14 October 2014 | The travel industry is often at the forefront of trialling new technologies, and in the past year we have seen airlines experiment with the latest digital technologies such as Google Glass (Virgin Atlantic, Spring), smartwatches (Vueling, Iberia, airberlin), Virtual Reality (Thomas Cook, Emirates), and even drones (easyJet).
Furthermore, the acceleration of wi-fi installations at airports and onboard aircraft will (finally) create ubiquitous connectivity. Combined with the large number of passengers carrying one or more digital devices (97 percent at last count), the rapid developments in digital technologies has created a perfect storm that sees many of today’s airline and airport passenger product and service innovations taking place in the digital realm.
Reflecting the omnipresence of digital technologies in the passenger journey, a growing number of airlines are aligning themselves with the creative, entrepreneurial and technology industries by participating in events such as TED (Delta) and SXSW (American Airlines), immersing in digital culture by establishing a Digital Media Lab (Ryanair), or co-create new applications by organizing ‘hack-a-tons’ (e.g, American Airlines, Emirates, Vueling).
Lufthansa at TEDxBerlin
In Europe, Lufthansa announced this summer it intends to invest a EUR 500 million in innovations groupwide in the run up to 2020. The plans should see a new ‘Innovation Hub’ established this year in Berlin – in order to be closer to the start-up and digital technology scene – and the set up of an ‘Innovation fund’ to expedite the development of promising new ideas from both within and outside the airline group.
Lufthansa’s Chief Strategy Officer Sadiq Gillani recently delivered a talk at TEDxBerlin – titled ‘The Next Step for Airlines’ (video here) – in which he highlighted how innovation and digitization can take place at all stages (that is: Dreaming, Departing, Flying and Arriving) of the airline passenger journey. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
10 October 2014 | With mood lighting now being a standard feature on new aircraft, several airlines have also begun retrofitting mood lighting in their older cabins. Furthermore, besides the ‘generic’ approach towards mood lighting – that is, recreating sunset on evening flights and sunrise in the morning – a few airlines have taken a cue from Virgin America’s iconic red and purple cabin lighting – which has been described by some passengers as feeling like entering a flying nightclub – to come up with their signature cabin lighting.
Says Daniel Baron, founder of Tokyo-based founder of Tokyo-based design agency LIFT Strategic Design, “Airlines should use mood lighting as an integral part of the brand presentation, or as association with origin. As the systems become more sophisticated and available on more aircraft as line-fit items, more meaningful differentiation with the lighting, i.e., not just as a novelty, will become the norm.”
A great example of this approach is Icelandair. In early April of this year, Icelandair – the airline that positions itself as the ideal stopover carrier between Europe and North-America – completed the first aircraft installation of EMTEQ’s full-spectrum mood lighting system onto a B757.
Icelandair plans to instal the system, which is capable of delivering highly customizable scenes with dynamic colors and intensity levels, on 18 B757s.
Commenting on the new mood lighting, Helgi Már Björgvinsson, Icelandair’s SVP for Marketing and Sales, said “Less maintenance and lower fuel consumption was an important case for the upgrade, as well as the desire to create a unique passenger experience and to utilize the lighting for branding purposes.” Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
7 October 2014 | At airlinetrends.com we cover the global airline industry looking for innovative product and service ideas that differentiate the airline experience and have the potential to spread across the industry – thereby shaping customer expectations. One good example of such an innovation are the partnerships that airlines are forging with consumer brands in other industries – think Starbucks, Samsung, Westin, Hastens or Mercedes – in order to improve the passenger experience.
Co-branding initiatives are also an economical way to provide a premium service as consumer brands are increasingly willing to pay airlines to let passengers experience their product in a relevant setting, since airline passengers are an interesting demographic.
Delta x Porsche, United x Mercedes
In the spring of 2012, Delta has partnered with Porsche at its Atlanta hub to shuttle its most valuable passengers with tight transfer times to and from the aircraft in vehicles provided by Porsche free of charge. In return, Porsche has placed information about the cars inside the vehicles as well as in Delta’s lounges. The ‘branded service’ has been expanded last year to New York JFK, Los Angeles and Minneapolis St Paul airports.
United Airlines since June 2013 shuttles some of its First Class passengers and Global Elite members around the tarmac using Mercedes Benz cars. The program launched with two Mercedes cars at United Houston hub and following the rollout of the service at Denver Airport last month, United says it now offers the Mercedes tarmac service at all of its U.S. hub airports.
American Airlines x Cadillac
As the major full-service carriers in the U.S. are busy upgrading their premium passenger experiences, American Airlines is following suit and just announced a partnership with Cadillac to offer a series of benefits to AA passengers, ranging from luxury, on-site airport transfers, to AAdvantage miles earning opportunities, to Cadillac exhibits at major airports. Read full article »
This case appears in the October 2014 edition of the Airline Marketing Benchmark, a monthly report by airlinetrends.com and Simpliflying that identifies the latest innovative marketing capaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Learn more »
4 October 2014 | Food trucks are a hot phenomenon these days, evolving from chip stands into quality gourmet food on the go. As experiencing the products and services offered onboard has become an effective marketing tool for airlines to engage savvy consumers, a handful of airlines have capitalized on the food truck trend for marketing purposes.
For more on how airlines are using their onboard catering to engage the general public, see our contribution to this New York Times article “Ground-Level Tastings of the Best Food in the Sky.”
Air France, Austrian, Delta, United, Stockholm Arlanda Airport
For example, in March 2011 Air France sent their own gourmet food truck around the streets of New York City as a means of promoting their on-board catering services. The Air France truck featured dishes by Michelin Star Chef Joël Robuchon and was stationed at locations that were announced via Twitter and Facebook.
On a similar note, nearly a year prior to Air France’s food truck debut, Austrian’s coffee truck toured the streets of NYC as well. Austrian’s initiative was centred around its direct flights to Vienna, and the coffee service was a homage to traditional Viennese coffee and was distributed freely.
Also on the food truck and aviation roster in NYC was Delta Air Lines, who served hot cocoa, while United Airlines promoted the launch of a new route from San Francisco to Taipei this May by partnering with Taiwanese food truck Mamaliu to offer San Franciscans free lunches courtesy of United during a week.
The first airport to use a food truck to promote the restaurants and cafes present at the airport has been Stockholm Arlanda, which sent the Arlanda Food Truck around Stockholm during the fall of 2013. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
29 September 2014 | With nearly 7 million Facebook fans and 1.3 million followers on Twitter, and a wide range of social media initiatives, the KLM brand has become synonymous with social media innovation. The latest initiative by the airline is utilizing social media for an instant ‘lost & found’ service.
Instant lost & found
Every week, KLM receives 40,000 questions via social media. One of the most asked questions is about getting lost items back. This inspired KLM to set up a dedicated ‘Lost & Found’ team at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport which aims to reunite lost items as soon as possible with their legitimate owner. From a teddy bear found by the cabin crew to a laptop left in the lounge.
The team uses all available information like seat number, phone numbers and public social media details to reunite passengers with their belongings. Very often the Lost & Found team is able to surprise passengers by returning their personal belongings before they have even missed them. Despite the challenge of locating the owner, first results show that over 80 percent of the found items can now be reunited with their owners.
How it works
Air France-KLM SVP eBusiness Martijn van der Zee earlier this year explained to Dutch publication Marketingfacts how the new service works.
“The current situation is that if a passenger forgets his or her iPad on board and walks through customs, all we can do is to refer to the airport. This is very frustrating, especially when passengers realize shortly after they have left the aircraft that they have forgotten something, contact KLM and we can do nothing for them. The lost and found process can take a few weeks instead, which gives an enormous bureaucratic feeling. We know this is a weakness and we mostly know that through social media.”
“We have now appointed two people at the airport who constantly look for things that are lost. They walk past the gates to collect items and then try to find the owners on the spot by approaching them, often via social media. In many cases passengers have not even realized yet they have forgotten something and really go out of their minds when they receive their lost item back.” Read full article »
By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines
23 September 2014 | As ancillary revenues have become a major revenue source for airlines – if not the lifeline for many – airlines are thinking of more ways to derive revenue from all phases of the customer journey. For example, airlines are looking to harness the power of retailing through their in-seat IFEC systems, be it that things are still in a very early stage.
For example, very few airlines today allow passengers to order duty free onboard via the inseat or wireless IFE system. Virgin America and Japan Airlines are among the exceptions, while passengers on Lufthansa’s A321s can now order duty free items inflight via the wireless IFE portal for delivery to their address of choice.
Meanwhile, Shanghai-based China Eastern – China’s second-largest carrier by passenger numbers – is stepping up its efforts to become a global player. The Skyteam-member has just launched a new brand image and livery and will receive its first B777-300 (77W) this month which will be the airline’s new flagship aircraft. For a full report on China Eastern’s new B777-300 see this article on >talkairlines.
Yet, the innovative bits of China Eastern’s new B77W are not the seats (video of the cabin interior here). The airline has come up with some interesting interesting concepts in an effort to increase inflight duty free sales.
Realizing that the existing print duty free catalogues can no longer satisfy traveller’s purchasing needs, China Eastern decided to create a more diverse, abundant and straightforward shopping system, dubbed the new in-flight mall.
As China Eastern will offer Wi-Fi on its new B77W, the airline collaborated with credit card company China UnionPay and Chinese third-party payment processor Yeepay to come up with an ‘Air-Ground Wireless Transaction Platform’ which allows for real-time processing of onboard payments and solves the transaction risks associated with in-flight duty free. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
20 September 2014 | Realizing that a segment of passengers in Economy is willing to spend a bit more money in order to have a proper meal when flying, about ten full-service carriers around the world currently offer passengers in Economy the option to upgrade their meal for a fee, mostly on long-haul routes.
Austrian Airlines’ catering partner Do&Co has even opened a last-minute ordering desk at ViennaAirport where passengers can pre-order their meal up to just one hour before the departure of their flight.
Looking to take a (small) piece of the revenues that airlines generated with their buy-on-board F&B offerings, London Heathrow Airport has introduced a buy-before-you board initiative that offers passengers an ‘on-board picnic’ dining option where they can bring a bespoke ‘hamper’ (British for a meal takeaway box) with them on their flight.
The Daily Mail reports that the move from Heathrow comes after figures reveal about 20 per cent of passengers snub plane food, bringing their own airport-bought snacks on board a flight instead. A survey by the airport also showed that 70 percent of (British) passengers want flexibility about when they eat during their flight.
Available from all restaurants at Heathrow
Introduced by Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food at Heathrow T5 a few years ago – and expanded earlier this year to some 70 restaurants – the service is now available at all of Heathrow’s 118 restaurants across its five terminals, which range from from chain cafés such as Pret a Manger and EAT, to restaurants including Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionist Café and Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, as well as Caviar House and The Gorgeous Kitchen. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
14 September 2014 | A sympathetic and clever way for airlines to give back to society is to use their ‘corporate infrastructure’ to assist social initiatives. For example, back in 2012 Spanish flag carrier Iberia, national pizza chain Telepizza and open innovation network Ideas4All organized the ‘Books for Colombia’ campaign which saw Telepizza asking its customers to donate unused books to the pizza delivery person after they have ordered a home delivery. Iberia then flew all collected books to Colombia for free where they were distributed to local schools.
A similar concept has also been carried out by KLM over the past few years.
Located near the center of the Netherlands, De Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of the nation’s most visited national parks. It’s 5,500 hectares (55 km2) are home to the renowded Kröller-Müller museum, a wide variety of plants and animals – and about 1,800 white bicycles. These bicycles were introduced to the park in 1974 to provide free – and environmentally responsible – transportation in and around the park.
Each year, De Hoge Veluwe retires and replaces about a fifth of its bike fleet and wants to ensure that their retired and refurbished bikes are given a meaningful second life. The bicycles are therefore not discarded but are given a new purpose. First they get fixed up at nearby De Hoenderloo Groep, a training and residential ceter for disadvantaged youth. Then hundreds of the bikes get a free transport – courtesy of KLM – to a destination where they can be put to good use. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
6 September 2014 | We have seen airlines experiment with the latest digital technologies such as Google Glass (Virgin Atlantic, Spring), smartwatches (Vueling, Iberia, airberlin), and even drones (easyJet).
Besides giving airlines an idea of the feasibility of deploying the latest digital devices into daily operations, the trials also create lot of PR (see also the ‘Innovation is the Marketing’ trend in our free The State of Airline Marketing 2014 report).
The latest technology on the block is virtual reality. Virtual reality company Oculus has been building momentum since it launched the Kickstarter campaign for its Oculus Rift headset – a head mounted virtual reality 3D display, which features an ultra-wide field of view and low latency head tracking – two years ago. The company was acquired by Facebook earlier this year for USD 2 billion.
As the travel industry is always among the first to trial new technologies, companies such as Emirates, Marriott Hotels and British tour operator Thomas Cook recently let the public try on Oculus Rift headsets to immerse themselves in a 3D environment.
According to Thomas Cook, “the technology advancements in virtual reality over the last 18 months have made it a real contender for playing a key role in changing the way we can showcase experience-based products to our customers.”
Emirates ‘Innovation Lab’
Set up in 2012, the Emirates Innovation Lab is a platform where Emirates’ creative minds can come together and brainstorm on pioneering ideas, develop them, and apply these ideas to the airline business.
At the GITEX Technology Week in Dubai earlier this month, the Emirates Innovation Lab showed one of its creations which combines Google Street View with the Oculus Rift headset to give users an immersive experience of an Emirates A380 aircraft – allowing a person to be “transported” on board and have a virtual tour of the onboard lounge, the shower spa, and the Business and First Class cabins. According to Emirates, The Innovation Lab will be exploring the use of the technology for their potential use in cabin crew training and applications. Read full article »
This article originally appeared on TheDesignAir
By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir
2 September 2014 | 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.
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 »
Special thanks to Kai-Chin Shih at >talkairlines for providing input for this article.
2 September 2014 | As part of its ‘Next Generation Plan’ Taiwan’s flag carrier China Airlines is transforming its products and services with the airline’s new Boeing 777-300ER (which will enter service this month) becoming the airline’s flagship aircraft to showcase the upgrades it has come up with in partnership with well-known Taiwanese architect Ray Chen. Besides using the texture of persimmon tree grain to decorate the partition walls of the cabins and the parts of the Business Class seats, two eye-catching innovations include a ‘Sky Lounge’ in Business and ‘Family Couches’ in Economy.
Galley as social area
Airlines operating the A380 superjumbo – such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Korean Air – have been using the relatively large amount of cabin space on this flagship aircraft to feature social areas such as onboard bars and lounges in their premium cabins. The A380 provides 50 percent more floor space compared with the B747, but airlines on average install only 35 percent more seats.
On the B777-300ER – which is replacing the B747-400 as a flagship aircraft – airlines such as British Airways (‘Club Kitchen’), American Airlines (‘Lobby Bar’) and Japan Airlines’ (‘Sky Gallery’) have been reimagining how the galley located in the premium cabin could become the domain of passengers as well, after regular service is over.
The latest example of how the galley in the premium cabin can be turned into a social area (on non-US flights where it is prohibited for passengers to stand or group together on board) comes from Taiwan-based China Airlines, which will feature a ‘Sky Lounge’ in the Business Class on its upcoming fleet of B777-300ERs.
Designed by well-known Taiwanese architect Ray Chen – who has been responsible for the design of the flagship store of book chain Eslite in Taipei – the new design of China Airlines’ Business Class cabin aims to give customers a feeling of relaxing in their personal reading space. The texture of persimmon tree grain has been used to decorate the partition walls of the cabin, and the Business seats feature stand-alone reading lamps.
The ‘Sky Lounge’ galley located in the middle of the Business Class cabin of China Airlines B777 (seatmap here) doubles as a self-serve bar and social area. During the flight, passengers can choose to walk up to the lounge to enjoy food and drinks while chatting with other passengers. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
27 August 2014 | We have reported before on ‘upcycle’ initiatives from airlines, with carriers such as KLM (uniforms), Finnair (seat covers, seat belts, curtains), Delta (seat covers) and Air France (life jackets) giving discarded airline interior materials a second life as stylish bags. The benefits are three-fold: waste is recycled, airlines add an eco-friendly touch to their brands, and many consumers like the story behind the upcycled product. Here a few more interesting recent examples.
Boeing: From carbon fiber to sports gear
Boeing and American manufacturer of sports equipment Russell Brands are working together to incorporate leftover carbon fiber from B787 Dreamliner production in Russell Athletic protective athletic gear. Composite materials make up 50 percent of the primary structure of the 787, including the fuselage and wing.
Boeing and Russell Athletic see significant benefits in using aerospace-grade carbon fiber because the carbon filaments provide a high strength-to-weight ratio and greater durability. Aerospace-grade carbon fiber is thinner, stronger and approximately 10 percent lighter compared to competitors.
An initial collaboration uses the material in Russell Athletic’s new CarbonTek football shoulder pad system. The aerospace-grade carbon fiber is strong, thin, light and durable, Boeing said. In football pads it also offers increased range of motion and secure fit for the athlete’s body.
Boeing says several “elite” college players from Division I universities will be wearing the CarbonTek during the upcoming football season, as well as Russell Athletic’s three pro football ambassadors: Pierre Garcon, Mark Ingram and Colt McCoy.
Southwest: From seat to soccer ball
After a large-scale interior redesign of many of its B737 aircraft, Southwest found itself with an excess of 80,000 leather seat covers — enough to fill the EmpireStateBuilding. “We had this idea of ‘could we do something with this leather beyond recycling it or shredding it? Could we repurpose it?'” says Marilee McInnis, the airline’s senior manager of culture and communications.
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
21 August 2014 | One of the most popular sections of the IFE system is the moving map. Compared with the two-dimensional maps that are still found on the IFE systems of almost any airline, the latest maps now offer the option to deviate from the flight path to look at specific land marks and zoom into ever greater detail – Google Earth style.
Dubbed geotainment, this location-triggered content displays geographical and historical information relevant to the location of an aircraft on, or around, its flight path. Says Boris Veksler, CEO of Betria Interactive – which has developed the FlightPath3D geotainment app: “Travel is exploration. Delivering informative destination ‘geotainment’ services gives the passenger a form of discovery in anticipation of their arrival. It is natural and engaging extension of the moving map.”
The deployment of geotainment-based flight maps is still in its early stages. On its fleet of B787s, Norwegian features a geotainment app on its IFE systems from FlightPath3D on the moving map channel, while Singapore Airlines has become the first customer to sign up for a new ‘geo-entertainment’ product for moving maps developed by Airborne Interactive in association with the Royal Geographical Society.
Delta, meanwhile, in early 2013 added a ‘Glass Bottom Jet’ geotainment feature to its ‘Fly Delta’ iPad app. On flights in North America passengers can use their own device to view the ground below via maps enriched with interesting information on various points of interest near the route. Passengers do have to be connected to the paid onboard Wi-Fi network though.
Air France KLM
Air France and KLM have also become early adapters of the geotainment trend. The airlines have selected FlightPath3D to deliver their next generation moving map and ‘geotainment’ service.
Passengers can follow the flight path as their trip progresses and learn more about points-of-interest during their journey via text and images. They can also choose from several interactive 3D views or use free roaming mode to investigate the world they are flying over. Read full article »
Images: Boarding Area
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
18 August 2014 | In 2010, Delta and food and beverage operator OTG launched a novel restaurant concept at New York JFK Airport that allows passengers to order food and drinks via iPads installed at dining areas at the gate. A server then delivers the food to the customer’s seat within 10 minutes. The concept has since then been rolled out by OTG to other airports around the USA, including New York LaGuardia, Chicago, Minneapolis St Paul, Orlando and Toronto Pearson.
JFK T4 Sky Club
Last year, Delta opened its new Terminal 4 at New YorkJFKAirport. The new Delta T4 also features a 24,000 square feet Delta Sky Club where passengers can work, relax and dine at one of the more than 400 seats, 50+ work spaces and a ‘Sky Deck’ outdoor terrace (video tour and images of the lounge here and here).
Premium meals and drinks
Responding to passengers requests for more substantial meal options in its lounges, Delta in 2010 introduced a paid dining concept at four Delta Sky Club lounges at New York JFK Airport. The new full-service concept offers made-to-order breakfast, sandwiches, salads, small plates and desserts for purchase, as well as premium beverages. Meals are USD 10-15 and premium drinks USD 12 and the Delta Sky Club ‘Café’ includes dedicated seating areas within the lounge, but visitors also can order from the menu and dine anywhere in the lounge.
In its JFK T4 lounge, Delta has added a self-service element to its premium meals and drinks offering. Those who want to eat more than what is available on the buffet can order via iPad ordering stations, which is a similar concept to the Delta/OTG iPads that are installed at the public gates. Read full article »
10 August 2014 | Dutch rail operator NS and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport are trialling an innovative new service, called Schiphol Warranty Service, that provides train passengers – who signed up for the service – a guaranteed on-time arrival at the airport so they will catch their flight.
Travellers who have signed up for the service and have paid the euro 5 fee will be monitored for any disruptions throughout their journey from the NS rail station of departure until the check-in desk at the airport. Passengers have to choose one out of three schedule options suggested by the Dutch Railways which all should transport them to airport arriving at least 2 hours (Schengen countries) or 3 hours (non-Schengen) before departure.
Their journeys will be monitored via an app that will track the participants’ departure station, date and time of the departure flight, flight number, number of people travelling and how many suitcases they carry. NS then will check for any travel disruptions and/or changes along the way.
If anything will go wrong during the journey, the app will notify passengers with alternative routes or any travel advice. If there are no train options available in time to bring customers to the airport, NS will then search for other travel options via bus or taxi.
Then, as soon as passengers arrive at the airport, they will be picked up by customer service staff and escorted to the nearest check-in desk. In worst case scenario, if the guarantee cannot be met and passengers miss their flight, NS then will organise hotel stay and rebooking or refund of the flight.
“If there are any failures along the way, we will ensure that passengers catch their flight, even if it means calling them a taxi,” says Commercial Director of NS Hans Peters.
More than 10,000 NS customers have received a letter inviting them to participate in the trial which takes place between mid-July and September 1st. NS hopes that eventually some 1,500 customers will take part in the programme.