Helsinki Airport offers ‘digital nomads’ a private space to work comfortably

By Raymond Kollau,

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

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

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

Called ‘Suvanto’ (which can be translated as ‘quiet waters’), the private pods provide passengers with a tranquil space to make their waiting time more comfortable and make it more convenient to work between flights. Says Marko Tikkanen, director at Finavia, “Our goal has been to create a new kind of passenger service, which is available for everyone and meets the challenges of the changing passenger culture.”
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How iPads are changing the way plane tray tables are designed

By Louise Driscoll, Terminal U

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Raymond Kollau,

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

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

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

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

Says Elif Ergezen, Product Manager at THY, “Turkish Airlines highly regards the added value of providing a memorable amenity kit to its passengers. A souvenir of the trip that demonstrates an understanding of customers’ behavior.”
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Virgin America passengers can register for the US elections at 35,000ft

By Raymond Kollau,

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

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

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

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

By Springwise

Music can be an excellent traveling companion, and we’ve already seen several efforts to suggest or even tailor music playlists for a particular trip. Now, a new selection of custom music from the UK’s Gatwick Express train service aims to give riders a musical description of their journey.

The Gatwick Express train travels nonstop between London’s Victoria Station and Gatwick Airport in what is roughly a 30-minute trip. Now, offered exclusively to customers who buy their tickets online, the free Gatwick Express Tracks include three custom-recorded musical interpretations of the journey from recording artists Philip Sheppard, Benga, and The Milk. This video illustrates the premise in further detail.

Free love almost always tends to be a winning strategy, and that’s particularly true when it can help consumers get more enjoyment out of your product or service. Transportation entrepreneurs the world over: time to commission something similar?
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Lufthansa lets frequent flyers become the ‘foursquare mayor’ of a route

By Shubhodeep Pal, SimpliFlying

Lufthansa’s “Blue Legends” Facebook app is one of the first ten “Connected Apps” to be offered as a product of Foursquare‘s new development platform. In a nutshell, Foursquare now allows developers to create apps that offer customized experiences to customers based on their check-ins.

Lufthansa has seized this new opportunity in the Foursquare eco system to create official Lufthansa venues (including over 9,000 flights named in the format “Lufthansa Flight LH 400″) where users can check-in virtually to get special badges, ranks and rewards.

For instance, once connected with Foursquare and Facebook, you can earn badges such as the “Early-Bird-badge” by checking in before 6 in the morning. There are more virtual goodies as you fly more on Lufthansa (and, of course, remember to check-in to their official locations).

One of the undeniably attractive features of the app is that its written in HTML5 which allows it to be accessed from almost every platform – desktop and mobile – with ease, without being confined to a closed app ecosystem (such as iOS or Android).

An increasingly “gamified” and location-aware world
As you move up the ladder, you’ll find that the badges and ranks (similar to mayorships) are increasingly targeted towards frequent flyers. Lufthansa believes that this customized experience by offering special virtual badges in recognition for flying the airline will “open a whole new dimension of social travel experience for frequent flyers who can not only track their countries and airports they’ve visited with the app but can compete with their friends to become the “Expert Pilot” on a route between two cities.” This rank is given to the person who has travelled most between two destinations – independent from the Lufthansa flight he took or airport of the city he travelled to.
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Amsterdam Schiphol Airport’s new electric taxi service comes with in-car wi-fi

Aiming to provide business travellers with an easy transfer to and from the airport, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has aunched the Schiphol Business Taxi, a luxury taxi service designed to help business travellers start or end their journey in business class style. Besides petrol-powered vehicles, the new taxi service also offers a green, electric option, the so-called ‘Electric Business Taxi’.

Electric taxi
The Schiphol ‘Electric Business Taxi’ is 100 percent powered by electricity and can cover a radius of around 100 kilometers. This makes it suited to short distances, such as journeys between Schiphol and central Amsterdam or the Amsterdam Zuidas business district. Taxi drivers receive a short training to learn to reduce speed by using the engine, instead of the brakes, in order to generate as much energy as possible and maximise the radius. The electric taxis also offer wi-fi connectivity, which eventually will be rolled out to all Schiphol Business Taxis as well.

The business taxi service can be reserved up to four hours ahead of departure, and passengers can be picked up at (or transported to) anywhere in the Netherlands. Rates for a transfer for one person with luggage are EUR42 into the business district, EUR58 to the centre of Amsterdam and EUR124 o central Rotterdam. Extra services such as an escort to and from the gate and check-in assistance are also offered. The service is offered by a joint venture between Schiphol and Connexxion, the largest public transport company in the Netherlands.

Better Place
There are currently 2 electric Renault Fluence Z.E. (zero emission) taxis in operation and another 4 vehicles will be added this June. The Renault Fluence Z.E. cars are the result of a partnership between Schiphol Airport, the City of Amsterdam and Better Place, a company that provides what it calls “electric car networks,” a network of battery switch stations combined with the supply of batteries that power the electric cars.
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Kenya Airways lets the ‘unbanked’ pay for their ticket via sms

We have reported earlier how Brazilian airline TAM is reaching the rapidly growing middle class in Brazil in innovative ways. The airline sells tickets via low-end retail chain Casas Bahia and at bus stations, lets customers pay in multiple installments, and provides ‘how to fly’ advice to first-time flyers. Meanwhile in East Africa, airlines such as Kenya Airways and Uganda Airlines have teamed up with mobile payment services M-PESA and Airtel Money to allow people without a bank account to purchase air tickets.

M-PESA (M for money, pesa is Swahili for money) can be regarded as the African equivalent of the credit card and was first launched in 2007 by Kenyan mobile phone operator Safaricom, an affiliate of Vodafone. M-PESA allows Kenyans to transfer money via SMS instead of via a bank account, an important aspect in a country like Kenya where an estimated 30 percent of people (the so-called ‘unbanked’) have no access to formal or even informal financial services.

With M-PESA, the user can buy electronic money at one of 24,000 M-PESA agents around the country and send this ‘e-cash’ to any other mobile phone user in Kenya, who can then redeem it for conventional cash at a snearby agent. M-PESA customers can do transactions of up to Ksh 140,000 (USD 1600, EUR 1100) per day and a maximum of KShs70,000 can be deposited, sent or withdrawn per transaction. A variable fee for transaction applies (example Ksh 150 for transactions between Ksh 20,000 and 35,000).

Originally launched as a money transfer service for relatives abroad to send money home, M-PESA is also often used to pay directly for goods and services, from groceries at selected supermarket chains to electricity bills and taxi-cab fares. An M-PESA enabled mobile phone can also function as an electronic wallet that lets users pay directly for goods and services at one of 600 participating organizations. M-PESA does not pay interest on deposits nor make loans and users only need to sign up for the service with an ID card.

As of March 2011, the M-PESA service had nearly 14 million customers, or over 80 per cent of Safaricom’s customer base. M-Pesa has also been launched in South Africa and Tanzania by Vodacom, another Vodafone subsidiary.
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Delta lets passengers track their checked luggage in real-time

Online tracking and tracing of packages shipped via parcel delivery companies such as FedEx and DHL has been possible for years, and has even spread to services like pizza delivery. For example, Domino’s Pizza ‘Pizza Tracker’ lets customers track their pizza from the moment they place the order until it leaves the kichen en route to them. Examples from the airline industry include Yapta, which offers alerts when fares drop for specific flights or hotels, and FlightStats, which notifies passengers on flight delays and cancellations. Says consumer trends agency “Tracking and alerting is the new searching, as it saves consumers time, makes it impossible to forget or miss out, and thus ultimately gives them yet another level of control.” 

Delta checked bags tracking
In a move to make the baggage process more transparent for customers, Delta Air Lines is now bringing ‘tracking and alerting’ to checked luggage. The airline has just launched a new ‘Track Checked Bags’ service in order to give passengers a sense of confidence that their luggage has made it to the same aircraft. As Delta scans the bag tags during each part of the journey, passengers can track their baggage in real-time as it makes its way through the Delta system. Available for domestic flights, Delta passengers can go online – for example via their smartphone – to track their checked baggage with the bag tag number that they received at the time of baggage check-in. 

Furthermore, as Delta has equipped all its 549 mainline domestic aircraft with GoGo’s in-flight Internet – and is currently installing the service on 223 Delta Connection jets as well – passengers may even check up in the air whether their bag has made it on their flight. 
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SAS launches ‘crewsourced’ city guide app and sells new magazine via newsstands

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has just launched two interesting media initiatives that are an indication where the publication business of airlines is heading to. The airline is making its ‘crewsourced’ city guide available as a free app for mobile phones and has launched a new lifestyle magazine that is also available for sale at newsstands and bookstores. 

SAS Crew Guide app
The annual ‘SAS Crew Guide’ is a pocket-sized guidebook consisting of recommendations by SAS cabin crew and pilots for accommodation, shopping, dining, sightseeing and nightlife in many of the cities served by SAS. In the airline’s words: “When you’re visiting a new city, surely the best person to show you around is someone who visits regularly. And who’d be better travelled than airline crew?” The 350-pages guide also contains 13 personal profiles by individual crew members and their favourite cities and is sold online for EUR15 (or 4,410 SAS Bonuspoints) as well as in select bookshops in Scandinavia, the UK and the U.S. 

With the launch of its first direct flight from Oslo to New York at the end of March 2011, SAS decides to also launch a mobile app of the New York section of its Crew Guide city guide. The SAS ‘Crew Guide app for New York’ is based on the SAS Crew Guide and features guides to five of New York’s most interesting areas as well as personal profiles of the crew that contributed to the New York edition. All the content (except the map) is downloaded to the phone once the application is installed, so users don’t have to worry about roaming charges when travelling. 

Besides the free app (available for the iPhone and Android-based phones), SAS will also launch the Crew Guide as a separate website and as a tab on its Facebook page
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Taipei International Airport opens e-library for transit passengers

Taipei’s main airport, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, has opened what it is calling the world’s first in-transit ‘e-library waiting lounge’. Passengers waiting for flights can browse through a selection of 400 English and Chinese-language e-books featuring a wide range of genres, as well as 2,000 regular books and dozens of newspapers and magazines. The e-library aims to give passengers a new option while waiting to board flights and is located adjacent to gate C5 in the airport’s Terminal 2, which commonly handles stopovers between North America and Southeast Asia. 

The e-books are stored on around 30 devices, a mix of iPads and other e-readers, which are loaned out on a first-come first-served basis. However, passengers can’t download the books to their own e-reader, which somewhat limits the usefulness of the service. Besides the available electronic and printed content, passengers can make use of free Wi-Fi and charge their cell phones at any of 42 the molded-plastic seats which have integrated power outlets and pullout tables. In addition, the room is equipped with GPS navigation systems for travellers interested in searching for maps of their destinations, and also features a photo station where passengers can take self-portraits and send them to family or friends by e-mail. More pictures of the e-library here and here

The 198sq m (2,131sq ft) e-library, which was proposed by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, is a collaborative effort between the Ever Rich Duty Free Shop and the government-funded Institute for Information Industry. An Ever Rich spokesperson told DFNIonline that, “Since EverRich Duty Free is dedicated to promoting Taiwanese culture, it came up with the idea of integrating the library concept with the technology industry which is the pride of Taiwan.” As a tribute to Taiwan’s high tech pedigree, the e-Library’s facade is designed from an amalgamation of circuit boards. According to DFNIonline, a further two e-libraries have been built in the airport’s T1 north wing (area A) and south wing (area B) along with one at Kaohsiung International airport.
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Gatwick Airport wants travelers to tweet their feedback while at the airport

London Gatwick Airport is actively encouraging travelers at the airport to post complaints, feedback, and suggestions in 140 characters or less via Twitter. As part of a pilot programme, information screens in the check-in areas display the following message – “Are you on Twitter? Get in touch with us @gatwick_airport and let us know about your experience at Gatwick today”.

With this new initiative Gatwick Airport has basically set up a customer service system that addresses traveler’s needs in real time. Gatwick has been active on Twitter since August 2010, and often responds to comments, but according to the airport, “this now takes it one step further by actually integrating social media into the physical space of the airport”. Twitter replies from staff are currently only offered during office hours, as most other airports and airlines do. The plan however is to extend the Twitter service to run 24 hours a day. Read full article »

LineBusters, Red Coats and Tourist Angels: The return of customer service agents

Service Agents_c680x200

At a time when airlines are finding more ways to reduce face to face contact with customers at airports, as they are expanding the number of self-service options with do-it-yourself baggage check-in and self-boarding turnstiles, customer service agents seem to be reappearing at airports.

During this week’s Thanksgiving holiday rush in the U.S, United Airlines is equipping United service agents with so-called ‘LineBusters’ devices at Chicago O’Hare airport. The handheld touch-screen device displays which customers have been automatically rebooked on another flight after a cancellation or missed connection. Agents in the post-security area will pro-actively approach customers standing in line to determine if they are better off going directly to a kiosk to print a boarding pass, thereby reducing the line and the time spent waiting for information.  Read full article »

The Amateur-Expert Traveller

Amadeus has just released a new consumer trends report, called ‘The Amateur-Expert Traveller’. According to the study, today’s travellers are more knowledgeable, more adventurous and more likely to live in an emerging economy than ever before. The report is the latest in the series of trend reports by Amadeus, which also include ‘The Austere Traveller’ and ‘Future Travel Tribes 2020’.

The Internet is the major force behind the emergence of the ‘Amateur-Expert Traveller’, making the travel market much  more transparent by putting detailed information at the fingertips of the average traveller. Empowered by the likes of TripAdvisor, Zoover, SeatGuru, Bing Travel and TripWolf, knowledgeable travellers often know more what to expect about their flight, accomodation and destination than most travel, airline or hotel agents. They are also more demanding as their expectations of service have diverged: Today, travellers either expect a totally touchless online self-service experience, or they expect a very high level of personalised service.
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Lufthansa MySkyStatus lets passengers auto-tweet their flight position


Lufthansa USA has rolled out a new tool that lets air travelers share their location during their journeys via Twitter and Facebook. Called MySkyStatus, the application takes a user’s flight information, including departure and arrival data, and matches it to real-time global air traffic data. It then synchronises with their Facebook or Twitter page, posting regular updates about departure, arrival and even which country they are flying over. The messages also come with a link to a Google Maps mashup that shows their plane’s location. MySkyStatus users can choose whether to have only their departures and arrivals shared or also send messages (as often as hourly) with updates of their positions in the air.

The MySkyStatus service is part of Lufthansa’s new marketing campaign ‘Passion for Precision’, and aims to back up the carrier’s reputation for punctuality. Passengers do not have to be travelling with Lufthansa to use the service.  Every update is ‘lufthansa-branded’ (a short “powered by Lufthansa” is tacked on to every update), so those using the service for flights on other carriers will still be delivering some free promotion for Lufthansa.
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