By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
14 March 2015 | In many Asian cities, smart cards – prepaid rechargeable contactless payment cards – are a common phenomenon. For example, in Hong Kong, consumers use the Octopus smart card to make electronic payments offline and online. Launched in 1997 to collect fares for the territory’s mass transit system, the Octopus card is the second largest contactless smart card system in the world, after South Korea’s Upass, and has also led to the development of London’s Oyster Card.
Many smartcards in East Asia have a wide variety of uses. For example, besides public transportation fees, the Octopus can also be used for payments in many retail shops in Hong Kong – from convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, parking meters to vending machines. Other systems, such as Suica in Japan, EasyCard in Taipei and EZ-Link in Singapore, can also been used for many non-transportation purposes.
Now, two airlines in Asia are allowing passengers to make in-flight payments with the same smart cards they use to make everyday payments on the ground.
HK Express x Octopus Card
Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier HK Express recently partnered with Octopus Cards to launch an in-flight Octopus-based payment service. Passengers on all HK Express flights can use their regular Octopus card to purchase in-flight items, including food, beverages, discounted transportation and event tickets, and onboard upgrades for HK Express’ extra legroom ‘sweet seats’.
To accommodate the Octopus card, HK Express obtained new payment terminals with Octopus’ sensor technology. To make a payment, passengers simply hold their card near the sensor and within seconds the payment is made.
Commenting on the initiative, HK Express Deputy CEO Andrew Cowen stated, “Octopus is part of the fabric of Hong Kong life and transportation. HK Express is proud to be the first Hong Kong-based airline in bringing this much-loved Hong Kong icon into the skies, offering our guests the ultimate on-board ease and convenience.” Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
6 March 2015 | We have reported several times before how airlines target the rapidly growing middle classes in emerging markets in innovative ways. For example, in Brazil TAM sells tickets via kiosks located at low-end retail chains and at subway stations. The airline also allows customers to pay their ticket in multiple installments and provides ‘how to fly’ advice to first-time flyers.
In East Africa, airlines such as Kenya Airways and Uganda Airlines have partnered with ‘mobile money’ providers like M-PESA and Airtel Money to allow people without a bank account to purchase air tickets via their mobile phone, while in the Philippines, Phillipine Airlines lets customers without a credit card book their ticket online and then pay at a nearby 7 Eleven store.
Another airline that has come up with creative ideas to accommodate the large group of first-time flyers is Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines.
Spring Airlines has trialled a new boarding strategy by using fruit signs to guide passengers – especially those who travel by air for the first time – as seat numbers can be hard to find and can be confusing for those who have little experience in travelling by air.
During the Chinese New Year travel season Spring Airlines was expecting a large number of novice passengers and the airline used a visual solution to help passengers find their seats more quickly and and ease congestion in the aisles.
On February 11, passengers on flight 9C8881 between Shanghai and Shenzhen found 4 different fruit signs printed on their boarding passes which corresponded to the seats in four sections – rows 1-2 (blueberry), rows 3-12 (kiwi), rows 13-21 (apple) and rows 22-33 (tangerine). Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
2 March 2015 | The airline industry is one of the leading sectors [infographic] in deploying Twitter and Facebook for customer care. In China – where Twitter and Facebook are blocked – social media platforms such as Sina Weibo (a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook) and WeChat (messaging app) are commonly used by Chinese and foreign carriers for customer service.
Meanwhile, airlines such as ANA and THAI are present on messaging platform LINE – which is popular in Japan – while a few airlines, including Royal Jordanian, Royal Air Brunei, Jetstar and Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines, also use Skype for customer care.
The latest communication platform to be used for online customer service is WhatsApp. In October 2014, WhatsApp was the most globally popular messaging app with more than 600 million active users, followed by China’s WeChat (468 million active users), Viber (209 million active users, and Japan’s LINE (170 million active users), while over 100 million people use South Korea’s KaKaoTalk. In January 2015, WhatsApp reported surpassing 700 million users. WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for USD 19 billion.
Transavia x WhatsApp
Now Dutch low-cost carrier Transavia, a subsidiary of Air France-KLM, has become the first airline to integrate WhatsApp into its webcare channels, which also include Twitter and Facebook.
Customers can ask questions via the messaging app, such as making inquiries about an existing booking, how to check in online or hand luggage rules. Transavia says it aims to respond to questions within an hour and the airline can be reached via Whatsapp 7 days a week between 8am and 10pm.
Says Roy Scheerder, commercial director at Transavia, “We want everyone to make it as easy as possible to get in touch with Transavia. We see WhatsApp as nice addition to the already existing possibilities such as Facebook and Twitter.” […] “Because of the accessibility of WhatsApp customers expect an even quicker reaction than via Twitter and Facebook.” Read full article »
This article first appeared on Future Travel Experience
22 February 2015 | JetBlue has become the first airline to accept payments via Apple Pay for onboard purchases, including certain food and beverage products and ‘Even More Space’ seat upgrades. Passengers with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or an Apple Watch – which will be launched in the US shortly – will be able to make use of Apple Pay, which offers secure, Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled contactless payment using an Apple device.
Commenting on the development, Marty St George, SVP Commercial at JetBlue said the carrier has decided to embrace Apple Pay in response to the fact that “customers want an easy and fast transaction when they decide to make an on-board purchase so that they can get back to enjoying their flight.”
Apple Pay began appearing on select JetBlue transcontinental flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco in mid-February and will be available on all JetBlue services by June 2015. Later this year, Apple Pay will also be added to JetBlue’s app.
To enable Apple Pay onboard, JetBlue has equipped more than 3,500 flight attendants with iPad minis and NFC-enabled cases. The iPad minis will also be loaded with the carrier’s Inflight Service Assistant app, which provides access to customer manifest and real-time flight data, and also makes its easier for crew to identify TrueBlue and Mosaic loyalty members.
“JetBlue has always stood out because our crewmembers care about our customers,” said Joanna Geraghty, Executive Vice President, Customer Experience, JetBlue. “By giving crewmembers thoughtful ways to use technology, we can support an even more personalised onboard experience with a perfect partnership of high tech and high touch.”
Video of how paying using Apple Pay on JetBlue flights works here.
By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines
15 February 2015 | As airlines around the world are currently in the process of developing an digital inflight infrastructure (e.g, Internet connectivity, aircraft intranet, inflight portal) and the latest generation of in-seat IFE systems has adopted the Android platform, the next phase for airlines is to develop innovative applications that differentiaite to the passenger experience.
For example, on the IFE system of its new B787 Dreamliners, Air New Zealand and Panasonic have created a ‘digital crew call button’ app that lets passengers message the crew, as well as a dedicated digital button to order a glass of water and have it brought to their seat.
Similar functionality has now also been rolled out by China Eastern – China’s second largest carrier by passenger numbers. The airline is not using the seat back IFE system, though, but has partnered with Microsoft to develop an airline-specific version of Microsoft’s ‘XiaoIce’ (東航小冰) intelligent personal assistant.
Intelligent Personal Assistants
‘XiaoIce’ – which translated a ‘Little Ice’ – is an intelligent personal assistant (IPA) launched by Microsoft in 2014. IPAs are software programs that can complete tasks assigned by the user or provide answers to users’ questions.
Currently, the most widely known IPA is Apple’s Siri, which uses voice recognition to send messages, make calls and obtain answers to simple questions, such as those related to the weather and historical facts, on behalf of users.
Microsoft also has developed its own IPAs, respectively called Cortana and XiaoIce. While Cortana provides functions similar to that of Siri and can only be accessed through Windows-based devices, XiaoIce has been developed to be used on social media sites such as Sina Weibo, can be used virtually anywhere. XiaoIce learns from not only past conversations with the user but also those from all around China. With these resources, it can engage in very life-like conversations and has a bit of a funny character of its own. Read full article »
This case appears in the February 2015 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 »
13 February 2015 | To raise awareness in the Asia Pacific region of the new cabins on its B777s, Air France has developed a mobile game called Cloud Slicer, which allows travellers to compete for an instant upgrade on their flights.
This game was first launched at Singapore Changi and Osaka Kansai airport in late 2014 when passengers were handed tablets and encouraged to play Cloud Slicer, where they had to swipe the screen to cut up clouds and compete for high scores.
More than 400 passengers in the boarding gates participated in the 15-minute game. Scores were displayed in real-time on three larger screens located at the boarding gates. 15 lucky top scorers in Singapore and six in Osaka were instantly upgraded to Business Class on their flight and received their new boarding passed from the pilot himself. Video of the event here.
From January 19 2015, the competition has been extended to a regional level. All Air France passengers flying from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia or Japan can download the game (iOS or Android) and compete against each other. The best scorers of the month in each country will have the chance to be upgraded on their next flight to Paris.
Three top scorers were picked on January 31st and another three will be selected on February 27th to win free upgrades on their upcoming flights. The contest is only open to ticket holders who will travel between February 15 and December 31, 2015 and is based on seat availability on the travel date.
By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir
9 February 2015 | Korean Air is the latest carrier to embrace the new B/E Aerospace Apex Business Class suite. Following both JAL and Oman Air, Korean Air has opted for these increasingly popular forward facing private suites, which all offer aisle access and increased privacy.
Just like Japan Airlines’ ‘Sleeper Suites’, Korean Air’s ‘Prestige Suites’ turn into 74 inch long beds. When not fully reclined, the seats are still a comfortable 21.6 inches wide and feature a 23 inch widescreen touchscreen TV with handheld controller too, so there is no need to reach to the screen.
In a bid to improve and align their business class cabin with international standards, the biggest improvement comes from the introduction of a fully flat bed, replacing the older lie-flat seats.
The new Suites will make their debut on a Korean Air A330-300 on the Guangzhou, Singapore and Hanoi routes. Korean Air has a further 38 aircraft on order – six A330-300s, twelve B777-300ERs, ten B747-8is and ten B787-9s – and all will be delivered equipped with these new seats.
The airline also announced they will be looking at introducing a brand new First Class product to compliment the new suites.
The advantage of these seats is that passengers can either fly together or in complete privacy, in a similar set-up to British Airways’ long-standing Club World product. The centre seats align perfectly, whilst the window twin seats are staggered slightly, to ensure each passenger has access to the aisle. Read full article »
By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines
3 February 2015 | Recently, several airlines have picked up the Air New Zealand Skycouch concept. While China Airlines introduced its ‘Family Couch’ and Azul introduced the ‘Sky Sofa’, Air Astana has become the latest carrier to introduce a similar yet slightly different product.
The Kazakh airline announced the new ‘Economy Sleeper Class’ in which each passenger will get to enjoy a row of three Economy Class seats, turn-down service, along with various privileges at the airport.
The Economy Sleeper Class is located in the first few rows of Economy Class. The area, similar to Premium Economy products on other carriers, is partitioned from the regular Economy Class allowing passengers to enjoy more privacy. During the flight, Business Class amenity kits will be provided to make traveling more comfortable.
Mattress, duvet, pillow
When it is time to rest, the cabin crew will bring mattress layers, luxurious duvets and pillow sets to transform seats into beds that allow passengers to reasonably stretch their legs and sleep.
Different from Skycouch-related products, which consist of three continuous seats that have raisable legrests to create a large resting area, Air Astana’s Economy Sleeper is simply a set of three regular Economy Class seats. As a result, it can only allow a maximum of one adult and one infant on each seat set. Yet, it can, just like the Skycouch products, be sold as individual Economy Class seats if necessary.
With the new Economy Sleeper, Air Astana is targeting families who want more space and passengers who are unable to book business class seats. The class, with Business Class amenity kits and partitions that separate it from Economy Class, is the first to blend the Skycouch and Premium Economy concepts. Read full article »
By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir
29 January 2015 | The future is here and no, this is not an April Fools’ joke. Qantas has partnered with Samsung Electronics Australia to launch a futuristic trial entertainment service that uses Samsung virtual reality (VR) technology to give customers a spectacular three dimensional experience in a 360 degree style interactive format.
Qantas’ clunky yet “Apple generation” stylish headsets will completely envelop customers in an immersive virtual world. Currently the entertainment features the sights and panoramic vistas of Qantas’ destinations, new product and of course a selection of the latest inflight blockbuster movies.
3-month trial for First Class passengers
As part of the trial, a number of Samsung Gear VR headsets will be made available to customers in Sydney and Melbourne International First Lounges as well as a worlds first: in the First Class cabins on select A380 services.
The trial will run for three months to assess customer feedback on how this kind of VR offering might add to their overall travel experience on long-haul flights – we have doubts that customers on-board will fully enjoy the experience – as it hasn’t ever been trialled in an environment that has inherent motion before (see our reasoning below). That said, you can’t help but applaud the airline, to embrace new technology like this – at it is a catalyst for other airlines to follow.
Qantas Group Executive, Brand, Marketing & Corporate Affairs Olivia Wirth said the technology will open up a new world of lounge and inflight entertainment for customers, as well as give Qantas a powerful way to preview destinations and experiences. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
23 January 2015 | While passengers travelling in Business and First and upper-tier members of frequent flyer programs can wait for their flight in the comfort of the airline lounge, Business Class passengers still have to wait with the ‘hoi polloi’ at the gate before boarding the aircraft via a fast lane (ideally). First Class passengers often have a transfer to the aircraft from the lounge in a private car, or are escorted onboard directly.
SAS ‘Café Lounge’
To improve waiting time at the gate for premium passengers, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has announced it will open a new Café Lounge concept at Trondheim and Tromsø regional airports in Norway this spring.
The SAS Café Lounges at the gate will complement existing SAS lounges at these airport and can be used by the airline’s ‘Plus Class’ passengers, Business Class passengers travelling with Star Alliance airlines and Gold and Diamond members of SAS’ EuroBonus loyalty program.
SAS says it aims to provide passengers with a dedicated, relaxing and working environment close to the departure gate and offer WiFi internet access, tea, coffee and pastries. They are designed so that business travellers can work right up until boarding the aircraft.
Says Eivind Roald, EVP Commercial at SAS, “Our most frequent flyers appreciate time saving services such as Fast Track, which is why we are now offering an additional service designed especially for them. Fast flows are important on our domestic market and customers can work effectively in our Café Lounges located close to the gate.”
The SAS Cafe Lounge at Trondheim airport is scheduled to open in April and the facility at Tromso airport in May. Later this year, the airline will open further SAS Cafe Lounges at other Scandinavian airports.
Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
15 January 2015 | Ordering food and beverages via tablet devices is rapidly becoming the new normal at casual dining restaurants across the USA (e.g, chains such as Applebees and Chili’s), while airport restaurateur OTG has installed thousands of iPads at half a dozen U.S. airports.
Furthermore, forward-looking airlines such as Virgin America, Air New Zealand and Norwegian allow passengers to order meals, snacks and drinks via the IFE system. Allowing passengers to order via their own smartphone will be a logical next step.
And, following the success of its mobile payment app, Starbucks last October introduced its first order-ahead mobile application in Portland, Oregon, in a bid to speed up service and boost sales. The first stores in Portland allow iPhone users to order using the Starbucks app before they arrive. Customers typically will have to wait about five minutes for their drinks and food to be ready after placing an order through the app.
Air New Zealand lounges
Tapping into today’s ‘coffee culture’ Air New Zealand has been featuring barista’s who make freshly brewed coffee to passenger’s preferences in its ‘Koru’ lounges for some time. Lounge guest could order their favourite coffee by ticking a few boxes on a piece of paper, add their name and hand it over.
In a clever move, flyers now can order barista-made coffee via ANZ’s tablet or smartphone app the minute they walk into one of the airline’s Koru Clubs around New Zealand, including its international lounge at Auckland Airport. Read full article »
16 December 2014 | 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 top 10 product and service innovations we have selected this year reflect how airlines are becoming bolder in the design of new products and services as more airlines are embrading hospitality, design and technology as ways to differentiate the passenger experience.
Taiwan’s flag carrier China Airlines is transforming its products and services with the airline’s new Boeing 777-300ER becoming the airline’s flagship aircraft to showcase innovations such as a ‘Sky Lounge’ in Business and ‘Family Couches’ in Economy. Read article »
Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus’ new Business Class cabin 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 design. Read article »
Etihad has unveiled the world’s first private multi-room cabin on a commercial passenger aircraft. Called ‘The Residence’, the ‘über premium’ space will feature a living room, double bedroom, and a separate ensuite shower room, while passengers will be served by a dedicated butler. Read article »
Hidden inside the press storm caused by Etihad’s 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 »
With the aim to provide frequent flyers in Business Class with the maximum amount of sleep, Qantas is introducing Business Class seats on its A330s that let passengers recline from the moment they board until touchdown at their destination. Read article » Read full article »
12 December 2014 | In order to connect and engage with ever more experienced, connected, and informed consumers, who routinely ignore the commercials and ads thrown at them, airlines around the world are becoming more sophisticated in their marketing activities and are finding new ways to break through the advertising clutter. As such, we are witnessing the birth of many creative campaigns from airlines, be it experiental, social, mobile, digital or traditional media initiatives.
Airline Marketing Benchmark Report
Airlinetrends.com and SimpliFlying jointly produce the premium monthly Airline Marketing Benchmark Report, which features the most innovative marketing campaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Each month’s report contains 15 new case-studies that inform and inspire airline marketers and creative agencies how other airlines are making a difference with their marketing-communication campaigns. So far, we have published 28 editions, reporting on over 400 airline case studies. Have a look at this sample report and infographic to learn more.
Clients that have subscribed to the monthly service include Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Aeroflot, Aer Lingus, LAN, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Boeing and Airbus. Learn more »
Innovative campaigns in 2014
To recap 2014, we have selected those innovative marketing campaigns launched by airlines in the past year that in our opinion do a great job engaging today’s media-savvy and connected consumers.
KLM in October took its social media-based customer service to another level with a bold campaign called #HappyToHelp. During five days, a dedicated team scanned social media forany passenger facing travel woes throughout the world, and responded with real-time answers and support. Read article »
Food trucks are a hot phenomenon these days, having evolved from chip stands into quality gourmet food-on-the-go. In an effort to reach today’s marketing-savvy consumers, Korean Air and Lufthansa in the fall of this year were the latest airlines to capitalize on the food truck trend for marketing purposes. Read article »
JetBlue in November put its own twist on the concept of ‘paying it forward’, by awarding a free ticket to several deserving individuals involved in humanitarian efforts. In an ongoing effort, JetBlue lets that person select another deserving recipient of the free ticket, and so on and so on. Read article » Read full article »
Images courtesy Australian Business Traveller
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
9 December 2014 | In the past years airlines around the world have been busy installing seats in Business Class that can be turned into fully flat beds, making ‘full flat’ the industry standard. In an effort to further differentiate their premium product, airlines are increasingly coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ service elements of the inflight experience. Examples include Virgin Atlantic’s Snooze Zone, Delta’s partnership with Westin and Aer Lingus’ new Business Class which offers passengers a well thought-out combination of product and service innovations.
In an effort to provide frequent flyers in Business Class with the maximum amount of sleep, Qantas is introducing Business Class seats on its A330s that let passengers recline from the moment they board until touchdown at their destination. The innovation, for which Qantas is awaiting regulatory approval, could let passengers get more than seven hours of shuteye on an Australia to Southeast Asia trip.
As aircraft seats are traditionally locked upright during take-off and landing, when most accidents happen, the innovation would allow Qantas to offer the world’s first seats that let passengers recline in their seat from take-off through to landing.
Key to the break-through product’s safety is an over-the-shoulder belt — much like a car seatbelt — that connects with the usual around-the-waist belt to provide extra restraint during takeoff and landing.
The seats won’t be able to recline less than 25 degrees from the horizontal on international flights and 21 degrees domestically. That’s sufficient to allow the shoulder belt to work, withstanding the 16G forces that can be exerted in a survivable accident. The berths can be switched to fully-flat mode once the plane is in level flight. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
5 December 2014 | In order to make as much as possible of the limited ‘real estate’ onboard their aircraft, airlines such as British Airways (‘Club Kitchen’), American Airlines (‘Lobby Bar’), Japan Airlines’ (‘Sky Gallery’) and China Airlines (‘Sky Lounge’) have been reimagining how the galley area of the premium cabin could become the domain of passengers as well after regular service is over.
Virgin Atlantic ‘Wander Wall’
On a similar note, Virgin Atlantic – which is also known for its signature Upper Class onboard bar (one of the very few airlines to actually install a bar on aircraft that are not an A380) – has come up with an inventive concept on its new B787 Dreamliner that is called the ‘Wander Wall’.
While the sit-up bar is for Business Class passengers only, those in Premium Economy on the airline’s B787 are encouraged to stretch their legs and come over to the ‘Wander Wall’ and mingle with other passengers and crew.
The ‘Wander Wall’ is located in the front galley, just behind the Upper Class bar, and is a bulkhead area where Premium Economy fliers can “wander to” and help themselves to snacks, drinks and newspapers. “It creates a space where customers can get out of their seats and stretch their legs,” CEO Craig Kreeger told USA Today. “It gives them a destination, someplace they can walk to that’s not the bathroom.”
Developed to reflect the design of the Upper Class bar, the social space offers a mini fridge, water fountain and a self-serve area where passengers can help themselves to snacks and refreshments.
Reuben Arnold, director of brand and customer experience told Business Traveller: “The Wonderwall [in the galley] is a great place to stretch your legs and socialise. On day flights there will be snacks and drinks here, there is a fridge and a water fountain; on evening flights, there will be things like chamomile tea and hot chocolate with marshmallows. It gives a reason for people to want to go there and leave their seat.”