CABIN / SEATS

How new technologies are improving the onboard passenger experience

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

The acceleration of wifi installations onboard aircraft around the world, combined with the large number of passengers carrying one or more digital devices, is creating a momentum that sees many of today’s inflight innovations focusing on digital developments.

In this three-part series on how new technologies are improving the onboard passenger experience, we will take a look at some of the major initiaves and innovations that are the result of this convergence. This first article will focus on the implications for seat design, the provision of real-time information to passengers, and opportunities to improve onboard customer service. The second article will highlight the latest in inflight entertainment (both fixed and wireless), followed by onboard ancillary revenue generation and personalization in the last part.

Power ports and storage
The first impact of today’s tech-toting passengers is on cabin ‘hardware’. Airlines around the world are responding to the large number of passengers carrying smartphones, notebooks, tablets and e-readers by equipping seats with power and USB ports. A number of airlines and interior suppliers are also looking how to integrate passengers’ own devices with the design of the seat.

Besides creating storage space for personal electronic devices for the more spacious seating arrangements in Business Class, several seat manufacturers are also beginning to incorporate smartly designed spaces in Economy seats where passengers can store their mobile device.

For example, passengers travelling in Economy on Air France’s A380 and select B777-300s can store their cell phone into a small belonging stowage, which is located just below the in-seat USB port to allow for easy recharging of the device. Japan Airlines’ new Economy seats (manufactured by ZIM Flugsitz), which made their debut on the airline’s B777-300s in January 2013, have been designed with a a conveniently placed smartphone holder which is also located near the USB port.

Meanwhile, startup companies such as SmartTray and SkyCast have come up with simple yet smart tray table designs that feature a built-in groove, or two clips, for holding tablets, e-readers and other portable electronic devices upright. For example, Canadian budget airline WestJet rents out Android tablets that clip onto the back of the seat tray in a design called TrayVu.
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TAM’s new First Class recreates a living room up in the air

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

TAM, the ambitious flag carrier of Brazil which earlier this year merged with LAN from Chile to create a Latin American airline giant, has just unveiled new cabin interiors – designed by Priestmangoode – to mark its arrival on the world stage.

Says Priestmangoode Director Luke Hawes: “Our work for TAM is crucial to their brand development, giving them the customer experience they need as they move up to become a major international carrier. The designs we will roll out across their entire fleet will present them as an important international player and give them the tools they need to compete with the world’s other major international carriers.”

Interior redesign
In 2009, TAM hired Priestmangoode to redesign the entire onboard experience – from cabin architecture, seats, galleys and lavatories to staff uniforms, in-flight amenities and the graphic user interface (GUI) of the IFE system. According to TAM Brand Manager Ricardo Cruz, the airline aims “to put TAM on the map” with the new cabin interior program, which is “inspired by everything Brazil has got to offer.” A nice illustration of this is the floor pattern of the bathrooms which is inspired by the famous Copacabana sidewalks in Rio de Janeiro.

Four classes
TAM’s new cabin interior has already made its debut on three new Boeing 777-300ERs delivered to the airline in the past few weeks. The new B777s can seat 368 passengers in 4 classes: First, Business, Space + and Economy.

TAM’s Economy cabin has received a colourful makeover and features rows of seats – manufactured by Weber – in various bright colours that reflect the carrier’s Brazilian origin: lime green, aqua blue and a brighter shade of TAM’s corporate red. TAM will also introduce a new ‘Space +’ product, which offers similar seats as in Economy, but with a larger seat pitch and recline, as well as a different seat colour. Read full article »

Japan Airlines goes private with ‘Sky Suites’ in Business Class

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Declared bankrupt in 2010 after a decade of losses, Japan Airlines (JAL) last week returned to the Tokyo stock exchange in a USD 8.5 billion IPO that followed a government-backed restructuring under which the airline shed more than a third of its jobs, persuaded its unionised pilots and staff to take big pay cuts, slashed pension payouts and retired older fuel-inefficient aircraft.

In the next five years, JAL aims to boost international capacity with 25 percent, as it contends with a shrinking population and new competition from low-cost carriers at home. Similar to local rival All Nippon Airways (ANA), JAL is banking on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner (of which it has received 4 so far, with more than 40 on order) for its expension.

JAL is also seeking to close the service gap with ANA, and – following years of underinvestment – just announced a massive upgrade of its international fleet. Called ‘New Sky’, the upgrade program will revamp seats in all cabins for the first time in 10 years, as well as introduce new catering concepts. JAL’s Business Class, however, is receiving the most extreme makeover.

‘Sky Suites’
Dubbed ‘JAL SKY SUITE’, the new seats will be the first time that JAL is installing full-flat beds in Business Class (even JAL’s new B787s still feature angled lie-flat seats). Says JAL’s VP Marketing Jun Kato, “We felt we were lagging behind other carriers where full-flat seats are standard.”

According to JAL, it wants passengers to “experience comfort and privacy similar to First Class” with its new Business product and the airline is installing an adapted version of B/E Aerospace’s ‘Super First Class’ seat for its Sky Suite. A luxury version of this B/E Aerospace seat is used as First Class seat by several other airlines. Despite a 2-3-2 layout, a staggered configuration allows each passenger to have direct and unobstructed aisle access.
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Long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X to offer kids-free ‘Quiet Zone’ onboard

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Two recent surveys conducted by TripAdvisor found that 40 percent of U.S. travellers said they would pay extra to sit in a designated quiet section of the plane, while nearly 80 percent of Britons agreed there should be child-free zones on board, and a third of of respondents would pay more for their flight if there were no children on board.

Quiet Zone
Following a controversial decision by Malaysia Airlines to introduce a ‘child-free cabin’ on the upper deck of its new A380 superjumbo (Business and Economy), Malaysia-based long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X has announced it will be launching a so-called ‘Quiet Zone’ on its fleet of Airbus A330s.

Starting in February 2013, the airline will create a “Quiet Zone” in the front section of its widebody aircraft, located between the airline’s Premium Class section and the front galley. Children younger than 12 years old will not be able to book seats in the Quiet Zone, and passengers opting for the zone will be asked to keep noise to a minimum, while there will also be special ambient lighting in the cabin. Passenger will also be among the first to disembark.

The dedicated zone will consist of the first eight rows of the Economy section (rows 7 to 14), and  as the front area already houses the airline’s Premium Class, turning this part of the aircraft into a Quiet Zone will also be appreciated by AirAsia X’s premium passengers.
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American Airlines embarks on ambitious upgrade program

By Brian Pillsbury, airlinetrends.com

American Airlines (AA) has lost roughly USD 10 billion over the previous 10 years, with the red ink being compounded by very contentious relationships between management and labor. Whereas US legacy carriers Delta and United have emerged from bankcruptcy protection in recent years with a leaner cost structure, and have merged with respectively Northwest and Continental, AA’s parent company AMR has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – which allows it to cut costs at the airline and return it to profitability – since the end of 2011 only.

AA’s management has also been under heavy pressure from its own employee labor unions and other stakeholders to execute a merger – most notably with US Airways. AA CEO Tom Horton recently said that a decision on the future structure of the airline is expected to be made this fall.

Since AA’s customer satisfaction rates have been below average for years, to put it mildly (although the airline topped United and US Airways in the 2012 JD Power airline ranking), AA is using its current restructuring phase to embark on an ambitious upgrade program designed to give the nearly 80 year-old carrier a much needed facelift.

Fleet modernization
American Airlines made a splash with its announcement in mid-2011 that it would be acquiring up to 460 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft as part of a massive fleet modernization program. Out of this total, American intends to replace its fleet of domestic Boeing 757-200s and MD-80s with approximately 200 A319s, A321s and 737-800s – all with leather seats, Wi-Fi and in-seat inflight entertainment. The new aircraft will be delivered beginning with the A319s in July 2013, followed by the Boeing 737-800s in October 2013 and the A321s in the second quarter of 2014.

American is also retrofitting the cabin interiors, seating and IFE of its entire existing fleet. Designed in partnership with James Park Associates (JPA), the overall design, trim and finish of all aircraft will complement the interior design scheme of the airline’s new Boeing 777-300Ers, which was made public at the end of 2011. Last but not least, American is also reported to be considering a new aircraft livery.

Long-haul fleet upgrades
American Airlines will be the first US airline to operate the Boeing 777-300ER by the end of 2012. The -300ER will become AA’s flagship long-haul aircraft and will boast an impressive array of amenities, including a new First Class and full-flat seats in Business (similar to the seat designed by JPA for Cathay Pacific), as well as a new bar area, galleys and onboard connectivity. Taking design cues from the B787 Dreamliner, AA’s new 777-300ERs will also feature a mood-lit archway at the entrance of the aircraft that creates a feeling of spaciousness.
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Asiana’s new First Class Suite features largest personal IFE screen in the sky

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

While Korean Air recently was named 2012′s most innovative airline by airlinetrends.com (full ranking here), South Korea’s other premium full-service carrier – Asiana Airlines – has raised the bar with the launch of its new First Class Suite. Asiana, which was recently named Best Airline in Asia in the 2012 Skytrax ‘Airline of the Year’ ranking, says its ‘OZ First Suite’ (named after the airline’s IATA code) is based on the concept of “hotel suites transplanted in an air carrier.”

Largest IFE screen in the sky
The most eye-catching feature of the new enclosed suites are 32-inch Panasonic high-definition screens – the world’s largest in-flight entertainment screens – which allow passengers to watch movies with a clear view even from a 2-meter distance as their seats are fully reclined. The suites also have touch-sensitive ‘seat function control units’ set up in the armrests for easy control of the seat and adjustment of the mood lighting at different points during the flight (including a ‘star light’ option). A ‘do not disturb’ sign is included in the control unit for more privacy.

Asiana’s new OZ First Suite is also equipped with an individual air ventilation system, a mini-bar and a cabinet for papers and laptops. The two seats located at the center of the cabin feature a seperator which can be lowered, while an ottoman across from the seat allows for a face-to-face meal for the convenience of passengers travelling together.
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Malaysia Airlines’ new A380 features kids-free upper deck

By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project

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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Virgin Atlantic raises the bar with new Upper Class ‘Dream Suite’

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.”

Competition
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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Japan Airlines second airline to receive the 787 Dreamliner

By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project

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.

787 deliveries
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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Southwest gives its 737 interiors a ‘green’ makeover

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.

Seats, carpet
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.”

Sky Interior
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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Qatar Airways expands via niche markets, opening 24 new routes in 2 years time

By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project

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.

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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.

Niche Markets
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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China Southern first Chinese airline to take delivery of A380

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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.”

International expansion
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.”

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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 »

Star Alliance develops common long-haul economy seat for its member airlines

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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As it turns Dubai into a global hub, Emirates embraces a diverse passenger base

By Vivek Mayasandra, Take Flight Project

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.

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Cabin crew
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.

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How Korean Air is catering to the growing number of female passengers

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.

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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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