“Think differently” says Passenger Experience Conference

The second Passenger Experience Conference took place in Hamburg on the eve of the Aircraft Interiors Expo, with delegates being asked to take a long hard look at the whole passenger journey from purchase to destination.The conference featured key speakers from a range of organisations including Airbus, Panasonic, Thales, Icelandair, Delta, Finnair and Oman Air and was sponsored by Teague, Gogo and BAE Systems.The opening address was given by Dr Joachim Schneider (pictured), Head of Product Management and Passenger Services at Lufthansa who asked how airlines can meet the changing needs of their customers.

"Airlines have to think about the whole passenger experience chain, but other organisations are sometimes better positioned to do this," he said. "This is very dangerous for airlines, which must focus on new value-added services."He added that smartphones mean that Lufthansa can now get direct access to more of its customers than ever before. They can be used to tell passengers what gate they need, what offers are available in the airport shops, and that their bags are delayed.Inflight connectivity will mean that airlines can complete the passenger service chain in future, allowing gate change updates and other information to be passed to these smartphones. This also enables other business transactions while in the air, such as booking theatre tickets, flowers, car hire or hotel bookings. Schneider said that airlines can even see what films passengers are viewing and pass offers to them based on their viewing habits."This is not an airline’s core business, but you should seek out partners to introduce such services to your passengers," he said. "These new services could generate new much-needed revenue."He suggested that the issues surrounding the wireless streaming of early-window content to passengers’ own devices will go away in time and that the premium economy class is growing fast. "In the limited space you have you can do a lot more with your IFE offering, plus better food and beverages to differentiate your product."Finally, he said that the industry needs better cabin integration, such as smart systems that link the IFE to the seat so that seat malfunctions can be reported automatically. And cabins needs to be more reliable – revealing that its was the coffee machines that caused most headaches when the Airbus A380 was introduced.The next session on "Embracing the Future Today" was presented by Tom Costley, Head of Travel and Tourism, TNS UK, a market research and analysis organisation.Against a backdrop of continued slow economic growth he said that the Asian economy will be bigger than the US and European combined by 2030.He also agreed that the digital economy would be a major factor in the future for airlines, with mobile connectivity offering great opportunities. "Smartphone use is still growing and is not likely to decline," Costley said. "With 4G services becoming more important in the future.Solutions that save time and make life easier hold increasing appeal in this fast-paced world. People look for brand experiences that engage and entertain."He added that solo travellers, extended families and older travellers are becoming important groups for airlines to focus on. And we need to address the causes of anxiety among travellers."Embarkation and disembarkation are very stressful experiences – we need to pay more attention to detail," he concluded.A session entitled "Five Unexpected Lessons Commercial Aviation Should Borrow From Other Industries" was delivered by Devin Liddell, Principal Brand Strategist at Teague. He looked at brand strengths such as being honest, disruptive, but being loved.Brand colour is also important, he said. Nearly 80% of the world’s airline choose either blue or red, with Liddell saying that "blue is the colour of indifference." So get more adventurous with colour, he said.Another lesson is small differences can make a big difference. He highlighted Starbucks and their "red cups at Christmas" campaign that has a tremendous following. Or Doubletree hotels who hand out warm cookies to guests. Nearer to home the star-studded aircraft ceiling (mood lighting) used on some Middle Eastern airlines, such as Etihad, can leave a lasting impression.Also, airlines should get a mascot, he said – it works for insurance companies, but airlines don’t seem to want to adopt them. Finally, be different, be unique. He highlighted Coors Light beer, which has a label that changes colour when it is cold – sales have rocketed, despite an attribute that you could detect just by picking the bottle up!Devin and Tom then joined a discussion panel to discuss trends. The other experts on the panel were Michael Kotas (Delta), Peter Morris (Ascend) and Suzanna Hrnkova (Airbus).They looked at issues as diverse as in-flight meals, leg room and seat pitch, seat width, differentiating passengers by culture and senior travellers.Steve Nichols,Inflight / Inflight-Online.comHamburg, Germany

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