APEXEXPO2019: Innovation takes the stage

The potentials of biometrics and the challenges of sustainability were key topics at the Airline Passenger Experience Association Conference and Exhibition (APEX EXPO) as airline executives discussed their plans for enhancing passenger experience.

Kicking off the exhibition in Los Angeles, the conference shone a spotlight on how technology could be used to enhance the passenger experience with biometrics popping up time and again.

Delta Air Lines’ CEO Ed Bastian discussed the airlines’ pursuit of biometrics to provide greater security and ease through airport processes with CLEAR, describing how the airline is leveraging the technology to “enhance safety, efficiency and friendliness of the service.”

JetBlue is also investing in biometrics for the journey, but president and COO Joanna Geraghty said the airline aims to provide a biometric solution for the “whole travelling public”, without the need to pay.

Highlighting the potential for the technology, Geraghty pointed out the number of passengers experiencing emotional stress in the airport, and suggested that not having to get their documents out at every touchpoint of the journey could revolutionise a “clunky” experience.

Sustainability was also a key consideration throughout the event with several executives throughout the day referring to the ‘Greta’ effect, referencing the momentum of climate change discussions created by the Swedish student and climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

Many panellists pointed out that though there is still progress to be made, the industry needs to better communicate the actions already taken, projects underway and successes of the industry towards improving its climate impact. Many airlines are exploring sustainability developments, such as Etihad, who flew the world’s first flight with fuels made in the UAE with plants grown in salt water, and also flew a single-use plastic-free long-haul flight on Earth Day.

Executives also noted the benefits new aircraft can bring to fuel reduction – cutting carbon emissions, as well as investing in sustainable projects and committing to programmes such as CORSIA.

Outside of the key themes, airlines also revealed investments made in passenger experience, with the big news of the day coming from ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit which revealed its new seats for its ‘Big Front Seat’ product, as well as new seats for economy to provide better “usable legroom”.

As well as connecting passengers across the world, allowing people to explore new places and meet with others, aviation also offers experiences, from Live TV in-flight, to lie flat seats and connectivity, Aaron Heslehurst, presenter of Talking Business for BBC World News, commented, adding: “Take a bow… hats off for the incredible innovations that make all that possible.”

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