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APEX 2014: Big mother is watching you
The trend for wearable technology will shape passengers’ cabin experiences in years to come. So says Patrick McEneany (pictured) – director, creative consulting, BMW Group DesignworksUSA.
He explained that in future passengers are likely to come on board wearing a device that monitors their heart, blood pressure and body temperature, and which will then synch with the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment (IFE) system allowing travellers to create the most healthy journey. Such devices would then alert passengers to phases of flight where they are most tired, and work out when is best to sleep in accordance with their circadian rhythms and the time at the destination they are traveling to. They could also remind them to hydrate and to stretch, or to watch a soothing movie rather than an action adventure should they be anxious.
McEneany added that automotive and aviation manufacturers are challenged at times to keep pace with the expectations of connectivity passengers expect from their consumer electronics and mobile devices. But while both industries focus on integrating the latest generation of devices and interfaces into their current architecture, the real learning comes from anticipating the trends and characteristics of devices and experiences that are still evolving. BMW Designworks/USA envisions the future of connected mobility.
He added that aviation should bypass on its ambition to keep up with the latest developments in technology as it is evolving too fast for IFE systems to be certified and built.
The company is working today on a project with Google that tracks a passenger’s journey through the airport to the aircraft and tries to assist at different ‘pain points’ in that process – i.e. the gate, security and assessing how long a person has before take off. This works by a personalised overlay on top of a device showing the passenger where she/he is with iconography depicting how long before reaching the gate or where the bathrooms are etc. For children company adds on Disney characters to take the child right to their seat. The characters could then join in a game while at the seat.
McEneany said, “This could create an unparalleled travel experience for the emotional and physical comfort of the passenger, on a par with the expectations and needs of an airline, and what its business model would sustain.”
APEX 2014: APEX gets off to a bright start
The APEX expo opened its doors today with the annual educational sessions and one of the industry’s leading experts, Edward Shapiro, partner and vice president of PAR Capital Management and long-time investor in airlines, services and IFEC, kicking off with a riveting programme.
As chairman of Global Eagle Entertainment, Legend 3D Inc. and Lumexis, Shapiro had a unique point of view on what is necessary in the industry and spoke to the advent of new ground based technologies and how they will shape the passenger experience in the cabin.
The APEX/IFSA EXPO is the largest industry-driven tradeshow devoted to the entire passenger experience and is slated to draw 3,500 attendees. Hosted by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the International Flight Services Association (IFSA).
“We are honoured to have Mr. Shapiro kick off our 2014 EXPO. His airline savvy and reputation for knowing what will and won’t move this industry promises invaluable insight into how airlines are leveraging technology, differentiating products and generating new sources of ancillary revenue. I’m sure attendees will gain some new perspective on how the rapidly evolving media and entertainment industries are impacting the airline passenger experience,” said Alfy Veretto, APEX president and manager of IFE and Partnerships at Virgin America.
Other sessions included disruptive and immersive internet experiences; the latest developments in satellite technology and how the industry should address closed captioning.
WestJet introduces fees on first checked bag
From 29 October onwards, WestJet passengers flying within Canada or between Canada and the US on an ‘Econo’ fare will have to pay $25 for their first checked bag on journeys.
The airline predicts this change will affect only 1 in 5 WestJet customers, as passengers travelling internationally and those who select a ‘Flex’ fare still receive a first checked bag at no additional charge, and ‘Plus’ fare holders receive two checked bags as well as other benefits.
The launch of WestJet’s tiered rewards system also allows passengers the opportunity to check in their first piece of baggage at no extra cost. The tiers are divided into Teal, Silver and Gold, with Silver WestJet customers getting one bag for free and Gold members receiving two.
Signing up to WestJet’s RBC World Elite MasterCard credit card programme also offers passengers their first piece of baggage at no cost as a reward.
Baggage allowances for military personnel (with identification), infant and child equipment, mobility devices and codeshare and interline customers will not change.
Southwest to fly to Costa Rica
From 7 March 2015, Southwest Airlines will operate its first service to Central America with a daily roundtrip between Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI) and Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Costa Rica will be the first new destination following Southwest’s integration of AirTran Airways, which is due to be completed at the end of this year. Tickets for the route will become available once the airline has received the necessary approval from the US Department of Transport (DOT).
The integration of AirTran has recently seen the launch of other near-international flights by Southwest to the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Jamaica and Cancun, amongst others.
Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, commented, “We're ready to add the adventure and beauty of Costa Rica to a growing horizon of international possibility available to the more than 100 million customers who fly with us each year.”
Etihad Regional increase frequencies on Geneva flights
As part of its winter schedule, from October 26 Etihad Regional will introduce more services between Geneva and other key European destinations including Nice, Bordeaux, Venice and Toulouse.
Due to seasonal passenger demand the airline has plans to operate five flights per week to Nice and six times per week to Bordeaux, as well as upping its Venice and Toulouse flights so they become daily services.
“This increase in our services is indicative of the huge confidence we have in the Swiss market and underlines our enduring commitment to build an attractive, well-connected regional network which offers our guests more choice and greater flexibility when travelling to Switzerland and beyond,” explained Maurizio Merlo, Etihad Regional’s CEO. “We are increasing frequencies and doubling our services out of Geneva in line with strong demand, not only to serve the point-to-point market, but also to enhance connectivity beyond the Geneva hub to numerous key destinations across Europe.”
All additional flights will be operated on a 50-seat Saab 2000 configured with 5 premium economy seats and 45 economy seats. They will bring Etihad Regional’s year-round services to European destinations to 25 in total.
The airline’s fleet currently consists of eight Saab 2000s and four 68-seat ATR 72-500s.
Tigerair enforces stricter carry-on baggage rules
Following eight months of ‘penalty-free education’ for passengers exceeding Tigerair’s carry-on baggage measures, from 18 September the airline’s stricter enforcement will be put into effect.
Tigerair passengers who attempt to carry on any more than two bags weighing a combined total of over 10 kg or exceeding sizing requirements (54cm x 38cm x 23cm) will face a penalty charge, as well as being charged accordingly for having their baggage stored in the hold. However, the airline has agreed to discount the fee by 40% for the first three months to further educate its travellers.
Penalties are charged for sports equipment and excess baggage per kg after the 15 kg mark. It’s also more expensive for passengers on a flight time of longer than an hour and forty-five minutes.
“The airline has also recently invested in further website enhancements that allows passengers to add bags or buy excess baggage weight after booking their flight (up to four hours before travelling) to take advantage of the lowest bag charge,” commented Adam Rowe, commercial director for Tigerair Australia.
Tigerair will also send out reminders of the changes to those due to travel with Tigerair in the coming weeks.
Rowe continued, “The majority of people understand and support these requirements as there is only a finite amount of overhead locker space available and fellow passenger safety and comfort are key considerations, as is the considerable impact on the airline’s on-time performance when bags need to be transferred to the hold. From now on we are simply asking all passengers to play by the rules as there will be increased monitoring and the risk of a penalty charge for those that ignore them.”
New Airbus Training Centre in Monterrey for VivaAerobus
VivaAerobus, which is currently in the process of converting to an all-Airbus fleet, has chosen ‘Training By Airbus’ to provide simulator training and courses for pilots, maintenance personnel, flight operations engineers and cabin crews in Miami and Monterrey, Mexico.
Full flight training is already available to VivaAerobus pilots in Miami at an Airbus Training Centre which opened in 1999, but by 2016 the airline aims to begin a new satellite training operation at Monterrey’s North International Airport, which is located on the campus of the University of Nuevo León.
The partnership between Airbus and VivaAerobus, which is initially contracted to last ten years, will result in 25,000 hours of flight training for around 750 pilots. It will also see the arrival of a second A320 simulator in Mexico, after Airbus announced plans to open its own training centre in Mexico City by 2015.
President of Airbus Latin America and the Caribbean Rafael Alonso said, “The Airbus Training Centre in Monterrey will build on Miami’s success by bringing our state-of-the-art training services and experienced instructors directly to VivaAerobus, consequently supporting their growth by increasing the productivity of their pilots, engineers, maintenance and cabin crews."
AirFrance-KLM to grow Transavia
Air France-KLM has stated that, by 2017, it aims to make its Transavia brand one of the leading low-fare airlines for leisure travellers in Europe, operating 100 aircraft and carrying more than 20 million passengers annually.
AirFrance-KLM has announced that Transavia, which is made up of Transavia France and Transavia Netherlands, will establish bases in other European countries and work towards achieving operating profits by 2018. The group forecasts that the Transavia business should contribute an additional €100 million of EBITDAR (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, Amortization, and Restructuring) in 2017.
These priorities were revealed as part of the 2020 PERFORM strategic plan, which follows on from AirFrance-KLM’s 2015 TRANSFORM projects.
Talking about the wider strategic plan, AirFrance-KLM’s CEO, Alexandre de Juniac remarked, “By 2020, we will have built an air transport group focused on a leading long-haul network at the heart of global alliances, with a portfolio of unique brands, restructured short and medium-haul operations with a reinforced presence in the low-cost segment in Europe, leadership positions in cargo, maintenance and catering, and a significantly improved risk profile both operationally and financially.”
The PERFORM 2020 strategic plan also outlines the group’s intentions of restructuring its point-to-point operations, bringing HOP! and AirFrance point-to-point services under a single business umbrella.
Nike and Teague collaborate on ‘The Athlete’s Plane’
Teague, a leading design consultancy in aviation, has teamed up with sports company Nike to brainstorm a concept jet which features many futuristic ideas: ‘The Athlete’s Plane—a sky-high, pre- and post-game training and treatment facility’.
Recognising that players only have half their matches at home, Teague highlights that athletes can face an ‘away disadvantage,’ which is more than likely the result of the negative impact of travel.
Teague says, “A 2008 study by Nikhil Swaminathan published in Scientific American showed that Major League Baseball teams traveling to game sites three time zones away lose 60% of those games. German researchers in 2002 confirmed that motor function measurably deteriorated in athletes after air travel and then lingered for roughly the same number of days as the number of time zones crossed”.
The design consultancy worked with Nike as well as conducting interviews with team physicians, coaches, operations staff, and sleep specialists working with both collegiate and professional teams, coming up with solutions to issues they don’t see being addressed by commercial charters. These include:
Custom IFEC (in-flight entertainment and connectivity) – The possibility for players to study films of relevant games whilst in transit.
Telemedicine – In-flight biometrics and analysis to accelerate injury diagnosis and treatment. The concept jet’s outline talks about ‘Massage, intravenous infusion, cold and warm contrast treatments and electro-stimulation’ being available on-board.
Wearable Technology – Performance information would be available on the seat-back monitors through the wearable tech in an athlete’s footwear, apparel and accessories worn during games.
Whilst ‘The Athlete Plane’ is still just a set of cool images and ideas, it gives the IFEC industry a lot of food for thought regarding specially tailored business jets.
Scandinavian Avionics to supply Pegasus Airlines with EFBs
Pegasus Airlines has signed a deal with Scandinavian Avionics (SA) to use the company’s electronic flight bag (EFB) solution on its Boeing 737-NG aircraft.
SA design, manufacture and certify tailored EFB solutions in-house, with Pegasus choosing to use 2 ruggedized 10.1 inch Panasonic tablets and Scandinavian Avionics’ tablet power solution on the new additions to its fleet.
“An Electronic Flight Bag solution benefits any airline or aircraft operator by reducing weight on board and by saving time on updating the physical charts in the flight bag as well as gaining operational benefits with connectivity,” explains Michael Truelson, SA’s President.
Truelson continued, “As opposed to other EFB solutions with expensive hardware and high certification costs, we have developed a future proof concept that enables the aircraft operator to use commercial windows based tablet as the EFB display. The developments within commercial tablets are running way faster than the traditional EFB hardware and with our solution the operator can continuously upgrade the EFB display to the most current model at low certification costs.”
“Streamlining our operation, the utilization of new technology is important in optimizing our daily processes, both today and in the future as we continue to expand,” added Ridvan Goktay, technical consultant for Pegasus.
Wizz Air plans major growth in Romania in 2015
Wizz Air has announced its plans to expand further in Romania, specifically in Bucharest and Iasi, following the launch of 13 new routes and additional based aircraft in Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara just a month ago.
The airline will add one new aircraft in Bucharest, bringing its fleet in Romania to 17 Airbus A320s. This Bucharest-based aircraft – the ninth for the airport – will be delivered at the end of July 2015.
Wizz Air also announced operations from Iasi airport, which will take the number of airports served by the airline in Romania to eight. The new services from Iasi will begin on 20 December with flights to Treviso. The next service will be to Milan Bergamo starting on 31 March 2015 with an Iasi–London Luton service set to begin on 14 June 2015.
From Bucharest Wizz Air is adding routes to Pescara and Stockholm Skavsta next year, beginning on 27 July, as well as a summer route to Heraklion commencing on 20 June.
John Stephenson, executive vice-president of Wizz Air, commented, "Today is another major step forward for Wizz Air in Romania. In just two months we have announced three new based aircraft, an additional airport, 20 new routes and 1.35 million additional seats in 2015. We are delivering more of our low fares and services to best meet the needs of the Romanian travelling public. Wizz Air's ever-expanding network and increasing frequencies on existing routes will certainly attract more passengers travelling on leisure or business. Our growth will support over 1,000 new jobs across Romania and boost tourism across the country."
JetBlue reports August traffic data
JetBlue Airways has reported an increase in traffic of 6.7% for August 2014 in comparison with the same month last year, growing from 3,484,015,000 revenue passenger miles (RPMs) to 3,718,923,000.
The airline’s available seat miles (ASMs) also expanded from 4,016,063,000 to 4,210,974,000 for the respective months, meaning an increase in capacity of 4.9%.
JetBlue’s August load factor was 1.5 percentage points higher than in 2013, reaching 88.3% this year with the airline carrying 3,131,183 passengers in August 2014 compared with 2,928,154 last August, an increase of 6.9%.
On-time performance (which the Department of Transport considers to be an aircraft arriving within 14 minutes of its scheduled time) was 99.4%.
Finally, passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) for the month of August had increased 4% year over year, with Jet Blue hoping the PRASM in the third quarter of 2014 will rise similarly by 2 or 3%.
Firefly announce new Krabi-Penang route
Firefly has launched a new thrice-weekly route between Penang and Krabi, operated by the airline’s 72 seat single class ATR 72-600s.
“We began operations from Penang in 2007 and until today Penang is registered as our home base. It gives us great pleasure to announce this new route, as Penang has always been a state close to Firefly’s heart,” commented Ignatius Ong, Firefly’s CEO.
“I am pleased to be a part of another milestone in the aviation industry, specifically with regards to the growth of Penang’s network,” remarked Y.A.B Lim Guan Eng, chief minister of Penang. “Firefly’s business model and offerings is in line with Penang government’s aspiration to enhance our tourism industry as a whole. It serves a specialised market, meeting the locals’ and international tourists’ travel needs in terms of connectivity and most importantly offering an affordable transportation option. With the launch of Firefly’s service between Penang and Krabi, I trust that it will help fulfil the government’s agenda to stimulate economic growth and boost Visit Malaysia Year 2014.”
Firefly has also recently launched an automated check-in service for all domestic and Singapore flights as part of its ‘Beyond Convenience’ tagline.
Ryanair launches 2015 Liverpool summer schedule
Next summer, Ryanair passengers travelling from Liverpool Airport will have a choice of 32 different routes, with increased frequencies to Krakow and Bratislava.
In total, the airline’s 2015 summer schedule from Liverpool Airport consists of 122 weekly return flights, which see Ryanair continue to connect with Europe’s main business centres. It will operate three daily services to Dublin as well as one daily flight to Barcelona.
“Ryanair is pleased to be the first airline in the UK to launch its 2015 summer schedule,” announced Robin Kiely. “Now passengers can book their summer 2015 flights even earlier on our improved website and great new app, carry a free small 2nd carry-on bag, enjoy allocated seats, avail of our new Family Extra and Business Plus services, and use their personal electronic devices at all stages of their flight, as Ryanair continues to deliver so much more than just the lowest fares.”
Ryanair estimates that its summer schedule will deliver 1.5 million customers in total as well as providing 1,500 jobs across the year.
Flybe and Finnair to begin codeshare flights from Manchester
Finnair is to place its code on Flybe services departing from Manchester to ten regional airports as of 15 September, enabling simpler connections through Manchester to Helsinki.
The regional airports involved in the codeshare agreement are Aberdeen (ABZ), Belfast City (BHD), Edinburgh (EDI), Exeter (EXT), Glasgow (GLA), Inverness (INV), Isle of Man (IOM), Jersey (JER), Newquay (NQY) and Southampton (SOU).
The twice-daily routes currently operated between Manchester and Helsinki are timed to allow passengers to travel onwards towards Helsinki’s 15 Asian destinations.
Paul Simmons, Flybe’s CCO, commented, “The codeshare is a win–win for both airlines. For Flybe, it furthers our ambition of being ‘One Stop to the World’ from the UK regions and enables us to reach out to a new and different market, whilst at the same time further facilitating the needs of our leisure and business passengers.”
Finnair and Flybe previously established a joint venture in 2011, Flybe Finland, which offers flights around Finland and the Nordic region from its base at Helsinki Airport.
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