PASSENGER EXPERIENCE

KLM’s new Amsterdam flagship lounge has zones inspired by the Netherlands, including a ‘Dutch Mountain’

This article originally appeared on THE DESIGNAIR

Just shy of KLM’s centenary, the airline has opened the first stage of its brand new lounge at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. The lounge – designed by Amsterdam-based Concrete – now boasts a completely new setup, set over tiered layers, with a ‘trendy’ ambience.

The lounge features the latest technologies and innovations along with improved service and catering. While this is just a taster of what is yet to come, customers can already take advantage of this in a temporary setup while refurbishment of the second part of the lounge continues until its festive opening in summer 2019.

Catering to KLM’s premium customers travelling on intercontinental flights, the international KLM Crown Lounge is located between the E and F Piers at Schiphol.

The lounge has a new impressive entrance on the Schiphol’s so-called ‘Holland Boulevard’. Customers? access the lounge by escalator (or elevator) and pass glass walls that contain five thousand of KLM’s iconic Delft Blue houses on their way up.

The lounge facilities are located on the second floor and on a newly opened, completely rejuvenated third floor. Passengers are welcomed individually by personal lounge assistance and can gain easy access by scanning their boarding passes at self-service devices. Read full article ?

From Lounge to Cabin: China Airlines’ branded premium passenger experience

Airline passenger experience innovations can be nicely summarized along the lines of the customer experience dichotomy of ‘time well saved’ (e.g, removing friction, with a strong focus on digital innovation) and ‘time well spent (e.g, creating branded and/or experiential spaces).

Following our trip last year on Finnair’s A350 to report on the airline’s ‘Nordic Experience’, this year we travelled onboard China Airlines’ A350, which is another example of how full service airlines are becoming more creative and bold in the design of their lounges and cabins in an effort to differentiate their brand in the midst of fierce price competition.

Lounge to Cabin
The idea of commencing the journey early by providing a lounge experience that comes near or matches the experience in the air has began to take hold.

Air China, for example, worked with its design firm (JPA Design) to develop a holistic ground to air experience which incorporates the story telling theme of the airlines’ new cabins including traditional Chinese iconography designed by renowned Chinese artist Han Meilin.

And Finnair, together with dSign, developed a ‘Space Alive’ design standard which is applied on the airline’s Helsinki lounge and its A350 cabins. The concept uses dynamic mood lighting and neutral furnishings to set a mood that suits the time of day, destination or season.

China Airlines NexGen initiative
In 2014, China Airlines launched its ‘NexGen’ program with a design team led by Taiwanese designer Ray Chen. Moving beyond the neutral lounge designs and generic grey and blue cabin environments, Chen sought to design a lounge and cabin environment inspired by the Song Dynasty that – in China Airlines’ words “serves as a platform to showcase Taiwanese culture.” Read full article ?

Branded Experience: China Airlines’ A350 showcases Taiwan’s nature

As the airline industry has always captured people’s imagination, airlines can tap into their country’s heritage to incorporate a bit of storytelling into the passenger experience. Legacy carriers in particular can benefit from their ‘flag carrier’ status to differentiate from cheap and cheerful low-cost airlines.

Going local provides airlines – and their countries of origin – with a ‘soft power’ tool to showcase their national heritage and offer passengers a way to experience local culture onboard – even when they are only flying the airline to transit to a third country. This also resonates with consumer trends such as authenticity, storytelling and the rediscovery of national and regional identities in a rapidly globalized world.

Airlines that are doing a good job in this perspective are Finnair, Icelandair, SWISS, Hawaiian, Etihad, Air New Zealand and China Airlines. For more on this ‘branded experience’ topic, see this excellent article by Marisa Garcia.

Flying Ambassador of Taiwan
In 2014, China Airlines launched its ‘NexGen’ program with a design team led by Taiwanese designer Ray Chen.

Moving beyond the generic grey and blue cabin environments, Chen sought to design a cabin environment that – in China Airlines’ words “serves as a platform to showcase Taiwanese culture and setting foot into our cabins is like stepping into a traditional Chinese landscape painting.”

For example, the cabin walls and seats of China Airlines’ B777-300s and A350s are decorated with finishes of persimmon wood grains, as well as the table surfaces of the seats in Business. Persimmon is an edible fruit whose tree is symbolic to good wishes.

Apart from the wood veneer finishes, the cabin is also covered in a dark carpet with geometric images of the persimmon fruit. The negative spaces of the caligraphic drawings are of light gold colors while the positive spaces are dark blue. Furthermore, lavatories on the A350 also follow the local design philosophy in having a Chinese landscape ink painting on the wall. Read full article ?

Short-hauling: Spanish regional airline Air Nostrum wants to operate high-speed rail routes

As short-haul flying is mostly a tedious, uncomfortable experience with lots of queuing and waiting, while at the same time a growing number of consumers have become more conscious about the environmental impact of air travel, the popularity of high-speed rail as an alternative to short-haul flying has steadily been growing.

Compared to air travel within a range of around 700 kilometer, high-speed rail means less hassle, because of direct connections between city centers, lighter security and luggage regulations, and a much more comfortable journey.

In Europe, for example Eurostar’s London-Amsterdam service – which was launched in April this year – has proved such a success that the train operator expects to operate a third and possibly even a fourth daily service from next year on.

And on many city pairs, high-speed rail now has a much higher market share than air travel. For example, between Madrid and Barcelona, 65 percent of the market has moved to high-speed rail, while ItaloTren has a market share of 75 percent between Milan and Rome. In Japan, the Shinkansen for a long time has a market share of over 85 percent on the routes between Tokyo and Osaka and between Kyoto/Osaka and Fukuoka.

And as Google Flights nows shows Deutsche Bahn as alternative to a flight when searching for a fare between for example Amsterdam and Frankfurt (a journey of over 400 km), ‘short-hauling’ via high-speed rail is on track for further growth.

High-speed rail as feeder
Several airlines and rail companies are already working together to provide travellers with a seamless ‘intermodal’ connection, effectively using high-speed rail as feeder service to long-haul flights.

For example, Lufthansa Express Rail is a collaboration between the airline and Deutsche Bahn and provides passengers with an integrated booking from 8 destinations throughout Germany to and from Frankfurt Airport. This means reserved seats on the train, remote baggage check-in, plus a guaranteed connection. Lufthansa will expand its Express Rail service to 20 German destinations by mid-2019. Read full article ?

Transavia offers passengers the option to order a breakfast box for pick-up on arrival

Much has been said how airlines should evolve/transform into travel platforms that provide passengers with relevant products and services during their journey from door to door. Think airport transfers, baggage pick-up and delivery, duty free delivery on arrival, etcetera.

These kind of convenience-based services are taking off in a response to the expectations of customers used to manage their life from their smartphone in an ‘on-demand’ economy.

Beyond the flight: Groceries
A new example of how airlines are thinking beyond the flight is a pilot between Dutch LCC Transavia and Holland’s major retailer Albert Heijn which aims to ease the woes of travellers who find an empty fridge and a closed supermarket when returning home, for example in the evening or on a Sunday.

Similar insights have led retailers such as Tesco to trial a QR shopping wall trial at London Gatwick back in 2012, while Lufthansa has held trials with German supermarkets Rewe and Edeka to let passengers order groceries via its FlyNet inflight wifi portal for home delivery.

Appie Fly
Appie Fly is a joint experiment by Albert Heijn and Transavia that allows passengers on all inbound Transavia flights to Rotterdam The Hague Airport to order fresh breakfast boxes and then collect them after arrival. The breakfast boxes can be picked up from the Appie Fly collection point, which is located at the Illy Coffee Corner in the arrival hall of the airport.

Passengers can place their orders online when checking in for their flight to the Netherlands via Transavia’s mobile responsive website. The ‘Welcome Home’ boxes, which are sufficient for two people, offer two varieties of breakfast and are priced at euro 12.50 each. Read full article ?

Finnair’s A350 features a host of innovative passenger experience elements

Finnair_A350_innovative features_c680x277

By Raymond Kollau

Finnair has been the first European airline to take delivery of the A350-900 and the third carrier worldwide (after Qatar Airways and Vietnam Airlines). Finnair’s 297-seat aircraft is configured in three classes with 208 seats in Economy, 43 in Economy Comfort and 46 in Business.

There is a lot to like about Finnair’s (and its design agency dSign Vertti Kivi & Co) approach towards designing the A350 onboard experience, which features several innovative elements.

1. Welcome Onboard: Galley Screen
On most widebody aircraft passengers enter the cabin at the so-called door 2 and often their first impression is the sights of an industrial-looking galley area. Finnair has come up with a clever (and economic) solution by installing galley screens that are lowered when passengers are boarding and which feature a striking photo.

Marisa Garcia from FlightChic summarizes it nicely: “There is a very clever introduction of Finland’s lush green nature with a calm forest image in a galley screen, which I found was an attractive detail. It helps the cabin feel fresh, quieting the disturbing visual noise of galley equipment. It’s really a very simple thing, but Finnair took the time to consider it.”

2. Mood Lighting: Northern Lights
A remarkable feature of the cabin is the dynamic mood LED lighting. When passengers board the plane, they are greeted by the sight of clouds drifting across a blue sky throughout the cabin (video), while cool Nordic blue shades resembling the Northern lights will set the mood as the plane approaches Helsinki.

In all, there are 24 lighting schemes, and for example a warm orange glow can be created to suggest an Asian ambience on flights to the Far East. Says Juha J?rvinen, Finnair’s Chief Commercial Officer, “Finnair’s new Airbus aircraft feature a cabin interior largely based on the Space Alive concept developed by dSign, where the main idea is to change the mood of the cabin space as the flight progresses.”

The mood lighting is also integrated with the in-seat IFE system. Jouni Oksanen, VP Digital at Finnair tells Hangar.no, “We’ve also added a timeline for dimming of the displays. This means that during the flight the screens will adapt to the time zones the aircraft passes. When it’s night outside, it will be night on the screens so it does not light up a whole bunch of bright displays that disturbs people who want to sleep.”

3. Business Class: Ladies’ Room
Female passengers in Business Class have access to a dedicated Ladies’ Room which is stocked with cosmetics and other supplies from Finnish brand Clean (images here and here). Australian Business Traveller reports that the ladies-only lavatory will be made available to “high-flying hommes” in the event that there’s a higher than usual proportion of men to women in business class, but as a rule it will be reserved for women. Read full article ?

AIX 2017: Smart design innovations to make Economy seating more comfortable

This article first appeared on Future Travel Experience (FTE)

While Business Class passengers have become used to full-flat beds, those who travel in Economy have had little to get excited about in recent times. As airlines seek to increase cabin density, many Economy passengers have seen comfort levels at best stagnate, and at worst decrease.

In-flight entertainment developments and the ongoing rollout of onboard Wi-Fi are at least helping to provide welcome distraction, but if shoulders are rubbing and legroom is limited, the Economy Class experience is unlikely to be remembered with fondness.

At the heart of the discussion about Economy Class comfort is the seat itself. Surely, if passengers have a comfortable seat, they will have a more enjoyable flight. With this simple premise in mind, FTE at the recent Aircraft Interiors Expo 2017 in Hamburg spoke to a number of aircraft seat designers and manufacturers to learn about their efforts to increase comfort across the board.

Wider Middle Seat
For example, recently we have seen several initiatives that aim to increase the popularity of the dreaded middle seat. Bombardier’s C Series aircraft (currently operated by SWISS and airBaltic) features a 3-2 configuration, with a slightly wider middle seat (19 inch vs 18.5 inches for the window and aisle seats).

Patrick Baudis, VP Marketing Bombardier Commercial Aircraft explained that feedback from airlines and passengers so far has been positive. “The wider seats are a big element that pleases the passengers. With wider seats, you can turn, you can move your legs, and that compensates for pitch to a certain extent.” Read full article ?

Emirates crew use smartphones to take Business Class passengers’ F&B orders


images by PaddleYourOwnKanoo

Staff taking drink and meal orders using a digital device is a common thing in bars and restaurants around the world. Meanwhile, casual dining restaurant chains and airport F&B operators now let customers place their orders themselves, either via a tablet provided by the restaurant or via an app on their own smartphone.

Now the airline industry is taking its first steps in this digitally-enabled F&B service. Besides the handful or airlines – including Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, FlyDubai and Virgin America – that allow passengers to place orders via the in-seat IFE system, Emirates has recently issued so-called ‘Meal Ordering Devices’ to all its flight attendants who work in Business Class.

Meal Ordering Device (MOD)
Cabin crew recruitment portal PaddleYourOwnKanoo reports that the MOD smartphones connect to a plug-and-play WiFi router which is separate from the onboard connectivity system that passengers use.

All the smartphones (Samsung Galaxy A7) are synced to communicate with one another for the duration of the flight, don’t have a SIM card, and have been blocked from running any applications apart from the bespoke Meal Ordering app.

“The orders are taken on a hand held device and are instantly reflected on a tablet in the galley. Each order is then prepared immediately making service faster, more efficient and more personal,” said Terry Daly, Divisional Senior Vice President, Service Delivery at Emirates.

As Australian Business Traveller rightly puts it: “With as many as 76 business class passengers on an Emirates A380, the technology is proving to be a significant time-saver in keeping those premium passengers feed and watered – as well as ensuring what they’re served is precisely what they ordered, without slip-ups.” Read full article ?

Lufthansa partners with Nespresso to offer passengers quality coffee at the gate


images by Raitis Steinbergs, Alessandro Teglia

For years, Lufthansa has been one of the very few airlines – if not the only one – to offer passengers waiting for their flight at the gate complimentary coffee, tea (image), and newspapers at main airports around Germany, including its Frankfurt and Munich hubs.

Or as Lufthansa has stated in the past: “Offering hot beverages to passengers prior to departure is a long Lufthansa tradition. Lufthansa first began offering hot coffee and tea from large thermos flasks in the mid-80s and the first automatic vending machines serving freshly brewed coffee were installed at airports in 1993.”

However, similar to any other full service carrier around the globe who is looking to rationalize every cost item, Lufthansa has to rethink these kind of free amenities. Instead of cutting costs by simply terminating the free hot beverages and print newspapers the airline has come up with a smart alternative that taps into trends such as ‘paid premium’ and digitalization.

Coffee at the gate
Following trials in the first half of 2015 at selected gates at Frankfurt and Munich airports, Lufthansa a few months ago partnered with Nespresso to bring the ubiqituous coffee capsules to the gate area.

The premium Nespresso coffee doesn’t come for free though. Passengers can choose from regular coffee, espresso, cappuccino ior latte macchiato (the latter with fresh milk), each at the cost of 2 euros. For those passengers who might consider bringing their own coffee pods: For the business market, a different pad-shaped system of Nespresso pods exists which are not interchangeable with the consumer capsules.

According to Lufthansa, a total of 20 Nespresso Coffee Points have been placed throughout Frankfurt and Munich airports so that passengers from different gates can access the machines. Read full article ?

JetBlue new Boston – New York shuttle service offers free coffee and bagels to take onboard

jetblue_lga-bos-shuttle_a680x330
images: Harry Spencer, Adrian Leung, InsideFlyer

Routes with a large number of business travellers travelling back and forth on the same day for meetings are a very lucrative market for airlines.

Examples of busy business corridors include New York and Boston, Chicago, Washington, as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco in the USA, London and Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt in Europe, Tokyo and Osaka and Shanghai and Hong Kong, Beijing in Asia. Besides strong competition between airlines, these shuttle routes also face increasing competition from high-speed rail services.

We have reported before how Delta aims to increase frequent flyer loyalty on routes between New York and Boston, Chicago, Washington, as well as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle by improving the amenities on the ground and on board.

JetBlue Shuttle
Now JetBlue has set its eyes on the lucrative shuttle market. At the end of October, the airline lauched its first shuttle service between New York LaGuardia and Boston Logan offering 6 daily return flights.

Having stepped up competition in the transcontinental market in 2013 with its new A321 aircraft that feature the Mint Business Class, as well as amenities like an inflight snack station, JetBlue stated it plans to inject more competition into the Boston-New York airline ‘shuttle’ market, which is currently being dominated by Delta and American Airlines.

According to investment publication The Motley Fool, the airline shuttles have lost customers to rail travel since Amtrak debuted its high-speed Acela Express service between Boston and Washington in late 2000.

“Travel between Boston and LaGuardia is ready for a little JetBlue reinvention,” said Jamie Perry, VP Marketing, JetBlue. “For years, one of the northeast’s busiest travel routes has been plagued by high prices and a lack of creativity. Our Boston-based business customers and anyone who has been forced to pay up or make the long drive will love this new option.” Read full article ?

KLM adds passenger reviews and ratings to flight search results

klm_ratemyflight_b680x299

Recently, a growing number of online travel agents and airlines have partnered with third-party data providers TripAdvisor and Routehappy to help customers learn more about the quality of their flight.

By sharing candid details of the passenger experience airlines could move beyond commodity pricing and beyond competition solely on fares, instead giving customer fact-based metrics about their products which would justify a higher fare.

There is an important precedent for this change in consumer mindset in the hospitality sector. Today’s informed and savvy travellers are making their hotel choices based on ‘reputation pricing’ —the correlation between a brand’s online reputation and the premium it can charge. This shift from ‘sticker price’ bookings to bookings based on the quality of the experience has been one of the big positive effects of TripAdvisor on the hotel industry.

Rate My Flight
Social and digital frontrunner, KLM is taking transparency to the next level by sharing the feedback it gathers directly from passengers with customers who are looking to book a ticket with the airline.

After extensive experimentation, KLM started showing star ratings and reviews in the search flow of the KLM website in June of this year.

Customers searching for a flight can see the actual reviews from previous passengers who have flown that flight in the past, based on reviews collected from KLM passengers using the airline’s ‘Rate My Flight’ feature. Read full article ?

Emirates partners with Costa Coffee, Moet & Chandon and Voss for in-lounge bars

ek_dxb_costa-coffee_moetchandon_a680x299

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON THE DESIGNAIR

Emirates has unveiled their newly renovated business class lounge in Dubai International Airport’s concourse 2 after two years of work. At a cost of USD 11m the newly renovated space includes three new dining and drinking experience areas.

The new offering is in addition to the seven other locations within the vast lounge with gourmet cuisine prepared by on-site chefs and a complimentary full bar service, which includes premium wine, spirits and champagne.

The new spaces are all prime examples of brand experiences that are opening in lounges around the world, such as Etihad and Six Senses, Qantas and Rockpool or Air France and Clarins. Emirates has recently partnered with Costa Coffee, Voss water and the long-lasting relationship with Mo?t Hennessy is now also reinforced in the lounge experiences as well as onboard.

‘Barista Experience’
In the new lounge Costa has brought a ‘Barista experience’ to the lounge around the clock, with flat whites, Italian coffee blends and signature pastries on offer to passengers needing a strong wake up mid-journey. Read full article ?

SWISS’ new Bombardier CS100 aircraft brings passenger-friendly cabin to regional jets

SWISS CS100_cabin innovations_d680x327
Image by Andreas Spaeth

Aircraft manufacturers are creating new passenger-friendly cabin environments by re-thinking the fuselage structure and introducing more spacious cabins with larger windows and improved cabin pressurisation, among other innovations.

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Airbus’ A350 cabins, as well as Airbus’ new AirSpace cabin exemplify this new design thinking for widebody aircraft. On narrowbody aircraft, Boeing’s SkyInterior cabin delivers cabin improvements, as does Zodiac Aerospace’s ISIS (Innovative Space Interior System) cabin featured on Delta’s A320-family aircraft.

Now these cabin improvements found on Boeing and Airbus aircraft are coming to regional aircraft with Bombardier’s new CSeries regional jet.

SWISS CSeries 100
In mid-July, the first CSeries 100 aircraft entered service with launch customer SWISS, and won the hearts of passengers and industry watchers alike.

As Aviation Week put it nicely: “Aerospace is driven by innovation” is a timeworn slogan used by industry executives and enthusiasts. Yet there hasn’t been a clean-sheet aircraft in the single-aisle segment for 28 years. To an outsider, this would seem odd—particularly as single-aisles comprise 70 percent of mainline jetliner production. Bombardier corrected that anomaly this month when the C-Series entered service with Swiss. After flying in the C Series and digging deeper into its design and systems, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is bringing significant value-creating technology into the market.”

Larger windows, wider middle seat, mood lighting
The CSeries aircraft contains a high usage of composite materials, is quieter, features larger windows, and the cabin features large, rotating overhead storage bins, allowing each passenger to stow a sizeable carry-on bag overhead.

The combination of the bigger windows and the higher ceiling make this smaller single aisle aircraft feel more spacious, while mood lighting can brighten up the space even more.? The aircraft also features two spacious lavatories. Read full article ?

Ryanair lets passengers rate their flight via its mobile app

Ryanair_RateMyFlight_680x347

In the past two and a half years, Ryanair has been busy upgrading its products and services, stepping up its digital innovation activities, as well as opening routes to main airport hubs in an effort – called ‘Always Getting Better’ – to appeal more to business travellers.

“This is not a PR stunt,” said CEO Michael O’Leary at the launch of the initiative, describing the Always Getting Better programme as a “transformative” evolution and a “fundamental change” in the way both he and Ryanair do business. ‘”If I’d known being nice to customers would have been so good for business, I would have done it years ago.”

Rate My Flight
As part of the third phase of the program – which focuses on digital innovation – Ryanair earlier this year added a ‘Rate My Flight’ feature to its app. Passengers who want to rate their flight have to download the regular Ryanair app, allow for push notifications, and are send the survey through the app upon landing.

The Rate My Flight survey asks passengers to evaluate each element of their flight, from boarding through food and drink provision to crew helpfulness and overall service standards. Ryanair says it uses the feedback to tweet and improve its offerings as much in real time as possible.

Feedback results
The ‘Rate My Flight’ intiative was trialled in March and went live in May of this year. Ryanar has just published the first feedback results, based on more than 8,800 passengers who used the ‘Rate My Flight’ function during June and July.

More than half of respondents (53 percent) rated their overall experience as ‘very good’, 36 percent rated their experience as ‘OK’ and 11 percent rated it as ‘poor’. Crew friendliness received the highest positive rating, with 63 percent scoring this ‘very good’.

At the other end of the scale, boarding received the highest number of ‘poor’ responses, with 14 percent saying they were unhappy with the boarding process.

TripAdvisor aims to make the airline passenger experience more transparent

TripAdvisor Airlines_b680x306

Airlines have long relied on awards and recognitions from industry watchers and major publications to reassure customers of the quality of their products and services, in very much the same way that professional critics and ratings firms have put their seal of approval on restaurants and hotels for decades.

But the rise of the internet has disrupted that ‘expert-review’ dynamic. The active participation of consumers on ratings sites which evaluate everything from films to books to consumer goods to services, and of course travel, suggests that today’s consumers trust popular opinion over ratings which could be perceived as an extension of marketing and advertising (a.k.a ‘the experience is the marketing’).

TripAdvisor Flights
TripAdvisor is now looking to shake up the airline industry the same way it has hotels, by launching airline reviews. The sixteen year old travel review site has accrued over 350 million individual travel reviews covering 6.5 million hotels, restaurants and attractions and has now expanded its TripAdvisor Flights service to let customers grade and review airlines around the world in much the same way that they would review a night’s stay somewhere.

These reviews are then combined with an external rating of the amenities on a particular route, such as the type of seat offered and whether there are power ports and wi-fi available to flyers, to give it an overall ‘FlyScore’ which will rate the quality of an itinerary on a 1 to 10 scale.

Consumers can sort their flight search results by price, duration, the ‘FlyScore’, or a blend of factors categorised by TripAdvisor as “Best value of time and money.”? TripAdvisor expects to refine the system, introducing further enhancements this year.

According to The Economist, “History suggests the firm has a good chance of making an eventual impact. If it does reach its potential, it might just encourage flyers to change their buying behaviour. If customers are willing to pay, say, $30 more for a seat rated as excellent compared with one that is terrible, then maybe airlines will pull out of their race to the bottom. A world in which carriers compete for the quality of the reviews they receive, as well as the price they offer, would be a better one.” Read full article ?