CRM / LOYALTY

Airlines encourage passengers to provide service feedback via apps and cards

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This article earlier appeared in Onboard Hospitality Magazine.
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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Social media has provided passengers with a powerful platform to voice their opinion on the experience they have with airlines. In response, airlines have become one of the most active organizations that actively monitor the online conversation in order to pro-actively take actions to correct issues if needed.

However, instead of just waiting for passengers to share their experiences (both good and bad) online, several airlines have also started to encourage passengers to provide their feedback about the service they encounter in real-time.

KLM ‘Feedback App’
We have reported before on KLM’s mobile ‘Feedback’ app that allows the airline’s passengers to give real-time feedback on how they perceived the experience at a specific area (check-in, lounge, boarding, arrival) at one of 13 participating airports the airline’s network. The rating consists of simply tapping a ‘thumps up’ or ‘thumbs down’ button, but passengers can also specify their rating with a comment. Meanwhile, KLM team leads and station management at participating airports have been equipped with iPads that enables them to monitor the feedback in real-time, so they can react on passenger feedback immediately if needed and possible.

United ‘Outperform Recognition’
Following its merger with Continental, United Airlines launched a a service recognition program, called ‘Outperform Recognition’ in mid-2012, that invites United MileagePlus members to submit up to five nominations every four months through a variety of channels, including United’s mobile app, mobile website and Facebook page. Each period the airline selects 101 eligible employees randomly from the pool of eligible submissions, who receive a financial bonus of between USD 2,500 and 50,000. The first edition of the program (second half of 2012) received over 9,000 nominations.

The option to recognize excellent service through the mobile app [screenshot] is the most innovative part of the initiative as it provides passengers an easy way to express their satisfaction on the spot and in real-time – especially since United has equipped the majority of its domestic fleet with inflight.
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Air France KLM ‘employs’ frequent flyers as mystery shoppers

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

One of the best ways for companies to gain insight into their customers’ experience is through mystery shopping audits. Many people love to take part in mystery shopping – especially when this allows them to travel by air – as it lets them have their say and opinion on the level of customer service they receive and feed their experiences back to the company involved.

Air France KLM ’Quality Observers’
Many airlines employ mystery flyers and in return for valuable insight into the daily runnings of the flights provide undercover flyers with a free flight and paid-for expenses.

Air France KLM has come up with an innovative twist for its mystery flyers program and is introducing a new so-called ‘Quality Observer’ program. Instead of employing mystery shoppers, the Quality Observers are recruited from the airlines’ community of Flying Blue members.

Within the program, Elite members from the airlines’ Flying Blue loyalty program will be randomly invited to join the Quality Observer community and participate as mystery flyer during their travel, according to booking data and the pre-set Quality Observer coverage and frequency needs per station.

This joint Air France KLM program is designed to objectively observe and measure if product and services are delivered according to pre-set specifications at every customer point of contact during the actual journey (booking/call centers are planned to be added next year). According to Air France KLM, the aim of the Quality Observer program is to ensure a worldwide consistency in quality of service delivered to its passengers.

Mobile app
A special Quality Oberver app (both for iOS and Android devices) is made available for the Quality Observers. To be able to use the application, Flying Blue members need to be registered as a Quality Observer with AFKL, which is by invitation only.
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AirBaltic’s BalticMiles app rewards frequent fliers for burned calories

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By Springwise

Nike Mexico’s Subasta de Kilometros campaign has already offered runners the chance to use their tracked miles to bid on sports equipment. Now, the Burn The Miles app is using a similar idea by giving rewards to frequent fliers who jog enough to burn off the same number of calories as miles they’ve flown.

The app was developed by communications agency MRM for airBaltic’s loyalty program Baltic Miles, which rewards frequent fliers with points to exchange for flight tickets and products and services at partner businesses depending on how far they’ve traveled.

Those downloading the app are challenged to match every mile they fly with a calorie burned in the space of 24 hours after they land, tracked using the smartphone’s built-in accelerometer. If they manage to do so, they will be able to win further prizes. The program encourages those whose work requires them to sit on aeroplanes for extended periods to reserve some of their free time to exercise.

Since frequent fliers often have busy lifestyles, the app provides an incentive for users to keep themselves fit. This case study and video explain more about the scheme.


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Qantas commissions books that can be completed in flight time

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By Springwise

In today’s world of non-stop information and endless social network notifications, it’s hard to find the time to concentrate on just one story, never mind finishing a full-length novel.

The Netherlands’ VertragingsApp has already encouraged train passengers to discover short story authors based on their delay time, and now a new project has created a range of fiction titles for customers of Australia’s Qantas airline, selected to correspond with flight times.

Titled ‘A Story For Every Journey’, the project is a collaboration with Sydney-based ad agency Droga5. The campaign used statistics from publishing house Hachette to discern that the average reader can finish around 200 to 300 words – or one page – each minute. Taking into account time set aside for meals and naps, customers should be able to read the books in exactly the time it takes to set off and land.

The range was selected while keeping in mind the airline’s Platinum Flyers demographic – mostly male customers – meaning they suitably span the thriller, crime and nonfiction genres. Penned by notable Australian authors and stylishly designed by UK-based agency Paul Belford, the airline is hoping to attract an upmarket audience by offering the novels on its extended flights. Video of the campaign here.

Given that airplanes are one of the few places where use of electronic devices is actually discouraged, the books could take off with those who fly regularly. Are there other ways to tailor literature to different reading environments to help consumers rediscover the novel?

Emirates provides 1,000 pursers with HP tablets as part of ‘knowledge-driven’ in-flight service drive

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Already launched back in 2004, Emirates ‘Knowledge-driven Inflight Service’ (KIS) allows the airline’s cabin crew to see which previous trips a passenger has taken with the carrier before and based on this, know their food, wine and seating preferences, or any issues a customer had during their travels. Pursers use KIS to brief the cabin crew before every flight and check passenger’s special needs, as well as see who is enrolled in Emirates’ frequent flyer programme Skywards in order to enable the crew to provide a more personalized service. Cabin crew can also use the KIS system to perform in-flight upgrades to Business or First Class, as well as post customer feedback that’s emailed to headquarters upon landing.

Until now, Emirates’ KIS tool was tied to a Lenovo Thinkpad laptop that pursers tote around (video here). However, the laptops proved to be too bulky to use on a full flight. Says Anita Grillo, purser for Emirates, “The laptops had to be unpacked and plugged in because they had a short battery life. We had to ask passengers to come back to the galley to verify information, and passengers would have to wait until we clicked through pages that were sometimes slow to load.”

HP ElitePad 900
In order to solve the issues with the rather outdated device, as well as further enhance its knowledge-driven inflight service, Emirates just announced it has become the first global customer of the HP’s new ElitePad 900 tablet which runs on Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. According to Kevin Griffiths, SVP of cabin crew at Emirates, the airline tried numerous other devices but was attracted to the ElitePad by its looks, lack of weight and bulk and support for legacy (Windows-based) applications.

Emirates IT staff redesigned the KIS application to run on Windows 8 and deployed it on the ElitePad tablets. “We quickly rebuilt the application to include images and gestures,” Griffiths told Techradar. “The whole project from the development starting has been about six months. We have already trained 100 people and they will go online in December. In January after the launch of the ElitePad we’ll be rolling out over about four months and all of our pursers will have a device each then.”

The ElitePad is 3G enabled and Emirates has airtime agreements in place in most of its 120 destinations, so the tablet is synchronised with the back end applications and loads the final status just before departure, as well as will on landing.
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Air New Zealand offers frequent flyers a space to work in downtown Auckland

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Finding a place to work comfortably if their flight leaves late in the evening is an uncomfortable situation for many passengers, especially when there is no late checkout available at the hotel.

Koru Central
Australian Business Traveller reports that Air New Zealand (ANZ) offers its top-tier frequent flyers of its Airpoints loyalty program and members of its Koru Club lounge program complimentary access to Generator, a co-working space and business club located in the Britomart area in downtown Auckland. ANZ says it offers the service, which it has dubbed ‘Koru Central’, to provide passengers with “an office-away-from-office” and “a place to touch down” in the central business district of Auckland on the days they fly in and out of Auckland.

Inside the loft-style Generator ‘being space’, passengers will find shared work environments, sofas and armchairs, plus a cafe/bar/lounge area and shower facilities. Meeting rooms are also available. Passengers also get 2GB per month of Internet on their Koru Central account, with extra data at NZ$5 per GB. Business services like a PA, dictation services, and document production are available at Generator member rates and ANZ’s frequent flyers also earn Airpoints Dollars if they pay for eligible purchases using the OneSmart feature of their Airpoints card.
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Virgin America goes social and personal with new IFE system

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Virgin America, probably the most tech-savvy airline in the industry, plans to revolutionise its approach to customer service. Next year the airline will further upgrade its already advanced RED IFE system with a service built on Salesforce.com’s Chatter social messaging tool. This will allow passengers to interact with the carrier via the entertainment screens on the back of seats during the flight to deal with “real-time problems that need real-time answers”, according to the airline’s CEO David Cush. Virgin America already allows passengers to message each other during a flight, but with Chatter they will also be able to interact with Virgin America support staff on the ground.

How it works
A Salesforce.com-based CRM dashboard provides Virgin America customer service agents with information about each customer’s last three interactions on social media and their flight history, which allows them to send a targeted message.

For example, a customer tweeting about being worried about missing a flight will be served up a response via Chatter on the screen in front of their seat with information on how they can make their next connection. Customer service personnel on the ground could also take pro-active action to alert a passenger to a potential problem, such as a bag not having made it on the flight, through a pop-up alert on the screen.

Passengers, meanwhile, will find a personalized environment on their IFE system. For example, Virgin America is looking to not just give passengers details about their frequent flyer points, but also suggest entertainment and food & beverage choices on what they have watched before or eaten on previous trips, as well as airport maps of where they go to make connecting flights. The system also gives all passengers brief profiles on other passengers as a conversation starter for the seat-to-seat chat function.

Furthermore, passengers can contact Virgin America’s customer service staff via the IFE system to ask if they have been upgraded on the next leg of their travel and get quick feedback. When watching a movie, the IFE screen will signal passengers that they have received a notification from the airline.
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Lufthansa lets frequent flyers become the ‘foursquare mayor’ of a route

By Shubhodeep Pal, SimpliFlying

Lufthansa’s “Blue Legends” Facebook app is one of the first ten “Connected Apps” to be offered as a product of Foursquare‘s new development platform. In a nutshell, Foursquare now allows developers to create apps that offer customized experiences to customers based on their check-ins.

Lufthansa has seized this new opportunity in the Foursquare eco system to create official Lufthansa venues (including over 9,000 flights named in the format “Lufthansa Flight LH 400″) where users can check-in virtually to get special badges, ranks and rewards.

For instance, once connected with Foursquare and Facebook, you can earn badges such as the “Early-Bird-badge” by checking in before 6 in the morning. There are more virtual goodies as you fly more on Lufthansa (and, of course, remember to check-in to their official locations).

One of the undeniably attractive features of the app is that its written in HTML5 which allows it to be accessed from almost every platform – desktop and mobile – with ease, without being confined to a closed app ecosystem (such as iOS or Android).

An increasingly “gamified” and location-aware world
As you move up the ladder, you’ll find that the badges and ranks (similar to mayorships) are increasingly targeted towards frequent flyers. Lufthansa believes that this customized experience by offering special virtual badges in recognition for flying the airline will “open a whole new dimension of social travel experience for frequent flyers who can not only track their countries and airports they’ve visited with the app but can compete with their friends to become the “Expert Pilot” on a route between two cities.” This rank is given to the person who has travelled most between two destinations – independent from the Lufthansa flight he took or airport of the city he travelled to.
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Airlines give their best customers access to branded zones at cinemas and events

IKEA stores in Canada feature ‘green parking’ spaces close to the entrance that are reserved for drivers of hybrid cars and fuel-efficient vehicles. Credit card companies such as Amex and Mastercard have been opening airport lounges for their members (at for example Toronto and Budapest airports). UK mobile operator 02 gives its customers exclusive access to concert tickets up to 48 hours before general release, while Palmeiras, one of the major football teams in Brazil, reserves 5,000 seats exclusively for Visa Card customers. Called the ‘Visa Sector’, the section has a lounge, restaurant, bars, plasma TVs and other perks.

Coined by trendwatching.com as ‘Perkonomics’, these initiatives are part of a new breed of perks and privileges that are added to brands’ regular offerings in order to satisfy consumers’ ever-growing desire for novel forms of status and/or convenience. Several airlines have also jumped on the ‘perkonomics’ bandwagon by offering more inclusive perks for members of their loyalty programs.

Cine TAM
Cine TAM is a cinema owned by Brazil’s TAM Airlines. In 2007, the airline transformed a former theater in the Santo Amaro neighborhood of Sao Paulo into a TAM-branded cinema. The design of the four-screen cinema is inspired by the jet-set era of the 1960s, and for example features several ‘ball chairs’ in the entrance hall, while the theater’s screens are named Londres (London), Nova York (New York City), Milão (Milan), and Paris. Red and Black members of TAM’s Fidelidade frequent flyer program, as well as holders of TAM co-branded credit cards, receive a standard discount of 50 percent on film tickets, can make use of a preferential queue when buying tickets at the box office, and are invited to attend exclusive premieres. TAM commercials are shown before each movie.


Air France-KLM Kinepolis
On a similar note, albeit on a much smaller scale, Air France-KLM offers members of its Flying Blue loyalty program the chance to reserve one of the airline’s VIP seats at the Kinepolis cinema in Brussels, Belgium. Amenities of the so-called ‘Air France-KLM VIP Lounge’, include 4 comfortable “Business Class” aircraft seats, a cooled bottle of champagne and a mini-bar. The perk is reserved for Flying Blue members (silver tier and higher) residing in Belgium, who can book the cinema lounge twice a year.
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Estonian Air’s social loyalty program rewards fans for online promotion

One of the most compelling aspects of location-based social networks such as Foursquare and Facebook Places are their game dynamic, which rewards users with virtual badges for checking into venues repeatedly, thereby promoting a venue or brand to their friends through Facebook and Twitter. Airlines such as Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, Virgin America and JetBlue have launched campaigns that reward their fans and followers for ‘checking in’ into their virtual venues.

Gamification
The initiatives by these airlines are early steps in what is called the ‘gamification’ trend, which is described by JWT as “Brands applying game mechanics –incentives and rewards such as leader boards, leveling, stored value, privileges, superpowers, status indicators, etc.– to non-gaming spaces in an attempt to drive certain actions or behaviors.” Gamification can encourage people to perform taks that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, filling out tax forms, or reading web sites, and according to trendwatching.com it taps into basic human needs: “Fun and entertaining, games allow players to visualize progress, while satisfying fundamental needs and desires – for reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism.” For more on ‘gamification’, we recommend reading ‘Gamification 101: The Psychology of Motivation’.

Social loyalty
Moving beyond location-based reward schemes such as TopGuest, companies such as Badgeville, CrowdTwist, Gamify and Manumatrix have created ‘white label’ social loyalty platforms that allow members to earn points, unlock badges, and be featured on a leaderboard as they engage in various activities such as watching videos, commenting on articles, reviewing, “Liking” or tweeting products and promotions, posting photo’s on Instagram, and participating in polls. Examples of social loyalty programs include ‘Samsung Nation’ and the upcoming Hilton Social HHonors (site is not yet live).

Estonian Air ‘AirScore’
In late October 2011, Estonian Air, flag-carrier of the tiny but internet-savvy Baltic nation, became the first airline in the world to launch a social loyalty programme on Facebook, rewarding its customers and fans for being strong advocates online. Called AirScore, the scheme allows customers and fans to get rewards for promotional actions such as sharing a review of the airline or tweeting a deal. Read full article

Qantas’ epiQure community connects food-loving frequent flyers

Despite the large number of travel-related social networks around, several airlines have launched social networks of their own in the past years. Think BA’s Metrotwin, Virgin Atlantic’s vtravelled.com, Air France-KLM’s Bluenity and American Airlines’ BlackAtlas.com. Other airlines, such as KLM (Club China, Club Africa, Flying Blue Golf), Lufthansa (Miles & More MemberScout), BA (Face-to-Face, and Etihad (Golf Club, IndiaConnect) have launched business-oriented social networks for members of their frequent flyer programs.

The fortunes of these communities have been mixed, as shown by a lack of conversations between members and outdated feature content. The basic idea f an airline-facilitated online community makes sense though, as the airline business is essentially about connecting people. The latest kid on the block is Qantas, which in June 2011 launched a community build around food and wine.

Qantas epiQure
Aiming to tap into its 7.8 million members-base, Qantas Frequent Flyer, the loyalty program of Qantas, has launched EpiQure as a more in-depth feature of its existing program. Combining the online community with real-life events, the wine and food community gives members access to “on-line forums to gain knowledge from industry experts, wine selected by the Qantas Wine Panel, personalised winery tours in every Australian wine region and invitation to dinners with globally renowned chefs.” Among the Australian chefs to be part of the community is Qantas in-flight consultant and celebrity chef, Neil Perry, who designed the airline’s international in-flight menu.
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Airline ‘fare clubs’ offer regular travellers a standard discount

As ancillary fees for checked baggage, priority boarding, extra legroom seats, etcetera, become more commonplace in the airline industry, several airlines have been introducing branded/bundled fares and annual ancillary subscriptions as a next step. United Airlines, for example, offers unlimited checked baggage for USD349 a year, while airBaltic recently introduced a similar fee in partnership with luggage brand Samsonite. Another category are ‘fare clubs’, which for an annual fee, provide regular travellers with a standard discount or access to member-only fares.

Wizz Air ‘Xclusive Club’
Wizz Air, a low-cost airline from Poland that offers flights from several bases in Central and Eastern Europe, has recently launched a new membership program called Wizz Xclusive Club. For an annual fee of EUR 29.99, Wizz Xclusive Club members get exclusive access to a pool of tickets that can be cheaper by up to 10 EUR per one-way flight than regular prices. Up to 9 passengers can be booked together with the Xclusive Club member on the same reservation and benefit from the discounted fares. Wizz Air is the first airline in Europe to offer a ‘fare club’ and says that in the first two weeks following the rollout, almost 50 thousand customers signed up.

Spirit Airlines ‘$9 Fare Club’
Wizz Air seems to have been inspired by Florida-based low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines, which in 2008 launched its ‘$9 Fare Club’. Spirit guarantees a member-only sale, with ticket prices as low as a few dollars, at least once every six weeks, but usually offers at least one sale per week. The special fares are offered on a first come, first serve basis and travellers flying on the same ticket will receive the members-only fare as well. Annual membership of the $9 Fare Club costs USD59.95, but those who sign up for a Spirit-branded MasterCard also obtain a free membership to the $9 Fare Club.
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Lufthansa gives its virtual fans real discounts on A380 flights

In early May 2011, Lufthansa’s 7th A380 entered into daily service on the Frankfurt – San Francisco route. To promote its A380 destinations in the USA – New York, San Francisco and Miami (from 10 June 2011 on) – Lufthansa has launched a Facebook campaign in which it offers its virtual fans a real, tangible, reward.

Facebook members can book a virtual flight on a Lufthansa A380 flight from the USA to Frankfurt, and the more ‘likes’ their flight gets, the bigger the discount voucher. 

How it works: Participants must ‘like’ Lufthansa on Facebook, submit a ‘virtual flight’ by selecting an origin and destination from Lufthansa’s timetable, get their Facebook friends to ‘like’ their virtual flight within a 24 hour time period that begins upon the submission of the virtual flight. Participants who create a virtual flight but receive less then 10 ‘likes’ on Facebook automatically receive a USD25 discount voucher, with the amount rising to USD50 with 10 to 29 ‘likes’, USD75 with 30 to 59 ‘likes’, while those who get 60 friends to like their A380 flight, receive a USD100 discount voucher. A maximum of 15,000 discount vouchers will be awarded in each denomination and a purchase is required to use the discount voucher. 
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Malaysia Airlines lets members book, check-in and select their seat via Facebook

Malaysia Airlines in partnership with technology provider SITA have launched a new Facebook application, called MHbuddy, that allows users to search, book and pay for flights with the airline directly through Facebook. Malaysian is not the first to introduce such functionality (see “Delta first airline to sell tickets on Facebook”), but the airline has gone several steps further by integrating the booking process with the user’s Facebook profile, allowing members of the popular social network (over 800 million active users worldwide) for example to identify friends who might be on the same flight.

Says Amin Khan, Executive VP Commercial Strategy at Malaysia Airlines, “Our passengers are spending more and more time using social networks. […] With MHbuddy we are pleased to provide our fans an easy way to book a ticket without having to leave Facebook. In doing so, we have also opened another distribution channel for ticket sales.”

The Social Flight
During the search and booking phase, Facebook users can open an additional box to see if any of their Facebook friends are on the same flight or expected to be in the same destination during the selected period. Users can then send a message to notify friends of their trip plans.

For the outbound flight, passengers can also check-in from within the Facebook module, and obtain an email booking reference and boarding pass or, on domestic routes, an SMS mobile boarding card. And here it gets really inventive: At this stage users are also shown any seats which have been selected by friends who are travelling on the same flight, so they can choose to pick nearby seat. With this feature Malaysia Airlines and SITA take a first step towards Internet guru Jeff Jarvis’ concept of ‘The Social Flight’, an idea which is also behind social network Satisfly.
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The Next Frontier: KLM to sell tickets for suborbital space flights

KLM has partnered with Space Experience Curacao (SCX), a commercial suborbital space flight venture planning to operate out of its Space Port on the Caribbean island of Curacao. SCX will offer passengers a few minutes of weightlessness beyond Earth’s atmosphere and a view of the planet from about 105 km (65 miles) above ground. KLM has registered for the first flights from the island in the Dutch Antilles and also will be supporting future suborbital flights through promotion and sale of the tickets, for example as part of vacation packages to Curacao. The airline will also enable frequent fliers to put their points toward flights into space. KLM CEO Peter Hartman said of the new suborbital spaceflight partnership: “It is a fantastic project that totally fits the pioneering spirit of KLM.” A KLM spokeswoman said the airline still had to work out exactly what the criteria would be to earn a space flight ticket — which sells for EUR70,000 (USD95,000). 

XCOR ‘Lynx’
Space Experience Curacao was founded in 2008 by a former commander of the Royal Dutch Air Force and an air force test pilot and has backing from private equity investors and Hato International Airport in Curacao. The company signed a deal in October 2010 to lease a sub-orbital spacecraft called the ‘Lynx’ and a pilot from U.S-based XCOR Aerospace,. The Lynx takes off and lands horizontally and is designed to fly to over 100 km in altitude up to four times per day. The spacecraft has just two seats, meaning that it can carry just one passenger at a time who is sitting right up front like a co-pilot, instead of in back. The total flight time would be about 30 minutes, with the passenger experiencing just over four minutes of weightlessness. To see how an XCOR suborbital flight would look like, see this video (recommended). Pending U.S. government approvals for the spacecraft, Space Experience Curacao hopes to start flights in January 2014. Read full article