British Airways

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 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 »

BA to rightsize its short-haul fleet with slimline seats featuring tablet holders

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By Raymond Kollau,

Following earlier initiatives by major competitors Lufthansa (168 seats on its A320s) and Air France (178 seats on A320s) to install more slimline seats (from Recaro) on their short-haul aircraft in order to become more competitive with low-cost rivals such as Easyjet (180 seats on A320), British Airways has just unveiled its new short-haul interiors.

On the BA’s existing A320 fleet of more than 40 aircraft, there are various different seats and configurations and at a recent shareholder presentation by BA owner IAG, it revealed that it aims to increase capacity across BA’s Airbus fleet by 6 per cent.

BA executive chairman Keith Williams said: “The short-haul landscape has changed enormously in recent years. To stay competitive and keep offering customers choice, great fares and great service, we are giving our cabins a radical makeover.”

Leather headrests, tablet holder
The new charcoal grey leather seats (manufactured by B/E Aerospace) are slimmer and ergonomically designed to allow BA to squeeze in extra seats for its economy cabins, Euro Traveller. This, says the airline, will allow it to offer more low fares. The new Euro Traveller chairs will have backs designed give more knee space for the customer behind and new eye-level seatback tablet-holders, which are rapidly becoming a standard feature on the latest generation of Economy seats. Read full article »

BA digital billboards interact with aircrafts flying overhead

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This case appears in the December 2013 edition of the Airline Marketing Benchmark, a monthly report by and Simpliflying, which identifies the latest innovative marketing campaigns recently launched by airlines around the world. Learn more »

British Airways has worked with Ogilvy’s digital arm 12th Floor to custom-fit digital billboards with surveillance technology that detects and activates the billboards when the airline’s flights pass overhead.

Located in Piccadilly Circus and Chiswick in London, when the billboard ‘detects’ a BA flight flying below the clouds that is visible to passers by, a child starts running, pointing up to the sky – chasing the airplane. The billboard then updates to reflect the flight details, like “BA flight 475 from Barcelona”, along with a URL Onlookers can then go online and view destination details and ultimately make a booking.

The flight messages are accompanied by other relevant messages to the flight, that will also help promote the points of difference the airline offers, such as ‘Fly the new A380 to Los Angeles.’, or details such as the lowest fare available or the temperature at the destination.

Abigail Comber, British Airways’ head of marketing, said: “This is a first, not just for British Airways but for UK advertising. We all know from conversations with friends and family that we wonder where the planes are going and dream of an amazing holiday or warm destination. The clever technology allows this advert to engage people there and then and answer that question for them. “We hope it will create a real ‘wow’ and people will be reminded how amazing flying is and how accessible the world can be.”

The online video of the billboards in action has now gone viral and has already amassed 750,000 in less than 10 days, becoming an advert in itself. It has been supported by a microsite and the hashtag #lookup.
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British Airways trials electronic baggage tag

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By Raymond Kollau,                                                                                          article updated December 2013

British Airways is trialling an electronic baggage tag which will remove the need to attach a new paper tag each time a traveller flies and speed up passenger check-in times at the airport. The airline estimates the new system can cut baggage drop-off times to about 35 seconds from the 3 minutes it routinely takes now.

How it works
BA’s electronic bag-tag can be used by passengers who have their booking details sent to their smart-phone using the BA app. Passengers then use their smartphone to check in, choose their seat and obtain their mobile boarding pass. The app then automatically updates the digital bag-tag with a unique barcode, containing new flight details and an easy-to-see view of their bag’s destination just by holding the phone over it. Each time the passenger flies, the electronic bar code on the tag changes.

Each electronic bag-tag carries a special computer chip and has two small mini-computer screens on each side, similar to those on an iPhone or Kindle ‘e-reader’ device. At check-in, passengers hold their smartphone, carrying their booking details, over the tag. The phone then transmits these details wirelessly to the tag, which then displays them on the mini-screens in the form of a bar-code and in summary form as written words.

The electronic screens ‘fix’ the image on the tag for the duration of the trip – allowing it to be scanned electronically when going through luggage handling at departure, on to the plane, and through to the luggage collection carousel in the arrivals.  Only when the customer checks onto a new flight will the bar code be changed and updated for that service.

BA says the high-tech tag can be used ‘time and time again’ with a different bar-code programmed for each new flight. The battery switches off once the image is ‘fixed’ and will last around five years.

Paper tickets will still be offered, although BA says the electronic tag is designed to require only a hand-held scanner so the service can be provided at any airport. The electronic tags have been specially developed by BA in partnership with Densitron Displays, and Designworks Windsor, while Heathrow Airport is providing help with the trials.
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British Airways and Twinings launch a high altitude tea

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By Debbie Pappyn, Classe Touriste

From serving real espresso and ristrettos in the sky to the new trend of enjoying tea on board that doesn’t taste like sewage water.

Take for example British Airways who serves 35 million cups a year and strives to have the best traditional British “cuppa in the air”. Recently British Airways and UK tea brand Twinings are transforming tea in the air with an innovative new blend of the nation’s favourite drink, specifically designed to work at altitude. The British Airways signature blend tea will take to the skies from February 1, 2013 for customers in all cabins.

With research to prove that taste can be reduced by up to 30 per cent at 35,000 feet, the airline commissioned Twinings to come up with a teabag that would taste as good in the sky as it does on the ground.

The airline conducted tastings on the ground and in the air with a panel of 19 customers, cabin crew and experts including Twinings senior buyer Mike Wright who said: “Water on board an aircraft boils at around 89 degrees centigrade, not the ideal 100 degrees for making black tea.  The reduced air pressure and humidity affect the functioning of the tastebuds, making things taste different. In addition to this, it was important that the new blend worked well with and without milk. The new British Airways blend is perfectly balanced to create great-tasting tea at 35,000 feet.”
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Innovative Airlines 2012: #2 British Airways

By Brian Pillsbury

For the past several years, there was a sense that if things could go wrong for British Airways (BA), they usually did: A global financial crisis set against BA’s high exposure to the premium business travel market which resulted in large losses. Endless merger talks with Iberia. Labor disputes that forced flight cancellations and fleet groundings. And who can forget the rocky debut of London Heathrow’s state-of-the-art Terminal 5 in 2008. With those difficult days largely behind it, BA appears to have regained its footing with several key innovative programs and plans now in motion.

GBP 5 billion investment
Announced in September 2011, British Airways’ five-year GBP 5 billion investment program encompasses several key areas of focus. Overall, it will see BA’s customers benefitting from new aircraft, updated World Traveller (economy) and World Traveller Plus (premium economy) cabins, a revamped First class, and an array of improvements to in-flight service, such as a more personal service and more flavoursome catering.

To Fly. To Serve.
Central to this effort is BA’s GBP 20 million branding campaign, which kicked off in September of last year. The ‘To Fly. To Serve.’ advertisement campaign has the goal of re-igniting passion and belief in the BA brand among its customers and staff. The ‘To Fly. To Serve’ motto itself is found on the BA coat of arms and on the uniforms of its crew members. The campaign is meant to reflect British Airways’ “long, storied history as genuine pioneers of commercial aviation from its earliest days to the modern era, and to evoke a trusted image of a distinctly British brand emphasizing quintessential British traits of quiet confidence, competence, professionalism, and devotion to service.“
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British Airways to launch temporary Olympics ‘brand space’ in London

As people are bombarded with marketing messages, real-life interaction with products and brands (a.k.a. experiential marketing) has become increasingly valuable for airlines to get their message across. We reported earlier on Southwest Airlines’ ‘porches’ in New York and Denver, Delta Air Lines’ ‘SKY360 lounges’ at sports venues, and film and culinary festivals in the U.S, while Air France last year toured Manhattan, New York, for 5 days with a ‘Gourmet Food Truck’, serving free food samples based on the recipes of Air France’s Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon.

Flight BA2012
The latest airline to join the ‘brand space’ trend is British Airways (BA), who will launch an airline themed pop-up venue – called ‘Flight BA2012’ – in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Open on select weekdays from April 4 to 17, the three-in-one art gallery, cinema and dining lounge will showcase the works of the winners of BA’s Great Britons co-creation campaign before they are rolled out on flights from April. Bookings can be made from March 19 on at

‘Flight BA2012’ will be located at 3-10 Shoreditch High Street in East London, and will offer guests a three-in-one dining, cinema and art experience. For GBP50 visitors will get entry to the gallery and screening room, receive a welcome glass of champagne, a sit down three-course meal with amuse bouche, and tea, coffee and petit four.

The temporary venue will feature artwork from artist-designer Pascal Anson from Brighton, who was mentored by artist Tracey Emin on his ‘Dove’ design which will will appear on selected BA aircraft.  The short film ‘BOY’ (trailer here), written by screenwriter Prasanna Purwanarajah under the mentorship of actor Richard E Grant and to be shown on BA flights, will be screened in the ‘Flight BA2012’ cinema. Guests will also be able to sample a bold British menu created by Michelin-star chef Simon Hulstone, who under the guidance of Heston Blumenthal, has produced a menu from the airline’s menus dating back to 1948 – the last time the Games were held in London (more details of the menu here). Hulstone’s menu will be served in-flight on BA long-haul services departing London Heathrow between July and September.

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British Airways brings umami to passengers

Earlier this year, British Airways teamed up with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, well-known for his quirky Fat Duck Restaurant and highly experimental dishes such as snail porridge, in an innovative project to take airline food to new heights. The relationship between Blumenthal and British Airways has been on-going since the popular television series ‘Mission Impossible’, which saw Blumenthal tackling the kitchens at many British institutions, with British Airways being one compliant victim.

In the Mission Impossible episode with British Airways, which aired on Channel 4 in March 2011, Blumenthal tackled the issue of what happens to food and the ability to taste at altitude, combined with the confines of an aircraft’s galley area. 35,000 feet above ground, Blumenthal gave the TV audience a glimpse into airline food, while convincing catering experts Gate Gourmet that unlike salt and sugar, which need to be stronger to savour in high altitude, umami-rich ingredients stayed the same. Blumenthal has long used umami, a savoury flavour known as the ‘fifth taste’,  which occurs naturally in foods such as seaweed, tomatoes, mackerel and parmesan cheese, to push the taste barriers at his Fat Duck restaurant. After several experiments, Blumenthal then went on to win over passengers, as well as BA executives, with a tasty, umami-rich ‘seaweed cottage pie’.

Umami in the Air
The findings from ‘Mission Impossible’ encouraged BA’s catering staff to change menu plans, use of ingredients and the way in which food is prepared. Furthermore, BA invited Blumenthal to help to create their new, umami-based menu, using cheese, spices and seasonal produce. Says Mark Hassell, British Airways’ head of customer experience and a tasting panel judge on the Mission Impossible show: “There is a real science to food at altitude and with his innovative and creative approach, Heston’s work has been really interesting to us.”

From June 2011, BA’s on board menu in Business and First features umami dishes such as classic tuna Nicoise, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, sauteed salmon and gilt head bream with soy sauce and shitake mushrooms, and asparagus with pea and broad bean dressing and poached hen’s egg. Read full article »

British Airways turns to the British public to co-create menu, movie and livery

Following earlier crowdsourcing initiatives by airlines like Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Emirates, which have been turned into actual products such as elements of in-flight menus and amenity kits, British Airways has launched a co-creation campaign in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games under the strapline ’We Can Help Your Talent Fly’.

BA Great Britons
As part of its ‘Great Britons’ programme, launched in 2009, BA is inviting aspiring chefs, scriptwriters and artists to submit their ideas for an onboard menu, in-flight movie and aircraft livery. The winner of each category will then receive one-to-one mentoring from culinary expert Heston Blumenthal, actor Richard E Grant and artist Tracey Emin to develop their idea further.

The winner of the food category will produce a bold British menu, in cooperation with Michelin-star restaurant owner and chef Heston Blumenthal, which will be served on board BA flights around the Games. The winner in the film category will receive mentoring from actor, scriptwriter and director Richard E Grant, to write a short film. The final production will be broadcast on board BA flights in the run up to the Games, and showcased at the pre-show to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. In the art category, Turner Prize nominated artist and Royal Academician Tracey Emin will mentor the winner to produce an iconic piece of artwork for the livery of 12 BA aircraft.
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BA launches in-flight mobile portal on its London City-JFK business class-only service

Passengers on BA’s all-business ‘Club World London City’ service from London City to New York JFK can use their mobile device to send and receive text messages and emails in-flight and access the Internet. The in-flight connectivity service is provided by OnAir. Adding a new feature to the service, BA has become the launch customer for OnAir’s new in-flight mobile portal, which has been branded ‘Club Mobile’ by BA. 

BA’s ‘Club Mobile’ is a wireless in-flight Internet portal that gives passengers access via their cellphones to real-time flight information, live sport results, and local information on events, weather and traffic. Passengers can also book concierge and chauffeur services (offered by Quintessentially) through the portal. To get access, passengers only have to switch on their phone, once the ‘no mobile’ sign is switched off, and receive a text message with a link to the portal. OnAir says the mobile portal is the first of its kind. For a demo of the service, see this video. Read full article »

BA opts for ‘understated British luxury’ in its new First Class

British Airways has just unveiled its new First cabin on a B777 aircraft enroute from London Heathrow to Chicago. The airline has invested GBP100 million (EUR110, USD150 million) in its new flagship product, and says the first class design is inspired by classic British luxury car brands Aston Martin and Jaguar. For example, the leather seat is fitted in a shade of dark blue called Naval Barathea, with cream leather trim around the headboard, and a silver-coloured knob, that looks as as if it should be on the dashboard of a Bentley, gives the customer precision control over the seat position. 

BA says it is emphasising simplicity with its new First product, and sought to create an air of calm understated British luxury, which harks back to the 1920s and dismisses gimmicks innovations such as onboard bars, showers and private cabins.  The amount of First Class seats (14 on a B777) will remain unchanged and the refit will take two years to complete (in total 73 aircraft will be refitted). BA will introduce the new First cabin on Dubai and Mumbai routes in the coming weeks. 
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BA’s social network MetroTwin launches Mumbai edition


British Airways has expanded its social networking site to include Indian city Mumbai. As with,  which links London and New York, Metrotwin Mumbai will link Mumbai with London and help travellers find their way in Mumbai and London, with recommendations from local people in each city.

Users are encouraged to link or ‘twin’ all manner of things in both cities by issuing recommendations following an ‘if you like this, you will like that’ formula. In BA’s words:   “Ultimately we want everything on the site to have a ‘twin’, whether it be a place, a neighbourhood or a person. In a nutshell it’s a totally new way to experience [a city]: an online community that brings you recommendations of the best places to go in both cities from the people who actually live and work there.”
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