Inflight editor Alexander Preston summarises the latest happenings across IFEC and cabin technology

Passengers are people, and people are emotional. As consumers, we largely make decisions relying on our first impressions of stored memories, images and feelings.

The importance of branding has even prompted Donald Trump to commit to Twitter his thoughts on the ongoing serious issues surrounding Boeing’s 737 MAX, with this piece of advice to the Chicago-headquartered manufacturer: “What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name.”

New name, new narrative?

According to David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance: “Growth in the airline market is dependent on a brand fully grasping and meeting the demands of its customer, something which, with the rise of social media, is constantly evolving. Whilst pricing, routes and service remain central to repeat business, airlines which capitalise on USPs, the huge growth potential in emerging markets and are simultaneously sympathetic to sustainability by investing in more fuel-efficient planes, are the ones most likely to prosper.”

Brand Finance’s Airlines 50 2019 ranking sees Delta as the world’s most valuable airline brand, as its brand value grew 16% over the past year to US$10.1 billion.

Delta’s adjusted operating revenue of $10.4 billion for the March 2019 quarter improved 7.5%, or $728 million versus the prior year. This revenue result marks a March quarter record for the company.

“Delta is off to a solid start in 2019. Our March quarter performance demonstrates the power of our growing brand preference, our unmatched competitive advantages, and most importantly the Delta people who are committed to providing the best travel experiences for our customers every day,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s chief executive officer.
Elsewhere, the airline has been named a top company to work for as a software engineer by employment review website, Glassdoor – the only airline and travel company listed.

“Being recognised among the most high-powered tech companies in the world is evidence of the hard work we’ve been doing to transform Delta IT into a place where talented software pros want to work,” said Rahul Samant, EVP and chief information officer. “We’re changing the way travel is perceived by personalising customer experiences and developing high-tech tools that empower our employees to engage more meaningfully with customers – and software engineers are core to making all of that happen.”

Delta may not know much about being president of the US, but the carrier and its staff do know a thing or two about running a profitable and well-regarded airline. And not a name change in sight.

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In a bid to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution Etihad Airways is to become the first airline in the Middle East to operate a flight without any single-use plastics on board, when flight EY484 departs Abu Dhabi on 21 April, landing in Brisbane on 22 April – Earth Day.

The milestone flight is part of Etihad’s ongoing commitment to the environment, to go beyond Earth Day celebrations, and pledge to reduce single-use plastic usage by 80% not just in-flight, but across the entire organisation by the end of 2022.

Tony Douglas, Group chief executive officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “There is a growing concern globally about the overuse of plastics which can take thousands of years to decompose. We discovered we could remove 27 million single-use plastic lids from our inflight service a year and, as a leading airline, it’s our responsibility to act on this, to challenge industry standards and work with suppliers who provide lower impact alternatives.”

Buzz, Etihad’s current supplier of amenity products, are supporters of the project and have collaborated with the airline to provide sustainable amenity kits, eco-plush toys and award-winning eco-thread blankets. Buzz pioneered and produced the blankets out of recycled plastic bottles.

In some instances, the sustainable choice was easy. Etihad worked with suppliers to ensure products were not wrapped in single-use plastics. For others, more innovative products had to be sourced including Cupffee’s, edible coffee cups, made entirely out of natural grain products.

Etihad identified over 95 single-use plastic products used across aircraft cabins, most of which were replaced with eco-friendly alternatives including cups, cutlery, dishes, headset bags, cart seals and toothbrushes. Once removed from this flight, Etihad prevented over 50 kg of plastics from being landfilled. Where suitable replacements could not be sourced, these items were not loaded.

As a result of planning the Earth Day flight, Etihad additionally committed to remove up to 20% of the single-use plastic items on board by 1 June 2019. By the end of this year, Etihad will have removed 100 tonnes of single-use plastics from its inflight service.

“We are making this promise not only for the environment but also for the wider community. Our guests and employees are largely responsible for facilitating this positive change, as they brought to our attention the effect plastics within our industry have on landfills, waterways and our oceans, contaminating our soil and water,” added Douglas.

Delta Air Line’s brand value grew 16% over the past year to US$10.1 billion, making it the world’s most valuable airline brand according to the latest report by brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance.

The airline swooped to the pole position in the Brand Finance Airlines 50 2019 ranking, taking the top spot from American Airlines. Meanwhile Emirates fell to fifth place in the top 10 (though its brand value was up 17% to $6.26 billion), meaning the top four slots of the airline ranking have been filled by US airlines.

British Airways has retained the 8th position (up 20% to $4.1 billion) and customers have remarked on its airport lounges, flight schedule flexibility and loyalty reward schemes, meanwhile Lufthansa comes in at number 10 with brand value up 8%.

Brand values of all three of the top ten Chinese airlines have strengthened, assisted by a late drop in fuel cost.

Budget airlines; Wizz Air, easyJet, and JetBlue have seen success, whilst Norwegian Airline’s brand value has dropped 7% to $0.9 billion.

Brand Finance also found that the Russian carrier Aeroflot is the strongest brand in the Airlines 50 2019 ranking with a brand rating of AAA+ up from AAA last year. Brand Finance attributed the airline’s brand value growth of 6% (to $1.5 billion) to its expansion and addition of new routes to Dubai World Central, Phuket, Marseille and Palma Mallorca. The group aims to carry 100 million passengers by 2023, marking the 100th anniversary of the group and Aeroflot brand, the consultancy commented: “Crucial steps towards achieving this goal will be for the brand to continue its focus on investment in sustaining brand strength and therefore upholding its AAA+ rating through to the following year.”

Strengthening brands and hurdles to overcome

The report found that, “New routes, new airports, and new ventures are set to strengthen the performance of airline brands taking advantage of the ever-growing demand for travel in Asia-Pacific.”

It particularly noted China Southern (up 10% to $4.5 billion), China Eastern (up 11% to $4.2 billion), Air China (up 20% to $4.1 billion), Xiamen Airlines (soaring 70% to $1.1 billion), Air Asia (up 35% to $1.3 billion) and Korean Air (up 21% to $1.8 billion). China’s largest low-cost airline was a new entrant with a brand value of $0.6 billion getting it into the 50th position in the ranking.

The Brand Finance report also found, “Mergers are part of the success story behind this year’s top four American airlines and this healthy growth is likely to continue.”

The report also considered the impact of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 groundings, “Whilst Southwest Airlines is the fastest growing brand in the top four (up 24% at $6.9 billion) the recent grounding of its 737 MAX 8 aircraft following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, could affect it and American Airlines’ returns.”


For a closer look into airline branding, and how airlines incorporate their branding into the cabin interiors, look out for the May/June issue of Inflight magazine! Click here for more information on subscribing to Inflight.

Virgin Atlantic’s new fleet of Airbus A350-1000 aircraft will be kitted out with Inmarsat’s GX Aviation in-flight broadband

The carrier is scheduled to receive 12 Airbus A350-1000s over the next three years, with GX Aviation pre-installed upon delivery. The service will be available once the first of these aircraft takes to the skies from late summer 2019.

Philip Balaam, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Virgin Atlantic is firmly established as one of the aviation industry’s greatest innovators and was the first airline in Europe to offer Wi-Fi on all flights. Its brand new Airbus A350s will enhance the passenger experience even further and we are delighted that GX Aviation has been selected as the in-flight broadband solution for the aircraft. This is another great win for our next-generation solutions.”

Gail Yates, head of Inflight Services, Virgin Atlantic, said: “We are excited to unveil details of the unparalleled onboard experience that awaits customers on our new Airbus A350-1000s. Offering modern, world-class in-flight connectivity is a fundamental part of this experience. We are confident that Inmarsat’s GX Aviation will truly raise the bar and offer second-to-none broadband for our customers.”