PASSENGER EXPERIENCE

Air France KLM ‘employs’ frequent flyers as mystery shoppers

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

One of the best ways for companies to gain insight into their customers’ experience is through mystery shopping audits. Many people love to take part in mystery shopping – especially when this allows them to travel by air – as it lets them have their say and opinion on the level of customer service they receive and feed their experiences back to the company involved.

Air France KLM ’Quality Observers’
Many airlines employ mystery flyers and in return for valuable insight into the daily runnings of the flights provide undercover flyers with a free flight and paid-for expenses.

Air France KLM has come up with an innovative twist for its mystery flyers program and is introducing a new so-called ‘Quality Observer’ program. Instead of employing mystery shoppers, the Quality Observers are recruited from the airlines’ community of Flying Blue members.

Within the program, Elite members from the airlines’ Flying Blue loyalty program will be randomly invited to join the Quality Observer community and participate as mystery flyer during their travel, according to booking data and the pre-set Quality Observer coverage and frequency needs per station.

This joint Air France KLM program is designed to objectively observe and measure if product and services are delivered according to pre-set specifications at every customer point of contact during the actual journey (booking/call centers are planned to be added next year). According to Air France KLM, the aim of the Quality Observer program is to ensure a worldwide consistency in quality of service delivered to its passengers.

Mobile app
A special Quality Oberver app (both for iOS and Android devices) is made available for the Quality Observers. To be able to use the application, Flying Blue members need to be registered as a Quality Observer with AFKL, which is by invitation only.
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Beyond full-flat beds and slim-line seats » How airlines can differentiate the passenger experience ‘up in the air’

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

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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

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

1. Personal service 

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

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

2. Real-time information

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

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

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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

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

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

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

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

Passengers on Delta’s ‘Beta Plane’ can submit their ideas via Wi-Fi

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

We have reported several times before how airlines and airports are teaming up with the general public in order to generate ideas for new products and services.

As this trend matures, airlines such as KLM, SAS and Finnair have gone beyong incidental crowdsourcing campaigns by launching broad co-creation programs to improve the passenger experience.

KLM ‘Bright Ideas’, for example, asks Facebook fans to share and discuss their ideas to improve KLM’s products and services. Scandinavian Airlines’ ‘My SAS Idea’ is an online community where anyone can share their ideas and others can join in to further improve on each idea. Finnair’s Quality Hunters – now in its third year – invites a select group of enthusiasts to come up with ideas which are then shared online with the larger community.

Delta ‘Ideas In Flight’
In 2011, Delta teamed with “scientists and thinkers” conference TED (slogan: “Ideas Worth Spreading”) to generate innovative crowd-sourced ideas to improve the travel experience. Called ‘Ideas in Flight’, the program uses curated TEDTalks as thought-starters to inspire participants across technology, entertainment, design, etcetera. Ideas could be submitted through a dedicated tab on the Delta Facebook page.

In February of this year, Delta launched the second edition of Ideas In Flight. Similar to the 2011 edition, any Delta Facebook fan could contribute via Delta’s Facebook page and a voting system allows Delta and users to see what ideas are popular, and which ones will be considered to be implemented on the flight.
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Airports evolve from ‘spaces of flow’ to destinations that connect people and places

By Hildegard Assies, UrbanRetail

Between 2010 and 2015 the size of the global airport retailing market is forecast to expand by 44.5 percent from to nearly USD 40 billion. In a time when downtown retail is suffering, facing strong competition from internet and new challenges how to engage consumers, airports’ commercial income is substantially increasing and for example in Europe now accounts for an average 48 percent of total airport revenues.

In 50 years, the airport retailing market has gone through a major development. Since the opening of the first duty free store at Shannon Airport in Ireland (in the 1950s), retailing at airports has become a professionalized market that offers (luxury) brands a unique platform to engage with an international mix of customers. Add to this the growing understanding of airports of passengers needs and it becomes clear that today’s airports are no longer just a space of passenger flows, but are evolving into locations that offer a sense of place for consumers on the move (a.k.a. ‘transumers’).

A local touch in a high-traffic location
In order to create an unique sense of place, airports have realized they had to differentiate the passenger experience. Not only by designing seamless, efficient, processes and fancy terminals, but by creating a distinct ambiance with a unique and flexible portfolio of retail, food & beverage and service concepts.

Uniqueness is achieved by developing innovative concepts, preferable with a local flavour by featuring local brands and experiences, as well as global brands that offer a selection of local products (‘glocalization’).

Airlinetrends.com has reported before on ‘localization’ of airports, with great examples at Tokyo Haneda (Edo Market), Amsterdam Schiphol (Holland Boulevard) and Copenhagen Kastrup (Foodmarket). In the meantime new initiatives have evolved at for example ANA-Aeroportos de Portugal, which recently opened an upscale destination merchandise store named Portfolio at Lisbon Airport as part of its drive to create a strong ‘sense of place’ across its airport network.
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Long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X to offer kids-free ‘Quiet Zone’ onboard

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Two recent surveys conducted by TripAdvisor found that 40 percent of U.S. travellers said they would pay extra to sit in a designated quiet section of the plane, while nearly 80 percent of Britons agreed there should be child-free zones on board, and a third of of respondents would pay more for their flight if there were no children on board.

Quiet Zone
Following a controversial decision by Malaysia Airlines to introduce a ‘child-free cabin’ on the upper deck of its new A380 superjumbo (Business and Economy), Malaysia-based long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X has announced it will be launching a so-called ‘Quiet Zone’ on its fleet of Airbus A330s.

Starting in February 2013, the airline will create a “Quiet Zone” in the front section of its widebody aircraft, located between the airline’s Premium Class section and the front galley. Children younger than 12 years old will not be able to book seats in the Quiet Zone, and passengers opting for the zone will be asked to keep noise to a minimum, while there will also be special ambient lighting in the cabin. Passenger will also be among the first to disembark.

The dedicated zone will consist of the first eight rows of the Economy section (rows 7 to 14), and  as the front area already houses the airline’s Premium Class, turning this part of the aircraft into a Quiet Zone will also be appreciated by AirAsia X’s premium passengers.
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TAM lets kids help flight attendants with onboard service

A growing number of airlines are launching dedicated services and products aimed at improving the flight experience for families with children. From the previously discussed ‘Happy Mom’ initiative by Asiana and the ‘Sky Nanny’ by Gulf Air to kid-friendly tray table covers, these kinds of initiatives may be welcomed not just by parents and children, but also by other passengers who also benefit from initiatives that keep the youngest passengers entertained. Passenger complaints about sitting near children are a recurrent issue in flying.

One airline that has been very creative in keeping the kids busy in-flight as well engaging children in the world of aviation, is Brazilian airline TAM.

TAM Kids
Together with educational advisors, TAM developed the TAM Kids program which consists of three main elements: A TAM Kids website where children can play games, get to know characters from the TAM Kids Team and learn about the history of aviation, the experience on board the aircraft, and a ‘kids room’ at the TAM museum that includes aviation-related toys, games and attractions, including flight simulators and a hangar and control tower replica.

Onboard experience
With parental consent, children up to 12 years of age can also sign up for TAM Kids and receive an official ‘Comandante Kid’ badge. On-board, children with ‘Comandante Kid’ badges are invited to help the crew by welcoming passengers on the flight’s PA system, distributing candies before the flight takes off (videos here and here), and visiting the cockpit after the aircraft has landed. In addition, TAM provides the children with the TAM Kids magazine, kid-friendly meals, and on international flights, IFE channels with movies and music for children.
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Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and Finnair offer passengers free light therapy

Aéroports de Paris, which operates Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports, has dveloped a reputation when it comes to establishing innovative partnerships with well-known brands in order to enhance the airport experience. Following earlier initiatives with Sony (free Playstation ‘poles’), Sony (free mini HD-cinema), Gulli (branded play areas) and Samsung (music pods), the airport has now teamed up with Philips to develop light therapy pods, which passengers can use for free.

Luminotherapy
Last month, Paris Charles de Gaulle installed three so-called ‘luminotherapy spaces’ at the airport’s Terminal 2E. Passengers can use the pod 15-minutes for free to fight their jet lag or combat the winter blues, caused by a lack of ultra-violet light during the winter. The cocoons are equipped with Philips GoLiTE BLU lamps in different colors, a relaxing leather chair, and passengers can watch a didactic video that shows the benefits of luminothérapie. Aéroports de Paris operator says it wil decide whether to expand the service to other terminals at the airport based on feedback of passengers using the pods.

At the end of 2007, Aéroports de Paris and Philips also partnered for a limited time to offer a similar service during the winter season, while Philips has teamed with Westin Hotels & Resorts to offer guests at The Westin Chicago River North a stay in a specially designed Concept Room aimed at helping guests combat sleep troubles and jet lag.

Finnair light-emitting headsets
Meanwhile, Finnair just announced it will offer premium passengers on flights between Helsinki and Shanghai the ability to try out a “bright light headset” said to help passengers adapt to jet lag by channeling bright light into the brain via the ear canal. The bright light headsets, developed by Finish company Valkee, will be available free of charge to business class passengers during the month of April, before going on sale in-flight in May 2012.
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Southwest gives its 737 interiors a ‘green’ makeover

Southwest Airlines in October 2009 turned a B737-700 into a ‘beta-plane’ to test a series of sustainable interior materials, such as environmental-friendly leather and recycable carpet. This so-called ‘Green Plane’ has been operating in regular revenue service, so Southwest could evaluate normal wear and durability. Based on the in-flight test results and feedback from customers onboard the Green Plane, Southwest has just announced its new ‘Evolve’ interior, which will feature refurbished seats, more under-seat space, new carpets and a more stylish colour palette. Southwest says the materials used are “green” and lighter, reducing each aircraft’s weight by several hundred pounds per plane, thereby saving fuel and costs.

Seats, carpet
APEX reports that Southwest is retaining the B/E Aerospace-manufactured ‘Innovator II’ seat frames on its 737-700s, but will add fixed wing head rests, new, thinner, more durable foam fill, and synthetic ‘E-Leather’ seat covers – an eco-friendly, lightweight and scuff resistant alternative to traditional leather. The airline is also removing the under-seat floatation device – and instead adding smaller and lighter life vest pouches – to create weight savings of nearly six pounds per seat. A smart new feature are netted seat pockets, which have so-called ‘crumb catchers’ at the bottom that can be zippered open to allow the crumbs to come out. Furthermore, completely recyclable, carbon-neutral carpet from InterfaceFLOR will be laid in squares, rather than rolls, which eliminates the need for total carpet replacement.

The slimmer refurbished seats will also allow Southwest to reduce seat pitch from 32 to 31 inch and add an additional row on its 737-700s without sacrificing personal space. Southwest, however, emphasizes that “it was never our objective to add a row of seats, and the extra row isn’t the main reason for this redesign. Once we examined how much space would be saved, it was determined we could accommodate the increase, without sacrificing comfort.”

Sky Interior
Southwest will receive its first 737-800 ‘Sky Interior’ aircraft with the new Evolve interior in April 2012 and subsequently will start a retrofit of its fleet of 372 B737-700s. The operation is planned to be completed by the end of 2013 and represents an USD60 million investment. The airline, however, anticipates the new interior – coupled with the gain in seat capacity – will produce savings of about USD250 million annually.
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As it turns Dubai into a global hub, Emirates embraces a diverse passenger base

By Vivek Mayasandra

Over recent years, Gulf-based carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad have dazzled the global airline industry with their aircraft orders, premium services and rapid expansion. Besides targetting traditional routes such as Europe – Australasia, Emirates, the leader of Gulf aviation growth, has aggressively capitalized on new passenger flows, connecting Asia with Africa and with Latin America via its Dubai hub – markets which will collectively occupy over 60 percent of passenger flows by the year 2030, according to Boeing’s latest market forecast.

As Emirates states in its latest annual report: “The future of our industry is being written not only in long-established air routes, but also in places like China, India and Africa – markets where the demand for air transport, both passenger and cargo, is growing at an incredible rate.” […] “Our strategic hub in Dubai plays a key role in establishing new trade routes by linking emerging markets to more developed ones, such as connecting Moscow to Durban, Beijing to Luanda or Hyderabad to Sao Paulo.”

This focus has enabled Emirates to position and brand itself to a newly global customer base – and more importantly – develop solutions in service, dining and entertainment for a wide array of diverse passenger tastes.


Cabin crew
In the air, Emirates’ diverse cabin crew is indicative of its global focus – the airline employs cabin crew from more than 130 nationalities. This lets Emirates typically staff their flights with speakers of Arabic, English and the local language of the flight’s destination. Being an Gulf-based carrier, Emirates’ crew are also trained for a variety of Arab and Muslim cultural situations – from being taken to mosques, learning how to serve the traditionally Arab meal of coffee and dates, to properly serving veiled Muslim passengers.

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How Korean Air is catering to the growing number of female passengers

Airlines traditionally have been catering to the stereotype male business traveler in his forties, but the growing economic power of women, the greying of society, and the emergence of more travelers from non-Western countries is changing this archetypical passenger. For example, in the U.S. women already make up over 40 percent of business travellers and 50 percent of frequent flyer program members. Although still limited, some airlines have begun to offer specific amenities for female passengers, which go beyond the traditional amenity kit. Lufthansa and Air France publish dedicated lifestyle magazines for premium female passengers with titles such as Woman’s World and Madame, while Asiana offers additional services for expectant mothers, called ‘PreMom’. South Korean flag carrier Korean Air, however, is going the extra mile to cater to the growing number of female passengers, which make up 45 percent of its passengers.

Dedicated lounge area for female passengers
Korean Air recently opened an expanded Prestige Lounge at Incheon International airport. Among the lounge’s features is a dedicated area for female travellers, which to our knowledge, is a first for an airline.

Says Korean Air’s spokeswoman Mi Hyun Kim: “These days more and more female travellers are traveling around the world. In order to respond to their increasing needs, we have designed a special area fully dedicated to female travellers, which includes a female restroom, sleeping room and powder room. Also, female travellers can taste quality food and snacks and change diapers of their babies without any distraction in this area. In the powder room, there is a dressing table with a large mirror and a chair to help female travelers to do their make-up. In the sleeping room, there are two comfortable couch-type chairs which can be reclined upon adjustment.”

Women-only onboard bathroom
Korean Air is also among a handful airlines in the world that have dedicated bathrooms onboard for use by female passengers only. The airline has been offering this ‘ladies-only’ facility, which is available on long-haul aircraft such as A380s, B747s, B777s and A300s, since 2007. Korean Air’s ladies-only lavatory is decorated with pink coloured wallpapers, has a diaper board for babies and provides extra cosmetics.
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Airlines go local and seasonal with their food offerings

Reflecting a growing food trend among hotels and restaurants, airlines are increasingly offering local and seasonal food onboard as they emphasize their national cuisine. This development also ties in with a number of other trends such as authenticity, storytelling, and the rediscovery of national and regional identities in a globalized world. Furthermore, offering local and seasonal produce supports local businesses and in some cases also results in a reduced carbon footprint. Some recent examples from around the world. 

SWISS ‘Taste of Switzerland
As part of its ongoing ‘Taste of Switzerland’ program, started in 2002, SWISS offers premium passsengers on medium and long-haul flights signature dishes from its cantons (regions). Every three months a new Swiss canton is selected (currently Vaud), and local produce is used as much as possible. Thanks to a recent collaboration with the country’s ‘Kaseunion’, Appenzell, Gruyere and Emmental cheeses are also served on board. 

Lufthansa ‘Discover Flavour’
On a similar note, Lufthansa’s ‘Discover Flavour’ catering concept, offers regional German specialities on board. The current program, ‘Discover Slow Food’, held in cooperation with the Slow Food organization, serves Business Class passengers on select long European flights four regional specialities, such as the ‘Diepholzer Moorschnucke’ (a rare breed of sheep from Lower Saxony) and the ‘Bamberger Hörnla’ (an old variety of potato grown near Bamberg). On domestic routes, Lufthansa currently serves marinated North Sea crabs on scrambled egg, and Hamburg vinegar-marinated meat as part of a ‘Discover Hamburg’ theme. Read full article »

Singapore Changi Airport lets travellers rate service on the spot

As part of its ‘Changi Experience’ program Singapore’s Changi Airport, one of the world’s most-awarded airports, is aiming for even higher service standards with the launch of several initiatives. New services include Care@Changi, which provides priority queue lanes at security checkpoints and taxi stands for expectant mothers, passengers with infants in arms and reduced mobility travellers, and iChangi, which making flight and airport information available via kiosks located around the terminals and a dedicated iPhone app.

The most eye-catching ‘customer-centric initiative’ the airport has launched, however, is an ‘instant-feedback system’, which is installed at selected check-in desks, immigration counters, retail stores, dining outlets and washrooms. Passengers can rate frontline service staff or the level of cleanliness on a five-point scale using interactive touchscreens. They can also indicate what they like or dislike. 

For example, Changi Airport’s cleaning-service partner would be able to fix a problem within 15 minutes of receiving feedback, which is transmitted via personal digital assistants carried by cleaning supervisors. They would then dispatch a cleaner to perform tasks such as mopping a wet floor or replenishing toilet paper. For DFS duty-free stores and two restaurants in the airport’s Terminal 3, ratings and feedback can tell managers which employees are their top performers. Read full article »

Schiphol Airport teams up with Philips to develop ‘ambient gate’

Amsterdam Schiphol has opened a new gate at the airport’s G-Pier that is intended to make the time passengers spend just before departure as pleasant as possible. The so-called ‘Innovative Gate’ resulted from a collaborative venture between Schiphol and a large number of other parties. Philips played a key role by providing its expertise in creating ‘ambient experiences’, which basically make use of a play of different lighting fixtures, effects and colors to create different moods. The new 700m2 gate features 1,000 fluorescent LED lamps. 

Mood lighting, ‘living magazines’,  innovative seating
When passengers approach the gate, the gate is lighted using the airline’s colours and large billboards positioned at the gate entrance display photos or videos of the destination alongside flight information. A reception desk lets airlines welcome passengers, and the pre-waiting area offers different furniture elements, such as work desks for business travellers, group seats, and individual seats with enhanced privacy. The waiting area also features number of large video screens (called ‘living magazines’ by Schiphol) that show infotainment programmes. Cathay Pacific will be the first airline to use the new gate. Read full article »

Monocle creates the perfect airline: Nippon Nordic Air

One of airlinetrends’s favourite magazines, Monocle has created their blueprint dream airline: Nippon Nordic Air (NNA). The global affairs magazine is well-qualified to determine what the perfect airline should look like. Monocle’s editor-in-chief, globetrotting style-meister Tyler Brûlé, has worked with BA, SWISS, and Porter Airlines, and in his weekly Financial Times ‘Fast Lane’ column points out the good and bad in airline services. 

Here’s what, in Monocle’s words, the Nippon Nordic Air experience would be like: “Nippon Nordic Air is a new type of airline designed to fill a void left by legacy carriers that have run out of ideas and money and upstart mega-carriers that lack social currency and good taste. The inflight experience will be a dignified one. With three classes of services, the emphasis is on good quality throughout and a healthy flying experience. Nippon Nordic combines the flying skills of Canada’s best pilots, the design ingenuity of Sweden and Japan’s best designers and engineers and the gracious service of a Kyoto ryokan.” Read full article »