CONNECTED PASSENGERS

Delta partners with Uber-inspired package delivery platform Roadie to deliver delayed luggage to passengers

Delta in 2011 became the first airline to make the baggage process more transparent for passengers with its ‘Track Checked Bags’ service. Delta passengers on domestic flights can track their checked bag(s) in real-time via the Delta app, even when up in the air.

Plus, Delta’s ‘Bags On Time’ guarantee means that passengers on domestic routes will have their checked luggage at the bag caroussel within 20 minutes, or receive 2500 SkyMiles when this takes longer.

Delta in 2016 also invested USD 50 million in RFID technology to further expand is bag tracking service to international stations. RFID scanners, RFID bag tag printer, and RFID pier and claim readers have been installed in 344 stations worldwide, which has resulted in baggage tracking that is 99.9 percent accurate.

With sharing real-time bag tracking with passengers still being a novelty in the industry, Delta has further innovated its baggage service to include delayed luggage.

Delayed baggage claim via Delta app
Earlier this year, Delta expanded its Fly Delta app functionality to allow passengers to skip the bag service office visit when luggage is missing.

The mobile bag service feature allows passengers to file a bag claim at their final destination through the Fly Delta app, instead of having to visit the local Delta baggage service office, when Delta sees the bag has missed a checkpoint. The airline proactively notifies passengers if their bag will be delayed, and provides a link to complete a delayed bag file with the app.

“This is one more way we’re putting the power for a customer to control their experience in the palm of their hand,” commented Delta’s Chief Operating Officer, Gil West. “The last thing a customer wants to do when their bag is delayed is to go in person to do something that can be done with a few taps on their phone, knowing that we’ll deliver their bag directly to them when it arrives.” Read full article »

China Airlines mobile app lets passenger pre-order duty free, pre-select meals, and book high-speed rail tickets

Passengers, spoilt by availability of user-friendly apps on their smartphones that allow them to manage many parts of their daily life, are raising the bar for airline apps to become more relevant as well.

Digital travel companion
At the same time many airlines are working to evolve their app into a ‘digital travel companion’ in order to extend their service beyond just flying passengers from A to B, and generate some ancillary revenues in the process.

Describing its mobile app as a “personal travel secretary,” China Airlines’ app features innovative functionality that goes beyond the regular airline app basics of searching, booking, seat selection, check-in, and flight status.

Ancillaries, recommendations
Besides offering passengers the option to purchase ancillary services such as excess luggage and in-flight Wi-Fi, the China Airlines app provides recommendations on destinations and duty free items. The suggestions are based on the data of passengers who are logged into the app and uses elements such as the flight history and duty free purchasing records of members – as well as data of members with similar attributes – to generate personalized recommendations.

Duty free items can be purchased via China Airlines stand-alone SkyBoutique duty free app, which is accessible linked to the main China Airlines app.

Pre-select Business Class meal
Many airlines today – ranging from Singapore Airlines to American Airlines – give passengers in Business with the option to pre-select their meal. This gives frequent travellers more meals to choose from, while it allows the airline to plan and load more efficiently and reduce waste.

However, several airlines still only allow passengers to pre-select their meal via the website, or even the phone, while this kind of service is a typical mobile app feature, as it offers passengers a convenient way to add their preferred meal to their booking in the run-up to their flight.

Similar to Qantas and Qatar Airways (among others), China Airlines Business passengers can select their preferred meals via the mobile app and choose from 10 different meals to pre-order 14 days to 24 hours before departure. Read full article »

Ryanair lets passengers rate their flight via its mobile app

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In the past two and a half years, Ryanair has been busy upgrading its products and services, stepping up its digital innovation activities, as well as opening routes to main airport hubs in an effort – called ‘Always Getting Better’ – to appeal more to business travellers.

“This is not a PR stunt,” said CEO Michael O’Leary at the launch of the initiative, describing the Always Getting Better programme as a “transformative” evolution and a “fundamental change” in the way both he and Ryanair do business. ‘”If I’d known being nice to customers would have been so good for business, I would have done it years ago.”

Rate My Flight
As part of the third phase of the program – which focuses on digital innovation – Ryanair earlier this year added a ‘Rate My Flight’ feature to its app. Passengers who want to rate their flight have to download the regular Ryanair app, allow for push notifications, and are send the survey through the app upon landing.

The Rate My Flight survey asks passengers to evaluate each element of their flight, from boarding through food and drink provision to crew helpfulness and overall service standards. Ryanair says it uses the feedback to tweet and improve its offerings as much in real time as possible.

Feedback results
The ‘Rate My Flight’ intiative was trialled in March and went live in May of this year. Ryanar has just published the first feedback results, based on more than 8,800 passengers who used the ‘Rate My Flight’ function during June and July.

More than half of respondents (53 percent) rated their overall experience as ‘very good’, 36 percent rated their experience as ‘OK’ and 11 percent rated it as ‘poor’. Crew friendliness received the highest positive rating, with 63 percent scoring this ‘very good’.

At the other end of the scale, boarding received the highest number of ‘poor’ responses, with 14 percent saying they were unhappy with the boarding process.

TripAdvisor aims to make the airline passenger experience more transparent

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Airlines have long relied on awards and recognitions from industry watchers and major publications to reassure customers of the quality of their products and services, in very much the same way that professional critics and ratings firms have put their seal of approval on restaurants and hotels for decades.

But the rise of the internet has disrupted that ‘expert-review’ dynamic. The active participation of consumers on ratings sites which evaluate everything from films to books to consumer goods to services, and of course travel, suggests that today’s consumers trust popular opinion over ratings which could be perceived as an extension of marketing and advertising (a.k.a ‘the experience is the marketing’).

TripAdvisor Flights
TripAdvisor is now looking to shake up the airline industry the same way it has hotels, by launching airline reviews. The sixteen year old travel review site has accrued over 350 million individual travel reviews covering 6.5 million hotels, restaurants and attractions and has now expanded its TripAdvisor Flights service to let customers grade and review airlines around the world in much the same way that they would review a night’s stay somewhere.

These reviews are then combined with an external rating of the amenities on a particular route, such as the type of seat offered and whether there are power ports and wi-fi available to flyers, to give it an overall ‘FlyScore’ which will rate the quality of an itinerary on a 1 to 10 scale.

Consumers can sort their flight search results by price, duration, the ‘FlyScore’, or a blend of factors categorised by TripAdvisor as “Best value of time and money.”  TripAdvisor expects to refine the system, introducing further enhancements this year.

According to The Economist, “History suggests the firm has a good chance of making an eventual impact. If it does reach its potential, it might just encourage flyers to change their buying behaviour. If customers are willing to pay, say, $30 more for a seat rated as excellent compared with one that is terrible, then maybe airlines will pull out of their race to the bottom. A world in which carriers compete for the quality of the reviews they receive, as well as the price they offer, would be a better one.” Read full article »

SriLankan captures real-time passenger feedback data throughout the journey

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As part of a trend that sees airlines and airports welcome real-time feedback from passengers via digital channels other than social media, Sri Lanka’s national carrier, SriLankan Airlines has launched a comprehensive customer satisfaction platform which captures feedback from passengers throughout the journey, from booking to overall satisfaction measures after the return home.

The airline has set up various ways for customers to share their impressions of service quality at its Colombo Ticket Office service counters, on its website, at the check-in counters at Colombo Airport, inside its lounge at the airport – as well as on-board through a dedicated application on iPads issued to cabin service managers.

There is also a survey app incorporated into the airline’s IFE system, plus a feedback module incorporated in SriLankan’s mobile app. Once the journey has ended, customers also receive an email request to evaluate their journey. All surveys are available in five languages: English, Sinhala, Tamil, Chinese and Japanese.

The passenger feedback which was initially gathered through a paper-based system has evolved gradually and the airline has now developed a full-fledged system where they could amass the treasured thoughts of passengers via digital media. Feedback data combines a full set of passenger profiles such as name, gender, ethnicity, travel preferences and their service aspirations with flight information into a data warehouse which further enables SriLankan to create a rich set of analytics, identify trends and strengthen customer relationships.

“Today we are serving an informed, tech savvy, demanding customer. We understand the service expectation can be delivered by working smart. We recognise that technology can bring the speed and sophistication to serve today’s customer,” says Mr Chanaka Olagama, Head of Cabin Services, SriLankan Airlines.

Real-time alerts
To ensure prompt responsiveness to service interruptions and critical issues which affect passenger satisfaction, real time alerts for immediate service recovery or negative feedback from passengers are sent to the supervisor of each customer touch point via text messages.

Additionally, live dashboards display the overall mood of customers through color-coded cards which reflect passenger satisfaction ratings, based on feedback received. Read full article »

Meeting the expectations of today’s connected passengers: On-demand, real-time, end-to-end

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com                                                                      This article also appeared on the WTCE blog

Expectations of airline passengers are not only shaped by how well an airline performs versus its direct competitors. They are also fuelled by standards set by experiences that consumers have in other industries, as innovative products and services in one industry raise the bar for all industries. This means airlines and airports need to tune into the customer from a holistic perspective when designing the passenger experience.

At this year’s Passenger Experience Conference – which is part of the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo/WTCE in Hamburg – AirlineTrends delivered a presentation about ‘Digital Innovation and the End-to-End Passenger Experience’. Below is the outline of our talk, illustrated by a few examples of how airlines are tapping into the changing consumer behaviour and expectations of today’s connected travellers.

On Demand
As smartphones make it quick and hassle-free to order goods online, flag a taxi via Uber, or what have you, the on-demand economy has generated a sense of entitlement to fast, simple and efficient experiences as it taps into consumers’ appetite for greater convenience, speed, and simplicity. For example, analysis from Uber shows the longer Uber has been in a city, the less willing to wait for a car everyone becomes.

In the food and beverage industry, Starbucks’ new pre-order app has become a very popular time-saving service, while airport restaurateur OTG has installed thousands of food-ordering iPads at half a dozen U.S. airports.

And a growing number of airlines – including Virgin America, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, Norwegian, Azul – allow passengers to order meals, snacks and drinks via the in-seat IFE system in between regular meal services, while Qantas and EVA Air offer passengers the option to purchase duty free via the Panasonic eX3 IFE systems. Passengers onboard leisure carrier TUI Netherlands can even order drinks and duty free via their own smartphones. Read full article »

Airlines and airports let passengers pre-order food via mobile apps

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This article also appeared in the December/January 2016 edition of Onboard Hospitality Magazine.

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Consumer behavior is changing. Smartphones make it quick and hassle-free to order goods online, or flag a taxi via Uber. This always-on, on-demand economy has generated a sense of entitlement to fast, simple, and efficient experiences as it taps into consumers’ appetite for greater convenience, speed, and simplicity. For example, analysis from Uber shows the longer Uber has been in a city, the less willing to wait for a car everyone becomes.

In the food and beverage industry, ordering and paying for food and beverages via tablet devices has become the new normal at casual dining chains such as Applebees and Chili’s across the USA, while airport restaurateur OTG has installed thousands of food-ordering iPads at half a dozen U.S. airports.

And a growing number of airlines – including Virgin America, Air New Zealand, Norwegian, Azul and Finnair – allow passengers to order meals, snacks and drinks via the IFE system in between regular meal services, while passengers onboard leisure carrier TUI Netherlands can order drinks and duty free via their own smartphone.

Skipping the queue
Saving consumers even more time, Starbucks this fall rolled out an order-ahead mobile application across all of its 7,000 stores in the USA, as well as across 150 Starbucks locations in London. As soon as people have ordered, the app gives them an approximate pickup time, and Starbucks estimates customers can save between 10 and 15 minutes using this option. A similar service is being tested by fast food chains McDonalds and Wendy’s.

At multiple airports in the USA, passenger can pre-order meals from airport restaurants, using mobile apps such as Grab, AirGrub and HMS Hosts’ B4 You Board, which saves them having to queue up for food and drinks, and provides some peace of mind for those who are running late for their flight.

Passengers using these pre-order apps select an airport restaurant, place an order, pay and schedule a time to pick up their meal. When they arrive at the restaurant in the departure hall the freshly made meal is waiting to be collected. Orders can be placed days in advance, or even when passengers are queuing at the security checkpoint. Read full article »

Air New Zealand to track unaccompanied minors via digital bracelet and mobile app

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

The ubiquity of personal devices, the availability to be connected anywhere, and the self-service mindset of travellers, has created a momentum that sees many of today’s passenger experience innovations taking place in the digital realm.

For example, Air New Zealand – already noted for its adoption of digital technologies – recently announced it has created the new role of ‘Chief Digital Officer’, as part of a rethink of how the airline approached digital innovation.

The New Zealand Herald also reports that Air New Zealand has just unveiled a host of digital novelties aimed at removing customer pain points, and is working on the development and introduction of permanent digital bag tags, biometric scanners for luggage dropoff, electronic departure cards, and a tracking system for kids flying alone using digital wristbands.

Some of these digital services will be introduced at the end of the year, while others are being looked at as a possibility for the future.

Tracking unaccompanied minors
One eye-catching innovation are the digital wristbands for unaccompanied minors (kids who are flying without their parents). Taking a cue from Disney’s ‘Magic Band’, Air New Zealand is planning to introduce an electronic tracking system for the 28,000 unaccompanied minors it carries per year. The high-tech bracelets replace a paper system and aim to provide parents with more peace of mind, as they will be able to receive real-time information on where their child is during the journey.

How it works: According to the NZ Herald, unaccompanied minors will be offered a silicon wrist band in the colour of their choice which contains a chip that connects to a mobile application.

The app will allow Air New Zealand employees to easily identify the child and send intermittent text messages to parents and family of the child, notifying them where their child is in the flight process and how they are doing. Read full article »

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

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

China Eastern trials ‘intelligent personal assistant’ for in-flight service

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By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines

As airlines around the world are currently in the process of developing an digital inflight infrastructure (e.g, Internet connectivity, aircraft intranet, inflight portal) and the latest generation of in-seat IFE systems has adopted the Android platform, the next phase for airlines is to develop innovative applications that differentiaite to the passenger experience.

For example, on the IFE system of its new B787 Dreamliners, Air New Zealand and Panasonic have created a ‘digital crew call button’ app that lets passengers message the crew, as well as a dedicated digital button to order a glass of water and have it brought to their seat.

Similar functionality has now also been rolled out by China Eastern – China’s second largest carrier by passenger numbers. The airline is not using the seat back IFE system, though, but has partnered with Microsoft to develop an airline-specific version of Microsoft’s ‘XiaoIce’ (東航小冰) intelligent personal assistant.

Intelligent Personal Assistants
‘XiaoIce’ – which translated a ‘Little Ice’ – is an intelligent personal assistant (IPA) launched by Microsoft in 2014. IPAs are software programs that can complete tasks assigned by the user or provide answers to users’ questions.

Currently, the most widely known IPA is Apple’s Siri, which uses voice recognition to send messages, make calls and obtain answers to simple questions, such as those related to the weather and historical facts, on behalf of users.

Microsoft also has developed its own IPAs, respectively called Cortana and XiaoIce. While Cortana provides functions similar to that of Siri and can only be accessed through Windows-based devices, XiaoIce has been developed to be used on social media sites such as Sina Weibo, can be used virtually anywhere. XiaoIce learns from not only past conversations with the user but also those from all around China. With these resources, it can engage in very life-like conversations and has a bit of a funny character of its own. 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 Air NZ’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 »