss-crossing much of the country. The recently opened Beijing to Shanghai high-speed railway is the latest portion of a network the government hopes will stretch 45,000 km (27,960 miles) by the end of 2015. Construction of the 1,318 kilometre (819 mile) high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Shanghai began in April 2008 and track laying was completed only 2,5 years later in November 2010. The USD33 billion rail line has been operating on a trial basis since mid-May and was officially opened at the end of June 2011.
Besides second and first class cars, the Beijing – Shanghai Harmony Express features a business class car with 24 lie-down seats with a nearly full recline. Each seat is equipped with a foldable LCD TV, a tray table, socket and reading lamp. Travellers are waited on by uniformed stewardesses and even the galley area and restroom have been upgraded.
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6 July 2011 | Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Polish national airline LOT, which are set to receive the first of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliners in respectively Asia and Europe, have both unveiled their new interiors for the aircraft.
The 787 is a twin-aisle airplane that can accommodate between 210 and 250 passengers on distances up to 8,200 miles (15,200 km) – making it the only mid-size airplane capable of very long-range routes. Boeing is three years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget with the Dreamliner. The design of the 787 has proved difficult because it is the first large passenger jet to have more than half its structure made of lightweight composite material instead of aluminum, resulting in a plane that burns 20 percent less fuel than jetliners of a similar size. More than 800 787s have been ordered by over 50 airlines so far and launch customer ANA is expected to take delivery of the first 787 in August or September 2011.
More space and natural light, improved air quality, electric blinds
The new 787 interior design will provide passengers a more spacious experience than on other twin-aisle planes, because of a ‘vaulted’ 8-foot ceiling. The plane also has bigger, drop-down overhead luggage bins, while larger windows with electronic shades provide more natural day light. Passenger comfort will be further improved by maintaining air pressure at the equivalent of an altitude of 6000 feet (1800 meters) in comparison to 8000 feet on previous aircraft, and higher levels of humidity.
Launch customer for the 787 is ANA, which used the recent Paris Airshow to unveil the cabin design for its 55 B787s on order. On both long-haul and short-haul routes, ANA’s cabin will consist of two classes, Business and Economy, and the design is based on ANA’s ‘Inspiration of Japan’ concept. Due to the B787’s production delays the new cabin is already available on ANA B777-300ER aircraft serving New York, London and Frankfurt from Tokyo Narita (see our earlier article “ANA’s new cabin upgrade raises the bar in all classes”). Read full article »
20 June 2011 | Following a financial restructuring after its bankruptcy in 2008, Alitalia has been upgrading its in-flight experience in the past year. Italy’s flag carrier has taken a ‘Made in Italy’ aproach towards the development of its new services, teaming up with Italian luxury brands for in-flight amenities and offering authentic regional Italian cuisine onboard.
As style icon and globetrotter Tyler Brûlé (of Wallpaper and Monocle fame) several years ago already suggested: “Alitalia may well be the one carrier with the most potential to reinvent itself as a serious luxury brand as its has all the raw materials at its disposal.” […] “As the in-flight experience becomes increasingly homogenized and more airlines start to behave alike, Alitalia’s new owners might take a page or two from the country’s strong luxury heritage to put its national carrier back in flight.”
With the arrival of two new A330 aircraft in July 2010, Alitalia introduced full-flat beds in Business Class, a new Premium Economy cabin, and started an upgrade program for its B777s as well. Additionally, the airline completed a EUR20 million refurbishment programme for its short- and medium haul Airbus aircraft, equipping them with slim leather seats and individual LCD screens.
For its Business Class amenities on long-haul flights, Alitalia has teamed up with long-standing Italian luxury brands ‘Ginori’ (since 1735) for dinnerware, cutlery and glassware and ‘Frette’ (since 1860) for table linen, blankets and pillowcases, while passengers also receive a Bulgari amenity kit. Frette blankets and pillows are available as well in Alitalia’s Premium Economy and Economy cabins, and the amenity kit in Premium Economy passengers is provided by Italian cosmetics brand Culti.
Says Alitalia director of customer experience and ancillary revenue Aureliano Cicala, “We made tangible investments in seats, materials, food and beverage quality and lounge services, mostly in cooperation with famous Italian brands like Ginori, Frette and Bulgari.” […] “Alitalia aims to promote ‘made in Italy’.”
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9 June 2011 | 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.
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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9 May 2011 | At the recent Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, airlinetrends.com presented its take on how one of the main trends in luxury today, ‘Heritage Luxury’, can be a source of inspiration for airlines in developing new products and services.
Luxury has undergone a significant change in the past years. In the first decade of the new millenium, the steady rise in disposable income brought luxury goods within reach of the middle classes. As part of this ‘democratization of luxury’ trend, premium brands also introduced more affordable versions of their designs. However, as a result of the global financial crisis and its effects on the overall economy, consumers in the past years have been going back to basics, even those that have been relatively shielded from the effects of the downturn. Consumers today are more reflective and after a decade of ‘fast forward’ are looking for more authentic and meaningful consumption. Gucci CEO Robert Polet summarizes today’s luxury consumer as follows: ”Customers are looking for more discreet, timeless purchases, and are not keen on anything that could fall out of fashion. People feel guilty about that.”
Of course, luxury houses have always been emphasizing their heritage, but today luxury brands from Italy and France to Japan and China are paying homage to their craftsmanship, knowledge and diligence stronger than before. A good example of this ‘heritage luxury’ trend is Gucci, whose current ‘Forever Now’ campaign celebrates the traditions and values that have helped Gucci evolve into a fashion authority.
Even in rapidly growing economies such as China, consumers are increasingly looking for goods that link them with the past. Says one analyst: “China is changing so fast and there is no reference point for consumers. They have so many new Chinese brands with no history, and there are Western brands with histories that is hard for them to identify with. There’s a whole generation who will want something that reminds them of what it used to be like.”
So what does the ‘heritage luxury’ trend mean for the airline industry? At airlinetrends.com we have highlighted the concept of storytelling several times before: Passengers love to learn about the story behind the product as it is something that makes their journey more exciting and memorable, be it local and seasonal food served onboard, city guides that have been created by the airline’s crew, or in-flight amenities that have been co-created with the general public.
As the airline industry has always captured people’s imagination, airlines can tap into aviation history to incorporate a bit of storytelling into the travel experience. Legacy carriers in particular can benefit from their history to stand out against cheap and cheerful low-cost airlines. A simple example is painting aircraft in a retro-livery as part of a 75 or 90-years anniversary. However, a number of airlines have gone beyond this, creating an onboard experience inspired by heritage luxury.
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