Japanese LCC Peach lets passengers download free IFE content at the airport


By Raymond Kollau,

Airlines around the world are responding to the explosion in passenger use of smartphones, notebooks, tablets and e-readers by introducing onboard Wi-Fi and/or wireless inflight entertainment systems. The result is the emergence of an alternative eco-system to today’s traditional seatback-based IFE systems, which sees tech-savvy passengers bring their own digital devices – or airlines providing them with tablets.

However, the idea behind new IFE offerings such as wireless IFE remains the same. That is passengers are able to access entertainment content only when up in the air (although passengers who purchased movies and TV shows through wireless IFE providers such as Gogo Connect and Lufthansa’s BoardConnect can continue to view the content when they have landed – for 24 (movies) and 72 hours (TV shows) respectively.

Airport downloads
Airport News Japan now reports that Japanese low-cost carrier Peach, a joint venture between All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Hong Kong-based First Eastern Investment Group, has come up with another innovative twist on in-flight entertainment.

With support from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, Peach passengers will soon be able to download movies, TV shows, music, magazines, games or other content to their personal devices through the airport terminal’s Wi-Fi network, which they can enjoy without limitation while in the airport or on their flight.

The service is called ‘high!’ entertainment and is available on domestic flights departing from Kansai Airport’s Terminal 2, which has been specially build to accommodate low-cost carriers.

There will be around 30 titles available during the initial trial period and the new service will be fully up and running in June, when it will offer over 1,000 titles comprising free and pay-to-download content. To access the ‘high!” inflight entertainment content, passengers have to download an Apple iOS or Google Android app (pending for approval at the moment). Compatibility with Windows 8 is planned for a later date.
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KLM ‘Feedback App’ lets passengers rate their level of satisfaction at the airport

KLM_feedback app_a670x359

By Raymond Kollau,

KLM is known for its embrace of digital technology. The airline is a leader in social media and in the past years has launched a series of specific mobile apps, such as a ‘Passport’ app, which lets users record their journeys with their mobile phone and share their experiences via Facebook.

Real-time feedback
KLM’s latest mobile app allows the airline’s passengers to give real-time feedback on how they perceived their experience at the airport (e.g, check-in, lounge, boarding, arrival).

The option to provide direct feedback about the quality of service at airports isn’t entirely new. Singapore Changi, for example, has installed an instant feedback system that lets airport users rate service on the spot. The airport uses the real-time feedback to address issues immediately and to reward employees for good service. Travellers at Phoenix International Airport, meanwhile, can rate the cleanliness of the toilets by scanning a QR code.

KLM’s Feedback app, however, marks the first such initiative by an airline. According to the carrier, the objective of the Feedback app is to increase passenger involvement during the ground stage of their journey in order to improve the passenger experience at the airport.

How it works
After downloading the app, which is available for both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, passengers first choose the airport they are currently at (13 airports are supported at the moment: Amsterdam, Accra, Almaty, Athens, Cape Town, Curacao, Geneva, Jakarta, Kuwait, Singapore, Tokyo, Toronto and Vancouver) and then choose the area (check-in, lounge, boarding, arrival) and sub-area they want to rate.

The rating consists of simply tapping a ‘Thumps Up’ or ‘Thumbs Down’ button, but passengers can also specify their rating with a comment. Interestingly, the app also allows for the feedback to be published on Twitter at the same moment. Pasengers can rate each sub-area once a day and can also view how other passengers rated this area within the last 24 hours.

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.

Says Gerard-Pieter de Haas, Director CRM at KLM, “Our staff is very excited about the feedback app as it helps them to take immediately corrective action and recover the required service levels for each touch point. Moreover, we can capture this experience and relay to other touch points – like Check-in, Lounge, Transfer or even Inflight – so staff can take immediate action if needed. This fully fits our CRM-vision of ‘connecting the dots’ and really puts the customer in the center of our attention.”
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Delhi airport lets smartphone users buy products at a virtual shopping wall

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By Louise Driscoll, Terminal U

Shopping on the Internet is so old hat – so it seems. Welcome to 2013, where pointing your mobile at virtual products on the wall and ordering them on the spot is the new way to shop.

At New Delhi Airport in India, travellers can view luxury items on a virtual shopping wall by scanning the item’s QR (Quick Response) code with a smartphone. Perfume, jewellery, digital cameras and mobile phones are among the luxury items that can be ordered from the on-screen menu.

Shoppers can’t pay for the products using their phones yet and instead have to pay on delivery. But the retailer behind the virtual store, Homeshop18 says it will introduce mobile payments in future.

Not a novel experiment
The virtual shopping wall, called ‘Scan N Buy’ has just been introduced at the airport, but it’s not a new idea. In South Korea, virtual shopping has been blending into people’s everyday lives, with Tesco’s South Korean brand, ‘Home Plus’ launching virtual supermarkets at train stations and bus stops for time-pressed commuters. The virtual shelves look as they would in a physical supermarket, but instead you’re scanning 2D product images and arranging home delivery through your smartphone.

With the number of smartphone users only set to rise and convenience driving virtual shopping, the technology is showing its place, at least if you can get an internet connection.

But what about virtual shops becoming a fixture at airports? Last year, London Gatwick and Tesco briefly trialled an interactive, virtual grocery store on passengers at the airport.

Squeezing in a week’s shop while waiting for a plane is one way to use the technology; impulse buying expensive gadgets and gizmos is another. Its popularity at Delhi International Airport will be interesting to watch.

Air France app lets music fans ‘capture’ songs in the sky with their mobile phone

By Vivek Mayasandra

Since the launch of its ‘Air France Music’ initiative in 2010, the airline has built a reputation for offering passengers and its social media fans and followers exclusive musical content such as exclusive podcasts and ‘on air’ playlists of the music it play on board its aircrafts. In November 2010, the airline also took three bands – The Shoes, Monsieur Monsieur and Alb – on an Airbus A380 flight from Paris to Tokyo, with each act composing and recording a new track while in the air.

According to Air France’s SVP Corporate Communications Adeline Challon-Kemoun, “music plays a central role in brand communication” for the airline, with the app being a way to “evoke the relaxed serenity of air travel” through music.

Following its ‘Side by Side’ Facebook iniative earlier this year, Air France recently launched its latest musical initiative, a global mobile music discovery app.

Music in the Sky
Air France ‘Music in the Sky’ is an app for iPhone and iPad that allows users to ‘capture’ new tracks by pointing their devices upwards to the sky. The app uses an augmented reality element so that songs show up on the screen as little dots with music notes inside them. Users can then capture a song and add it to their playlist.

‘Music in the Sky’ also features different tracks in each country, so frequent travellers can discover more music through the Air France Music mobile platform. Additionally, users can test their music knowledge on the app to win “other unreleased tracks, concert tickets or even air tickets” by finding hidden games in the sky during certain times of the year. Video of the ‘Music in the Air’ app here.
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Emirates provides 1,000 pursers with HP tablets as part of ‘knowledge-driven’ in-flight service drive

By Raymond Kollau,

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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Qantas turns catering trolleys into onboard iPad ‘sync & charge’ carts

Hot on the heels of the announcement that Qantas has started the rollout of its new Q-Streaming wireless inflight entertainment service comes an interesting look behind the scenes. Qantas’ Q-Streaming service will see every seat on Qantas’ B767 aircrafts get an iPad that provides passengers with access to more than 200 hours of content, streamed from an onboard server. Passengers who own an iPad, laptop or smartphone will also be able to view the same content through a separate application, but it is unclear when this feature will be introduced.

Qantas has also indicated that it is looking at ways to evolve the Panasonic-based technology platform further. According to the airline’s Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi, “This could include the addition of internet access, live television and the ability to order food, drinks and duty- free goods via the iPad.” More on the Qantas’ Q-Stream system in this report by Australian Business Traveller.

iPad galley carts
In order to keep all 256 iPads onboard the B767 fully charged for return flights, multiple flights during the day, as well as to simplifly logistics, Qantas has partnered with Australian IT equipment designer and manufacturer PC Locs that will see the company deliver a fleet of customised galley carts to support the airline’s new IFE service.

PC Locs will supply Qantas with iPad charging carts, which essentially are normal galley trolleys that have been re-kitted to store, transport, sync and charge up the devices onboard. The iPad carts will be deployed on the airline’s Boeing 767 fleet, which operates on routes across Australia and between Australia and Honolulu, Hawaii.
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Lufthansa alarm clock app rewards users for guessing which city’s sounds they wake up to

By Springwise

Getting up on time can be a challenge, but numerous variations on the alarm clock theme are aiming to make it easier. Now a mobile app launched earlier this year by Lufthansa adds a different twist altogether. Specifically, users of Lufthansa’s free Anywake app are awoken to the sounds of a random city — if they guess which one it is, they’re rewarded with discounted tickets to that destination.

After downloading the app — which was created for Germany-based Lufthansa by ad agency DDB Stockholm and Monterosa — users begin by selecting a standard wake-up sound, which will then wake them up each day. Every other morning or so, the app will wake the user to the sounds of a randomly selected city instead. To turn off the alarm, they must guess which city it is — if they’re right, they get rewarded with a discount for airfare to that city. This video explains the premise in more detail.
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Qantas updates Boeing 767 fleet with iPad-friendly seats

images: Australian Business Traveller

By Raymond Kollau,

Airlines around the world are responding to the explosion in passenger use of smartphones, notebooks, tablets and e-readers – plus the increasing expectation that these devices can be connected inflight – by incorporating power sockets and USB ports in aircraft seats (including Economy) and introducing onboard Wi-Fi. Furthermore, several carriers have also introduced wireless inflight entertainment (IFE) systems.

These new developments result in the emergence of an alternative eco-system to today’s traditional seatback-based  IFE systems, which sees tech-savvy passengers bring their own digital devices (or airlines providing tablets), and connect them to an onboard server to stream content from it.

Qantas ‘Q Streaming’
The lastest initiative in this field comes from Australian airline Qantas, which is the first airline in the world provide all passengers on its refurbished fleet of 16 Boeing 767s with free use of an iPad during the flight, which can be connected to a wireless IFE system. Following a trial earlier this year, Qantas’ so-called ‘Qstreaming’ service, which is based on Panasonic’s eXW system, gives passengers access to more than 200 hours of on-demand content. More on Qantas’ Q Stream system in this report from Australian Business Traveller.

iPad holder
Australian Business Traveller also reports that the new seats on Qantas’ refurbished 767s have been fitted with a special iPad holder built into the upholstery. Each of the Qantas-issued iPads, which all 254 passengers can find in the backseat pocket, comes with a flipcase which folds back and slides into a slot on the headrest, so passengers can continue to watch their  movie or TV show ‘hands-free’ during meals. Passengers who carry their own tablet should also be able to slot in their own devices.
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Helsinki Airport offers ‘digital nomads’ a private space to work comfortably

By Raymond Kollau,

As many passengers today carry a smartphone, laptop and/or a tablet device, many airports around the world now offer services such as free wi-fi (often for a limited time), seating areas equipped with power outlets, while wireless charging facilities can be found on airports such as Toronto Pearson (Powermat) and Helsinki Vantaa (Powerkiss). Meanwhile, airlines like Delta (Recharging Stations) and brands such as Samsung (PowerPoles) have also installed public recharge stations in waiting areas.

Laptop chairs
The latest amenity that caters to tech-toting travellers that want to stay productive while on the road are innovative seating concepts that allow these so-called ‘Digital Nomads’ to work comfortably. For example, besides providing unlimited free wi-fi usage, Vienna Airport’s new ‘Check-In 3’ terminal) features so-called ‘laptop chairs’ which passengers can use to work undisturbed. The semi-open cubicle seats, designed by the terminal architects Baumschlager & Eberle, are made from leather and besides a small table contain several power sockets.

Suvanto lounge
In Finland, airport operator Finavia has partnered with Finnish companies Martela (office furniture), UPM (plywood), Fortum (electricity) and Karelia-Upofloor (wooden floors) to introduce a new public lounge concept at Helsinki Airport.

Called ‘Suvanto’ (which can be translated as ‘quiet waters’), the private pods provide passengers with a tranquil space to make their waiting time more comfortable and make it more convenient to work between flights. Says Marko Tikkanen, director at Finavia, “Our goal has been to create a new kind of passenger service, which is available for everyone and meets the challenges of the changing passenger culture.”
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Limited number of airlines have adopted Apple Passbook so far

By Brian Pillsbury,

Keeping in tune with the evolving technology habits and preferences of the “always-connected traveller” that make up an ever-increasing portion of the flying public, a number of airlines from around the globe have rolled out mobile boarding passes that are compatible with Apple’s new Passbook functionality.

Apple Passbook
Rolled out in mid-September with the new iPhone 5 and iOS6 operating system, Apple’s new Passbook feature is a ‘digital wallet’ capable of storing boarding passes, movie tickets and membership cards. Passbook is designed to centralize the storage and accessibility of these items from a single program managed directly built into the operating system (OS), which eliminates the need for the user to drill into individual apps (or e-mails) to find the relevant pass or coupon for the situation or transaction. Passbook is supported by iPhones dating back to iPhone 3GS.

Apple has created a number of templates that allow developers to quickly and easily create passes for integration into Passbook. Thanks to the ability of Passbook to use time and geographic location triggers, users see their boarding pass appear on the lock screen at the appropriate times and locations. For an airline passenger, this would mean that upon arrival at the airport, a clean, bright image of their their boarding pass will appear on the screen and can be updated to include such things as a gate change or a change to seat assignment.

As for other possible uses of Passbook, the functionality may provide better avenues for airlines to better proactively manage and disseminate timely information to flyers, such as pushing suggested rebooking options, updated baggage tracking information or certain types of reimbursement vouchers or storing coupons for ancillary services such as premium lounge access.

Airlines and Passbook
Eight airlines have adopted Passbook sofar, and it is expected that many others will follow suit as Passbook achieves growing consumer acceptance and use.
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How iPads are changing the way plane tray tables are designed

By Louise Driscoll, Terminal U

Let’s face it, economy class was never built for comfort. But the experience can often fall short of what we expect at the most basic level.

Take the flimsy tray table, for example, which is more ‘tray’ than table. It’s capable of holding your meal steady, until the plane hits turbulence and your drink starts sloshing all over the place, or lands in your lap when the seat in front catapults in your face.

Some major airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have introduced sturdy cup holders in economy on long-haul flights, but not all carriers have thought them through, as this video shows.

Economy tray tables also haven’t been engineered for the growing numbers of passengers using their own iPads, laptops and other personal electronic devices in their seats.

A few aircraft manufacturers have been working to make tray tables a bit more user friendly for the tablet user, but the incentive is largely to help airlines make money.

The ‘iHolder’?
US firm Smart Tray International recently unveiled, a new economy class tray table with a built-in groove for docking personal electronic devices.

If the new version catches on with airlines, passengers will be able to watch content on their iPad or iphone screens hands-free with the tray table up or down, and charge their devices at the same time.

With this set up, airlines could also install their own tray-table based inflight entertainment systems and bring in advertising revenue with targeted ads on-screen.
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Sign of the times: Amenity kits double as iPad case

By Raymond Kollau,

To prevent frequent flyers from accumulating heaps of identical amenity bags, many airlines change their amenity kit designs on a regular basis, while other carriers work together with amenity kit suppliers to design bags that for example can be re-used as a pencil case or travel wallet.

As many passengers today carry a tablet computer (according to a recent TripAdvisor survey one in four passengers in the U.S. calls their tablet device carry-on essential, while another survey found that one-third of passengers say they use tablets while flying), several airlines have recently introduced amenity bags that can be re-used as an iPad case.

Turkish Airlines
Rapidly growing Turkish Airlines is one of the few airlines in the world to provide passengers in all classses with a personal amenity kit, both on short- and long-haul flights. The airline earlier this year renewed its contract with amenity kit supplier FORMIA to introduce a new range of amenity kits, which includes a bag for passengers in Business Class that doubles as an iPad case.

The iPad case features Turkish Airlines’ logo on the flap and is made of a leather-look material that creates a high-tech appeal, while a ribbed texture creates a protective framework to the iPad. Each amenity bag/iPad case includes a drawstring pouch and a small pencil case holding a selection of items and cosmetics by Crabtree & Evelyn.

Says Elif Ergezen, Product Manager at THY, “Turkish Airlines highly regards the added value of providing a memorable amenity kit to its passengers. A souvenir of the trip that demonstrates an understanding of customers’ behavior.”
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Tokyo Narita Airport improves customer service with iPads and language badges

By Raymond Kollau,

In order to improve the passenger experience at the airport, Tokyo Narita International Airport recently rolled out a number of customer service initiatives as part of its ‘i-Airport’ strategy.

Following earlier initiatives at Madrid Barajas and Singapore Changi airports, Tokyo Narita recently equipped roving help desk staff patrolling the airport’s Terminals 1 and 2 with iPads to provide passengers with real-time information on-the-spot. In addition to flight details, train and bus schedules, details of local hotels and lost and found information, the devices also let mobile agents provide guidance using digital maps of airport facilities and retail stores. Six iPads are currently in operation and Narita says it is using the tablets to complement the ‘traditional’ airport’s information counters.

NariTra translating app
In order to enable service agents to respond to Chinese and Korean-speaking travellers in their mother tongues, the customer service iPads also have the airport’s new NariTra language translation app installed. Launched by Tokyo Narita in early 2012 – and available for free download in the iTunes App store and Android Market – the NariTra app translates standard travel phrases as well as spoken phrases into English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. In addition to the language app, Tokyo Narita in June 2012 also launched a ‘mobile wayfinding’ app.

Language badges
A ‘low-tech’ way to overcome language barriers are “I Can Speak a Foreign Language” badges, which retail staff at Narita have been wearing since April 2012. The colourful badges allow travellers to tell at a glance if a clerk can speak a language other than Japanese or English.
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Virgin America passengers can register for the US elections at 35,000ft

By Raymond Kollau,

Virgin America on 14 August celebrated  its new service between San Francisco and Reagan National Airport in suburban Washington, D.C., with an election-themed inaugural flight. Along for the ride were presidential impersonators Jim Gossett as “Mitt” and Reggie Brown as “Barack,” who spent the flight chatting with travellers en route to the capital of the USA as they handed out American flags.

Another reason why “Barack” and “Mitt” joined passengers onboard the first flight was to help “get out the vote” at 35,000 feet, as part of a partnership between Virgin America and Rock The Vote, the largest non-partisan voter registration organization in the USA.

QR codes
In an effort to sign up 1.5 million new voters, Rock the Vote has been using non-traditional ways to engage the public, for example by placing QR codes on T-shirts, and as part of the registration drive with Virgin America, fliers on all Virgin America flights now can scan a QR code on the airline’s in-flight entertainment system in order to register to vote.

How it works: Passengers tap on the screen of Virgin America’s ‘RED’ seatback entertainment platform to select the voter registration page in the ‘Make a Difference’ section on the system. They then connect to the in-flight Wi-Fi system with their mobile phone and scan the QR code on the IFE page in order to receive an election registration app on their mobile device. Passengers can then choose either to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi and sign up immediately, or wait until they land to access the app and sign up to vote. Passengers can also make a donation to Rock the Vote by swiping their credit card, while on the inaugural flight each passenger received a Rock the Vote t-shirt.
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Tesco trials virtual grocery shopping at Gatwick Airport

Images: Gatwick Airport

By Louise Driscoll, Terminal U

Tesco wants travellers to have mobile shopping, rather than passports on their minds at the airport. The supermarket chain is experimenting with a virtual store at Gatwick’s North Terminal. Tesco predicts it could be “the future of shopping.” And travellers are now getting a taste of it.

The supermarket giant has opened the UK’s first virtual grocery ‘store’ at London Gatwick airport to bring its products to smartphone users in the hope that it can convert waiting passengers into shoppers.

Holidaymakers passing through Gatwick’s North Terminal can scan everyday Tesco items on new wall-sized tablets by scanning bar codes beside each product using their smartphones. They can then pay for their goods, and arrange for home delivery when they return from holiday.

The virtual store is limited to 80 everyday items and those who use the service will need to be registered with and download its app from the App Store to be able to scan the product barcodes. Tesco is trialling the service until August 19th before deciding whether it will expand the virtual store to other crowded public spaces.

The UK’s biggest supermarket chain has already seen success with the idea overseas. Tesco’s Korean affiliate, ‘Home Plus’ has created virtual storefronts on walls in subways stations in South Korea, allowing commuters to shop with their smartphones and have their food delivered to their door when they get home. Shoppers scan a product’s QR code with their smartphone and the item is instantly added to their basket.
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