Airlines & You

We are entering a new age that will reshape business—the “Age of You.” In its evolutionary journey, the brand has shifted from monologue to dialogue, from communal experience to one that is truly personal and curated, created around each and every one of us.

Soon, leading brands, enabled by intelligent infrastructure and powered by Big Data, will develop integrated ecosystems of experiences—and it will transform every sector of business, not just the “tech” sector. Already, the multiplication of channels has pushed brands to strive for greater levels of clarity and consistency across touchpoints and necessitated
the creation of ecosystems of integrated products, services, information, and entertainment: both physical and digital. But how is all this impacting the airline industry? And are there signs that we are already entering the Age of You? Based on our research, we can confidently say, “yes,” to the latter question and can point out some exciting trends you’ll want to stay abreast of as the airline space continues to evolve.

Here are five examples that illustrate just how high-tech, connected—and personalized—the flying experience is becoming:

BYOD-enabled — Now that devices are ubiquitous in our lives, airlines are factoring in the explosion of smartphones, notebooks and tablets into aircraft design. Airlines, such as Delta, United Airlines, Southwest, Scoot, and Lufthansa, have responded recently with “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) systems, which provide in-seat power, onboard WiFi and access to a wireless Inflight Entertainment (IFE) system through passengers’ own devices.

The augmented attendant — More personalized service lies at the very heart of the Age of You, and this trend is already apparent in the airline industry. Flight service, for example, is becoming increasingly augmented with the aid of technology and the use of shared data. Virgin America’s IFE system, known as Red, already enables passengers to place food and drink orders at their convenience. Attendants receive the order through a tablet device then deliver to you, or even to another passenger of your choice. Jumping on the “wearable technology” trend, low-cost carrier, Spring Airlines, has been trialing Google Glass, allowing attendants to identify passengers who had previously declared that they wanted to purchase food. While meeting needs was the customer service standard of the past, anticipating needs is new standard.

The in-flight social network — For those who want to interact with other passengers, either for social or professional reasons, the use of social media and technology is providing opportunities for passengers to choose who they sit next to and network with. Virgin America, for example, has partnered with Here on Biz and Gogo Inflight Internet to enable guests to network with other passengers on any Virgin American flight in the air at the same time. KLM’s Meet & Seat scheme allows passengers to pick seatmates by checking out the social media profiles of fellow passengers.

Quantas Airlines

Customize your space — Perhaps one of the most debated subjects in the flying customer journey is seat space (and comfort). But, sometimes, it’s simple insights around customer needs that make the biggest difference. Qatar Airways new 787 Dreamliner will allow passengers to dine and work comfortably at the same time. When dining begins, passengers can use a separate side table to rest their laptops. Cathay Pacific has a similar feature. And Qantas has installed seats that passengers can recline upon boarding, allowing them to settle in and get relaxed before the plane even takes off.

Flying without flying — While enhanced seating is a differentiator travelers might expect, there may come a day when we can customize everything that surrounds us when flying. Taking steps in that direction, Qantas has recently partnered with Samsung Electronics to trial Virtual Reality headsets and Airbus has patented a Virtual Reality helmet. Virtual Reality may still be in its infancy, but, in the years ahead, this technology will surely provide some of the more interesting ways to alter the journey to suit our preferences and needs.

If you would like to contact the author of this piece, Ruth Pestana, or Interbrand’s airline sector leader, Stuart Green, about any of the opinions or insights expressed in this article, please send an email to hello@interbrand.com.

Special thanks to Interbrand’s Forest Young who also contributed to the piece you have just read.

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