Air Travel Gets Personal
Insight Robert Kokonis logs more than his share of air time in business class as President and Managing Director of AirTrav, an aviation consulting firm. But even he was pleasantly surprised on a recent 13-hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo, when he experienced some of the latest new features being offered.
“What was pretty cool about that in addition to having this big 22-inch TV in front of me,” he says, “was that during the middle of this very long voyage, I took what looked like a large smartphone that was my controller for in-flight entertainment and used their on-demand ordering system on the touchscreen to scroll through the options and order from their menu. Within seven minutes, the flight attendant had brought it to my seat.”
Best in-flight services
The beds are getting flatter. The TV screens are getting bigger. In-flight pods are becoming more office-like. For example, some airlines are now offering ergonomic seats that recline to a full 180-degrees, and a privacy canopy that enables business travellers to work without worrying about someone looking over their shoulder.
Services are also getting more personalized and connected. “On-demand technology is going to be the way of the future,” says Kokonis.
Many airlines offer smartphone apps that allow you to monitor your travel details, provide live flight and baggage information, allow check-in and retrieval of your boarding pass, and even provides direct-access customer support in the event of a problem.
Greater customization and individualized services begin when you are booking flights.
“Booking bundling” is the buzzword Kokonis uses. “When you book your flight you’re able to buy a number of ancillary services which previously you had to buy on à la carte basis. The one-size-fits-all approach does not necessarily satisfy every traveller.”
“Bundling services allows business travellers to preset their preferences for a more streamlined experience and book everything at once…”
Bundling services allows business travellers to preset their preferences for a more streamlined experience and book everything at once: from first class travel to meals, lounge access, hotels, car rental and more.
Premium economy class
In the 2008 global recession, companies looking for cheap flights flew their business travellers in economy class. Now, more airlines are offering an in-between option to bridge the gap between business and economy class. It creates a mid-range option for business travellers: one with more knee-space, power ports for laptops and devices, but more economically priced than
While common on international airlines, in-flight Wi-Fi came to the Canadian airspace earlier this year when it began to be offered on-board using Gogo Inflight Internet.
“As a passenger you swipe your card and activate the service and you can use internet and send emails from 3,500 feet,” says Kokonis.
Also at work is the behind-the-scenes innovation you don’t see, but that makes your flight faster and cuts down on wait time in the gate and on the runway. In March 2013, KLM began working with a number of partners — Schiphol and JFK airports, air traffic control centres, the Delft University of Technology, Boeing, and the Netherlands National Aerospace Laboratory — on a pilot project to assess sustainable efficiency improvements (fuel, weight, and CO2 reduction) for the entire flight process, says Jean-Noel Rault, Vice President and General Manager for Air France-KLM Canada. “This goes for various phases of the flight process, including shorter taxiing, efficient take-off, flying at an optimum altitude and speed, efficient descent approach, and by running ground power units via an electricity feed from the airport.”
Airport security advancements
Canadian business travellers who are tired of taking off their shoes and belts, and removing their laptops from their cases, might be interested in the TSA Pre✓ program offered by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. Canadian travellers who hold NEXUS cards can apply to this expedited airline-screening program, and speed up their security process at participating U.S. airports.