PASSENGER EXPERIENCE

Aer Lingus’ new Business Class ticks many product and service innovation boxes

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Airlines around the world are working hard to keep up with the cabin interior upgrade arms race by introducing bigger and better premium seats, as well as smarter and lighter designs in Economy. At the same time airlines are coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ service elements of the inflight experience, ideally taking a holistic approach to design a branded passenger experience.

Irish ‘value carrier’ Aer Lingus recently announced details of its new 32-seat Business Class cabin, which in our opinion ticks many boxes of what the Business Class experience should look like in the coming years, as the airline has come up with a very well thought-out combination of product and service innovations. Or as Irish newspaper The Independent put it: “Is Aer Lingus’s hot new cabin a business ‘class’, ‘service’ or ‘experience’?”

Examples include pre-flight dinner in the airline’s JFK and Boston lounges for passengers who want to maximize their sleep onboard, free wifi and ample stowage space for personal devices, the provision of dinner on demand onboard, tapping into Aer Lingus Irish heritage with items such as locally sourced food and the amenity kit cosmetics, and providing pre-flight clearance of US customs and immigration on flights leaving Dublin and Shannon.

Sleep, work, dine, relax
The seats, manufactured by fellow Irish company Thompson Aero, have been customized by Factorydesign who are also responsible for the new Thompson Vantage-based ‘Mint’ Business Class on JetBlue’s new subfleet of transcontinental A321s.

Aer Lingus new Business Class seat transforms into a fully-flat 6’6” (2 metres) bed, which is one of the longest in the industry, with a seat width of 22”. The staggered layout offers direct aisle access to 90 percent of Business Class passengers except those with a window seat in the first row. Irish supplier Botany Weaving has provided the fabrics for the Business Class cabin such as seat covers, carpets and curtains, with the fibres designed to reflect Ireland’s weaving heritage. A video of the new Aer Lingus Business Class cabin here.

Aer Lingus will introduce its new Business Class on its seven A330 aircraft from March 2015, and what makes the airline’s new premium passenger experience of interest is that Aer Lingus aimed to come up with product and services that design for multiple uses of one space based on a passenger’s needs, depending on whether they wish to sleep, work, dine or relax. Read full article »

See airlinetrends.com LIVE at FTE Asia, Kuala Lumpur 1-3 Dec

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Besides reporting on the latest passenger experience trends and product & service innovations, airlinetrends.com also frequently provides in-house ‘trends & innovations’ sessions at airlines and suppliers to the airline industry.

For those who would like to experience an airlinetrends.com session «live», we have partnered with Future Travel Experience Asia – which will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on December 1-3 – to provide two working sessions as part of the Up In The Air conference stream.

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(1) “STRATEGIES FOR DELIVERING EVEN BETTER PASSENGER EXPERIENCES” - Unconference Session
MONDAY DECEMBER 1ST » 15.30 – 16.30  

In this interactive session facilitators Raymond Kollau, Founder airlinetrends.com and Daniel Baron, Founder LIFT Strategic Design will first give a presentation about key consumer and passengers trends.

Then, in an “unconference” discussion, participants will discuss together all angles of passenger experience development and the challenges they face in product, service delivery and brand. Participants will gain insight into trends plus strategies for more effective concept development and implementation, in the context of their corporate goals. Learn more » 

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(2) TRENDS AND INNOVATIONS SHAPING TODAY’S ONBOARD PASSENGER EXPERIENCE
TUESDAY DECEMBER 2ND » 09.45 – 10.45

How airlines are responding to consumer trends and technology with innovative products and service in order to differentiate the passenger experience.      

This fast-paced trend session, led by airlinetrends.com founder Raymond Kollau, follows the so-called customer journey and combines the main macro, industry and consumer trends shaping the airline industry today with dozens of the latest airline product and service innovations and links them to the various elements of the onboard passenger experience: cabin, seats, IFE, catering, amenities, hospitality, etc. Learn more » Read full article »

The Past, Present, and Future of Business Class seat design

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This article originally appeared on TheDesignAir

By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

So it isn’t often we think ourselves as that awkward L-shaped brick from classic computer game Tetris, but fundamentally that’s how aircraft seat designers see us. Unfortunately-shaped wedges that have to fit neatly into a rectangular shape.

In a constant fight to give airline passengers more space, more comfort and a better quality experience, the war of the seat configuration continues. British Airways’ latest patent application shows that perhaps the ideal future of front of the plane comfort isn’t as clearly cut as we once thought.

The Past
Originally, in 1999 British Airways brought the flat bed concept to the skies with it’s Club World seat. Seen as a quantum leap in Business Class comfort, with space only considered for the super wealthy, who could afford First Class opulence. Since then many carriers have offered similar comfort, but the forward and backward concept took into consideration the ergonomics of the body, offering more space to the wider upper body. This was done by creating interconnecting forward-backward seats that operated as a singular unit, reducing seat costs and increasing space where it was needed – around the shoulders.

The original club world seat was then fairly quickly redesigned, to what we see on BA’s fleet today. The modern seats offer more privacy, more space, and more technological advancement. But the seat concept is sound, even the older seats can still be found on BA’s subsidiary OpenSkies 757 fleet now titled ‘Biz Bed’.

The forward backward concept was new, and whilst open to initial scepticism, proved a success, and was quickly admired by business travellers, who enjoyed the extra comfort, for little extra price, due to the LOPA (the seat’s real estate on the plane) being hardly compromised compared to the big bucket recliners that the rest of the industry enjoyed. Read full article »

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10 interesting airline product and service innovations launched in 2014 so far

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

At airlinetrends.com we continuously monitor the global aviation industry for product and service innovations launched by airlines in response to cultural, technological, and economic changes that influence airline customers’ needs and expectations.

The product and service innovations that we report on our website aim to show how airlines can come up with creative solutions with the aim to improve the passenger experience, increase revenues and/or lower costs.

For those who have been too busy to keep track of the latest airline product and service innovations, here the 10 articles that we believe are among the most interesting product and service introductions in the first six months of 2014.

10 product and service innovations first half 2014

1. Air France-KLM’s ‘e-tag & e-track’ turn suitcases into connected devices

Air France, KLM and partners have developed a novel electronic bag tag and baggage tracker that enables passengers to label their luggage at home, drop bags at the fast bag drop and trace their luggage in real-time. The service will be introduced at the end of 2014. Read article »

2. Smart design: Fixed headrest support on Etihad’s new Economy seats

Hidden inside the press storm caused by Etihad’s announcement of its luxurious new A380 comes a smart design innovation of the airline’s new Economy seats. Etihad’s so-called ‘Economy Smart Seats’ feature a ‘fixed wing’ headrest, designed to provide a firm surface for passengers to lean on while sleeping. Read article »

3. Virgin Atlantic launches Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch ‘wearable tech’ trial

Virgin Atlantic has started a six-week trial together with airline IT provider SITA to learn how wearable technologies such as Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch could improve the passenger experience and speed up the check-in process at its London Heathrow lounge. Read article »

4. Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines first to equip cabin crew with Google Glass

Following an earlier initiative by Virgin Atlantic to trial Google’s wearabla smart glass, Chinese LCC Spring Airlines has equipped flight attendants with Google Glasses on a flight from Shanghai to Chengdu, becoming the world’s first airline to deploy the device inside the cabin. Read article »

5. Iberia and airberlin latest carriers to develop smartwatch boarding pass

Airlines are teaming with consumer electronics firms to trial the latest wearable tech. Following the recent launch by Vueling and Sony of the first smartwatch-based boarding pass, Iberia and airberlin have announced their own initiatives, partnering with Samsung and Pebble respectively. Read article »

6. Philippine Airlines introduces ‘layered’ Business Class seat on its A330s

Philippine Airlines is the launch customer of Sogerma’s new Equinox 3D seat, which decrease the default pitch in a full-flat Business Class seat by raising one seat above the other when moving to the bed position. PAL is also the first full-service carrier to remove all IFE screens from its A330 widebodies, including those in Business Class, offering passengers wireless-only IFE&C instead. Read article »

7. India’s low-cost carriers get creative with their buy-on-board food packaging

Along with basic objectives such as protection and preservation, clever food packaging appeals to consumers’ emotions and brings a product alive. Two great examples of attractive and fun packaging can be found in India, where low-cost carriers JetKonnect and IndiGo have come up with quirky buy-on-board ranges. Read article »

8. Servair chefs make a weekly ‘surprise’ appearance onboard an Air France flight

Air France and its catering subsidiary Servair have launched a new initiative which sees a Servair chef boarding a long-haul Air France flight once a week in order to add a culinary touch to the inflight experience, gather direct feedback on the menus served, and train cabin crew on the spot. Read article »

9. China Airlines unveils ‘Family Couches’ on its upcoming B777-300ERs

Taiwan-based China Airlines is the second airline to install Air New Zealand’s innovative Skycouch. Renamed as Family Couch, China Airlines will install the seats – which can be turned into a small bed – in ten rows on the right-hand side of its Economy Class. Read article »

10. Delta upgrades cabin crew from Nokia smartphones to connected ‘phablets’

Following the provision of Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones to its entire crew last year, Delta will replace the devices with with larger Nokia Lumia 1520 ‘phablets’ later this year, saying the new devices are meant to serve as a platform for future, more personalized in-flight customer service. Read article »

Innovation is the Marketing » BA high-tech neuro blanket tracks passenger’s emotions

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This trend appears in the upcoming edition of our 2014 The State of Airline Marketing, a free annual report published by airlinetrends.com and Simpliflying that identifies the latest trends in airline marketing and communication. Download the free report here »

Unlike investments in new aircraft, cabin interiors and seats, innovations in services in order to improve the passenger experience do not have to have large financial consequences.

It basically comes down to creative ideas, and the current revolution in social media and personal digital devices allows forward-looking airlines to come up with new services that — even though not all of them will be a great commercial success — will contribute to the airline’s brand by creating buzz and a sense that the airline is trying to improve the experience.

BA’s ‘Happiness Blanket’
In an effort to gain more insights into – as well as promote – its onboard products and services, British Airways has conducted an experiment at 30,000ft to find out more about how passengers sleep and rest in the air, in order to help shape services such as timing of meals, types of films shows and seat positions.

The airline asked passengers located in different cabins to cover themselves under a so-called ‘Happiness Blanket’, which is woven with fibre optics, uses neuro-sensors to measure a person’s brainwaves and ‘meditative state’, and which changes colour – from red to blue – to show when they are at their most relaxed.

Additionally, a special headband – the MyndPlay BrainBand – has been used to measure a person’s meditative state on a scale of one to 100. This is then relayed via Bluetooth to LED lights woven into the blanket.

When the number is low it will turn red or when it is near the 100 mark it will turn blue. As well as detecting brainwave activity, it can also monitor a user’s level of concentration and relaxation.

Behavioral response
British Airways will analyze the data from the blankets to make the in-flight experience better. The color patterns will give an idea to the crew on the behavioral response of the passengers to in-flight services such as the timing of meals, the menu, and the movie options. Read full article »

Four airlines to receive their first A380 superjumbo in 2014

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As more airlines are bidding farewell to the last 747 in their fleet and opt for the 777-300ER or the A380 as their flagship product instead, this year will see four more airlines welcoming their first superjumbo.

The A380 provides 50 percent more floor space compared with the Boeing 747, but airlines on average install only 35 percent more seats, using the extra space for roomier cabins and customized areas. Well-documented examples of ‘A380 extravaganza’ include the onboard First Class shower on Emirates’ A380 and the Absolut Vodka-branded lounge and inflight duty free store on Korean Air’s A380.

10 airlines currently operate an A380
As of end of January 2014, 16 airlines have ordered 304 aircraft of the passenger version of the superjumbo. Currently 123 A380s are in operation worldwide (graph here) and 10 airlines have taken delivery of an A380 so far: Singapore Airlines (2007), Qantas, Emirates (2008), Air France (2009), Lufthansa (2010), Korean Air, China Southern (2011), THAI Airways, Malaysia Airlines (2012), and British Airways (2013). With a total order of 140 A380s, of which 44 have been delivered, Emirates accounts for nearly half of the orders.

This year, four more airlines will receive their first A380, including three carriers who regularly show up in the various ‘best airlines in the world’ rankings: Qatar Airways, Etihad, Asiana, plus Japanese hybrid low-cost carrier Skymark. These airlines will be followed by the final round of first A380 deliveries to Transaero in 2015, while orders at Hong Kong Airlines (2015) and Virgin Atlantic (2018) seem questionable. At the same time, Turkish Airlines reportedly will add four A380s to its fleet this summer for operation on slot-constrained routes to China.

Asiana
Becoming the eleventh carrier to add the A380 to its fleet (just before Qatar Airways), Korea’s Asiana Airlines will introduce its first superjumbo in June this year on regional routes, before deploying the aircraft on the Seoul – LAX route in July or August. Asiana will take delivery of a total of six A380s — two in June of this year, two next year, and two in 2017.

Asiana’s A380 will be configured with 12 ‘OZ First Suites’ and 66 staggered ‘Smartium’ Business seats on the upper deck and 417 economy seats (106 on the upper deck and 311 on the lower deck), carrying a total of 495 passengers.
Read full article »

Best airline product and service innovations of 2013

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

At airlinetrends.com we continuously monitor the global aviation industry for product and service innovations launched by airlines in response to cultural, technological, and economic changes that influence airline customers’ needs and expectations.

Major themes
Besides working hard getting the basics of the passenger experience right – e.g, on-time departure and arrival, better cabin and seat comfort, quality catering and up-to-date IFE, and a friendly crew who understand the basics of onboard hospitality – many of the major themes that are on top of airlines’ passenger experience agenda today contain a digital component, such as:

- Providing ‘me-centric passengers’ with more choice and control of their travel experience;
- Enabling ground staff and cabin crew to offer a more personalized service;
- Responding to customer feedback and closing the customer service loop, in (near) real-time;
- Adopting a retail mindset and obtaining better merchandizing skills;
- Keeping pace with the rapid developments in consumer electronics and connectivity.

The top 10 product and service innovations that we have selected this year aim to show how airlines can come up with creative solutions based on the interplay between technological, social and economical changes, with the aim to improve the passenger experience, increase revenues and/or lower costs.

Many of the examples on our list contain a major digital component, as the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets (which has grown faster than any other consumer technology in history), the possibility to be connected anywhere and anytime, and the self-service mindset of connected travellers, has created a huge momentum for airlines to come up with innovative products and services.

THE AIRLINETRENDS.COM TOP 10

1. Airlines let flyers download content to their personal device before the flight

Responding to the large number of passengers bringing their own device onboard, airlines are stepping up the rollout of inflight Wi-Fi and wireless IFE portals. The latest development also sees airlines provide flyers access to IFE content before their flight takes off via dedicated apps or via the airline lounge wi-fi network. Read article »

2. airBaltic lets passengers customize their buy-on-board meal

AirBaltic’s has launched a novel food ordering system that allows customers to customize their buy-on-board meal. Passengers who pre-order their meal can choose from 70 different meal options and virtually ‘drag and drop’ their preferred meal items onto a digital airline tray, and have their customized meal served to them onboard. Read article »

3. British Airways to trial electronic baggage tag

British Airways is testing an electronic baggage tag which removes the need for a new paper tag each time a traveller flies. Passengers can update the digital suitcase tag to display their flight information by holding their smartphone over the tag after they have checked in. Read article »

4. Norwegian’s new Dreamliner features geotainment and in-seat ordering of F&B

Norwegian, Europe’s 3rd largest LCC, has started flying long-haul low-cost using a fleet of Boeing 787s. The airline’s Dreamliners are the first aircraft to feature Panasonic’s new Android-powered in-seat IFE system. Select Android apps that have been pre-loaded onto the system include a geotainment flight map and in-seat ordering of food and drinks. Read article »

5. Delta provides cabin crew with Nokia Lumia ‘onboard retail’ smartphones

Following an earlier initiative from American Airlines, which has equipped its cabin crew with Samsung handhelds, Delta has provided 19,000 flight attendants with Windows Phone 8-based Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones to be used as a next-generation onboard service and point-of-sale device. Read article »

6. Air Canada’s new LCC ‘rouge’ teams with Disney for customer service training

Air Canada’s new discount airline, Rouge, has called in Disney to help train its flight attendants. The airline says it looked at several top customer service providers, with Disney being the most comprehensive and in line with Rouge’s objective to create a very different and service-focused culture. Read article »

7. Airlines encourage passengers to provide service feedback via apps and cards

Social media has provided passengers with a powerful platform to voice their opinion on the experience they have with airlines. Besides (pro-actively) getting in touch with passengers via Twitter or Facebook, several airlines have also started to encourage passengers to provide instant feedback via mobile apps and – in a low tech way – via paper cards. Read article »

8. Delta teams up with Westin Hotels for ‘Heavenly’ onboard amenities

As full-flat beds have now become the industry standard in Business Class – allowing passengers to sleep more comfortable – airlines are looking for additional ways to improve comfort. Delta, for example, has teamed up with Westin Hotels to provide passengers with an in-flight version of Westin Hotel’s ‘Heavenly Bed’ range of pillows and comforters. Read article »

9. Dallas/Fort Worth Airport new security check experience is sponsored by Marriott

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport has partnered with Marriott for a three-month pilot to provide a more calming environment for passengers at the security checkpoint. Ambient lighting, wall art and relaxing music have been installed and passengers can re-pack in a ‘re-composure’ area featuring Marriott furnishings. Read article »

10. Qantas trials location-based ‘social listening’ in its airport lounges

Qantas is trialling technology that allows it to monitor social media conversations in specific locations such as airport lounges, even if a passenger doesn’t mention the airline in a tweet or post. This location-based ‘social listening’ is enabled by passengers who have turned on the geo-location feature in Twitter or who have checked into Foursquare or Facebook Places. Read article »

The best cabin interior launches of premium airlines and hybrid LCCs in 2013

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Passenger expectations continue to be raised by the cabin interior upgrade programs launched by airlines around the world, which sees them introducing more innovative or luxurious products and services, be it private suites in First Class, full-flat beds in Business, or the latest in in-flight entertainment and connectivity. Initially the upgraded product (and/or service) differentiates the airline from its competitors (as airline upgrade programs are out of sync with eachother), who then over the course of several years start matching – and often leapfrogging – the new standard, thereby initiating another ‘creative destruction’ cycle.

Shorter product cycles
Meanwhile, just like in other industries, these product cycles have become shorter. Witness the ‘fast fashion’ revolution created by H&M and Zara in the clothing industry. As Air New Zealand’s general manager international Ed Sims observed when the airline introduced its redesigned cabins a few years ago: “There was a time when airlines in our position could imagine six to seven years between product refurbishments, these days customers are so impatient for new developments that we think, realistically, that product cycles should be closer to three to fours years.”

New materials
At the same time, airlines have more ways than ever to differentiate their cabins as the cabin interior industry has made huge advances in the development of materials that look stunning and pass all regulations, although there still is a more formidable task left though of convincing top management to bring more ‘wow’ into the cabin.

Cabin interior launches in 2013
Written by the experts at TheDesignair, we have selected three of the best examples of how premium airlines have continued to raise the bar this year, with the likes of Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates setting new standards in Business and First. At the same time, (hybrid) low-cost carriers are launching their own ‘smart’ Business Class cabins as part of their efforts to target the lucrative business traveller segment.

LUXURY AIRLINES RAISING THE BAR

1. Singapore Airlines further upgrades its cabins

Investing nearly USD150 million in a cross-cabin refresh, Singapore Airlines has unveiled its new First, Business and Economy class seats, as well as Panasonic latest eX3 IFE system. The new design in September made its debut on the airline’s new B777-300ERs flying the competitive Singapore-London route, and will also be rolled out on Singapore Airlines’ upcoming A350s. Read article »

2. Cathay Pacific revamps First Class with some nice touches

Cathay Pacific is ensuring its cabin products stay at the forefront of people’s minds. As the airline’s First Class suite wasn’t in need of a full redesign, the airline partnered with Foster + Partners, the same architectural company that designed Cathay’s ‘The Wing‘ lounge, to look at the suite and see how it could be refreshed. Read article »

3. Emirates new ‘Executive A319’ features private jet lounge and First Class suites

For travellers seeking a step up from First Class, Emirates’ new private jet service aims to raise the bar. Dubbed ‘Emirates Executive‘, the airline has transformed an Airbus A319 into a private jet that features a lounge with chairs, sofa and a table, 10 private First Class suites, and a shower – once only available on its A380s. Read article »

LOW-COST CARRIERS UPGRADING

4. JetBlue unveils new ‘transcontinental’ A321 interior featuring private suites

JetBlue in 2014 will launch a new transcontinental service between New York JFK, LA and San Francisco, featuring the airline’s new ‘Mint’ Business Class, which is described as “a stylish service minus all of the stuffiness often associated with the traditional front-of-the-cabin experience.” Read article »

5. Japan’s Skymark goes Premium Economy-only on new A330s

Hybrid low-cost carrier Skymark, Japan’s third largest airline, aims to differentiate itself in the high yield domestic market from full service airlines ANA and JAL and LCCs such as Jetstar Japan and Peach with a Premium Economy-only A330 featuring 271 seats with legrests and a 38 inch pitch. Read article »

6. Low-cost carrier FlyDubai goes chic with new Business Class cabin

Dubai-based ‘no-frills chic’ carrier FlyDubai has added a separate Business Class with wider seats and more legroom to its cabin. The airline’s fleet of 737-800s already features Boeing’s new Sky Interior and a high-definition inflight entertainment system. Read article »

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Airlines encourage passengers to provide service feedback via apps and cards

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This article earlier appeared in Onboard Hospitality Magazine.
Download as pdf »

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.
Read full article »

Russia’s Transaero goes ‘uber-premium’ with new medium-haul Boeing 737s

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

We are slightly taken aback by Transaero’s latest announcement regarding the cabin offerings on their six new 737-800 aircraft. Transaero, a Russian carrier that was fairly unheard of until a few years ago, was recently awarded by SkyTrax as ‘Most Improved Airline In the World’ and by the looks of things, quite rightly so.

In what we believe is the only carrier in the world to offer a true three-class 737. Transaero has managed to fit in a First Class, Business Class and Economy Class cabin in an airframe that low-cost carriers can fit just 189 people. So Economy is going to be a tight fit, right? Not at all! The airline is boasting 34″ seat pitch on the aircraft, equivalent to that found on Oman Air’s long haul fleet, and one of the best pitches in the air. The 152-seat aircraft will be delivered in their 2013/2014 winter schedule and will be operated on flights between Moscow and London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Pathos (Cyprus), Astana and Almaty.

Imperial Class
Transaero’s ‘Imperial Class’ is a true First Class product and interesting to see on a 737 fleet, as the aircraft realistically can only fly a 6-hour flight at its upper limit as a financially viable proposition. So to see deeply-coloured fully-flat beds is a luxury for a short/mid-haul flight, but still welcome to see. Along with the flat-bed seats and in-flight wifi from Row44, passengers are served by personal VIP service managers and are provided with VIP or Business Lounges at airports and a round-the-clock communications line.

In an intimate cabin of just 4 seats (in a 2 x 2 arrangement), passengers can expect high-level gastronomic specialties by the famous Café Pushkin on routes from Moscow and on some international routes to Moscow, an extensive wine card and exclusive tableware by the Imperial Porcelain factory, making you feel like you’ve been transported into a Tsar’s palace. Competing with mainline international carriers for premium passengers there is a free personal chauffeur service available.
Read full article »

Finnair and Helsinki Airport invite ‘Quality Hunters’ to co-create new products

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By Nikos Loukas, InflightFeed

In the past years, airlines and airports have teamed up with the general public in order to generate ideas for new and/or improved products and services, with several airlines implementing some of the co-created concepts.

Quality Hunters
Possibly one of the most innovative crowdsourcing initiatives is Finnair’s and Helsinki Airport’s ‘Quality Hunters’ program – which began in 2010 with Finnair seeking applicants from around the world to travel around the Finnair network, share their experiences and thoughts – with the aim to create new ideas to improve the passenger experience.  In 2010 Finnair received more than 5,200 applications from 90 countries from people wishing to become a Quality Hunter.

One of the innovations to come out of the Quality Hunters program is the popular second hand book-swap, which was implemented by Helsinki Airport after the 2011 program, whilst a popular idea that was shortlisted by Finnair and the community was ‘Meat Free Mondays’ offering only vegetarian meal options on Mondays.

Aku Varamäki, Social Media Manager Finnair explains “In 2010, [pr agency] Miltton initiated the idea of the program which saw Finnair participating alone in the project during the first season. We included Helsinki Airport the following year and have been doing this together since, to cover a more complete passenger experience.”

2013 edition
This year’s Quality Hunters program took a different approach than the previous editions and focused on group participation including brainstorming and idea generation. The Quality Hunters focus groups involve participants who genuinely care about the airline passenger experience, either as a passenger or a professional, and these Quality Hunters – active members in the Quality Hunters community engaging with the airline on Twitter or via their website – are invited by Finnair to come together over a weekend to create new ideas that improve the passenger experience.
Read full article »

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.
Read full article »

Beyond full-flat beds and slim-line seats » How airlines can differentiate the passenger experience ‘up in the air’

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Download this article as pdf »

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

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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

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

1. Personal service 

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

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

2. Real-time information

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

For example, Delta passengers on domestic flights can use Delta’s smartphone app to track their checked baggage with the bag tag number that they received at the time of baggage check-in. Since Delta has equipped all its domestic aircraft with GoGo’s in-flight Internet passengers can check whether their bag has made it on their flight while being up in the air.
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Long-haul low-cost carrier Scoot takes a cue from AirAsia X with new quiet zone

ScootInSilence_a680x230

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Singapore Airlines’ budget subsidiary Scoot is the latest airline to embrace a child-free zone, banning children from the front section of its Economy cabin. Launched at the end of August, the new product is called ScootinSilence and takes up rows 21-25, which are located immediately behind the ScootBiz cabin on the long-haul low-cost carrier’s fleet of B777-200ER aircraft.

The cabin has 41 of Scoot’s Super and Stretch extra-legroom seats  (35-inches – four more than economy) and has been declared off-limits to passengers under 12 years, a move which the airline hopes will create a quiet zone.

“ScootinSilence is the perfect option for guests seeking an exclusive cabin, extra legroom and confidence that under 12’s will be seated in another part of the aircraft” said Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson. “No offence to our young guests or those travelling with them”, he added, “you still have the rest of the aircraft to choose from.”

The price for a ScootinSilence seat is an additional SGD18 (USD14) on top of the regular economy fare. A ScootBiz seat costs from SGD99 (USD77) more than an economy seat.

AirAsia X, Malaysia Airlines
This is not the first time an airline has adopted a ban on children in a part of its cabin. In February 2013, rival long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X introduced a ‘Quiet Zone’ on its A330 aircraft, where Economy passengers can travel without being disturbed by kids or chatting passengers. Malaysia Airlines last year also introduced a child-free zone on the upper deck of its A380s in a gesture to businesss passengers travelling on full-fare Economy tickets. The airline also bans kids from its First Class cabins.

See airlinetrends.com ‘live’ at the upcoming FTE Global 2013 ‘Up In The Air’ conference

airlinetrends x FTE Up In The Air

Airlinetrends.com is collaborating with Future Travel Experience for the first edition of the ‘Up In The Air’ conference to be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas, 4-6 September 2013. The central theme of FTE 2013 is “Reinventing the passenger experience through innovation, personalization and connectivity.”

Senior airline and industry partners sharing concepts and views in the conference include:
- Joachim Schneider, Head of Product Management & Airport Passenger Services Lufthansa
- Alison Webster, Executive Manager International Customer Experience, Qantas
- Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA
- Brett Proud, President & CEO, GuestLogix,
- Mary Kirby, Editor in Chief, Airline Passenger Experience Association
and many others.

Besides co-chairing the 2-day ‘Up In The Air’ conference, airlinetrends.com’s founder Raymond Kollau on September 4th will be giving a pre-event workshop on how airlines are responding to consumer trends with innovative products and service in order to differentiate the passenger experience.

WORKSHOP: TRENDS AND INNOVATIONS IN THE AIRLINE PASSENGER EXPERIENCE

This fast-paced and interactive trend session starts with an overview of the main macro, industry and consumer trends shaping the airline industry. The session then follows the so-called customer journey and combines the trends discussed with dozens of the latest airline product and service innovations and links them to the various customer touchpoints: orientation, booking, airport, inflight, arrival, loyalty.

Participants will gain understanding of the latest consumer and passenger trends, as well as a ‘download’ of the latest innovative onboard products and services that show the way how the airline passenger experience will evolve. The session draws on airlinetrends.com research into the airline passenger experience, as well as on the work of consumer trends agency trendwatching.com which Raymond has been part of since its foundation 10 years ago.

The key themes to be explored will include:

- Me-centric passengers – Understanding today’s experienced, connected and empowered passenger
- Passenger-centric airlines – Big data and personalization of the travel experience
- Customer service in an age of self-service and real-time information
- Onboard hospitality – Cabin crew as concierges
- Airlines as retailers – Innovative ancillary products and services
- IFE 2.0 – Connectivity, BYOD, wireless IFE
- Beyond flat beds and slimline seats – Quiet zones, virtual classes, social flights
- Airlines as cultural ambassadors – Going local, storytelling
- Branded amenities – Teaming up with consumer brands to improve the passenger experience
- Looking sideways – What can airlines learn from other business sectors?
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