Here are the most-read “Catering and Services” stories from this year’s APEX Daily Experience newsletters. To receive breaking passenger experience industry news in your inbox on a daily basis, subscribe here.
Celebration Time: Swiss Partners With Breitling for Special Edition Boeing 777 Watches
Swiss International Air Lines has partnered with Breitling to promote the debut of the airline’s new Boeing 777-300ER by offering a limited edition version of its flagship Navitimer 01 wristwatch on selected intercontinental routes. But passengers looking to buy one of the 777 currently available high-end aviation-themed timepieces will need deep pockets. Each of Breitling’s bespoke Boeing 777 edition watches will retail at $7,960 and can only be purchased in flight.
JetBlue Technology Ventures Invests in Airfare Prediction Startup
JetBlue Technology Ventures, JetBlue’s Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, has announced that it will invest an undisclosed amount in airfare forecaster FLYR. The startup predicts price changes and seat availability for all North American and most European flight routes using machine learning and predictive analytics. Bonny Simi, president of JetBlue Technology Ventures says, “We choose FLYR as our first investment because they share our belief that predictive analytics can provide value to travelers and will change the travel experience in ways we have yet to imagine.”
The Message Is the Medium: KLM to Deliver Boarding Passes via Facebook Messenger
KLM is now giving its passengers the option to receive flight updates through Facebook Messenger. After booking tickets on the Dutch flag carrier’s website, customers will have the opportunity to let KLM start up a chat thread where it will send booking confirmations, flight status changes and digital boarding passes. Passengers will also be able to communicate directly with a customer service representative through the Messenger chat window. Commenting on the new partnership with KLM, David Marcus, Facebook’s VP of Messaging Products, says, “This is one that I’ve been personally eager to solve for a while – removing stress and complication from air travel.”
Farelogix and Routehappy Join Forces in Platform Integration
Routehappy Hub and Farelogix’s FLX Merchandise are joining forces to deliver integrated platforms that will enable airlines to more effectively and dynamically merchandise their flights, differentiate their products and make offers across a variety of channels – worldwide and in any language. The platforms will combine Farelogix’s dynamic pricing and Routehappy’s rich content to create a more informative flight-booking experience. “Integration of Farelogix and Routehappy’s respective platforms will make each more useful to our mutual airline and distributor customers, in turn benefiting travelers, who will receive more differentiated and compelling product offerings and related rich content,” says Routehappy CEO Robert Albert.
SITA Survey: Passengers Prefer Self-Service
Passengers prefer self-service technology to person-to-person interaction, reports SITA, in its annual Passenger IT Trends Survey. The survey, which was released May 24 at the SITA Air Transport IT Summit in Barcelona, indicates that 91 percent of passengers using a technology-delivered service at some stage of their journey will repeat the practice – even if they were dissatisfied with the experience. “Once people are converted from person-to-person interaction to using self-service technology for travel steps, few want to go back,” the survey concludes.
Emirates to Charge for Economy Seat Selection
Emirates will soon introduce a new ancillary fee as a means of boosting revenue. The Dubai carrier will begin charging passengers who purchased economy-class Special and Saver fares for advanced seat selection as of October 3. Business Traveller suggests the fees are being implemented because the Dubai carrier’s revenue per seat is not keeping pace with the growing number of passengers, many of which pay below the standard rate. At last week’s London Aviation Festival, Emirates president Tim Clark was also reported saying, “We are seriously evaluating a premium economy product.”
BA to Charge for Short-Haul Sandwiches After Signing Marks & Spencer Deal
British Airways will soon announce that it has struck a deal with UK retailer Marks & Spencer to charge for sandwiches on board short-haul flights. The ending of complimentary meals on flights of two hours or less comes after BA’s CEO, Alex Cruz, said the airline would focus on better competing on price with low-cost carriers Ryanair, easyJet and Norwegian. However, Nik Loukas of Inflight Feed says, “I think it is going to be very difficult for passengers to swallow the fact that they are going to have to pay for food after it has been free for so long.”
Google’s New App Will Guide Travelers Through Every Step of the Journey
Google’s much anticipated travel app is now available for download on Android and iOS devices. Google Trips plans full travel itineraries by pulling data from users’ Gmail accounts and collating data from travel reservations, such as flight and hotel bookings, in a similar manner to Concur’s TripIt. The app offers personalized recommendations based on a user’s Google history – which could raise eyebrows among those with privacy concerns. However, those willing to make the trade-off will also benefit from editorial guides to more than 200 cities and offline functionality, allowing data, including maps and walking directions, to be downloaded before disconnecting from the Internet.
Sounds Delicious: Wearing Headphones Can Make In-Flight Meals Taste Better
Wearing noise-canceling headphones during a flight can improve the taste of food, according to a study conducted by the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London. Professor Barry Smith carried out the experiment – both with and without noise-canceling headphones – on British Airways flights to Istanbul. Smith found that without the constant noise of the aircraft’s engines, he could better enjoy the food on offer. “Apart from the dry air and the fact that you are at high altitude in a low-pressure environment, white noise in your ear makes the tongue less able to discriminate between sweet and sour by about 15 percent,” he says. “At the same time, droning sounds accentuate bitterness.”
Airbnb Pushes to Become a More Complete Travel Brand With Trips Platform
Airbnb has launched a new platform that it says will allow it to move beyond accommodation booking into catering to “every aspect of the trip.” The home-sharing company’s Trips platform will allow users to choose from types of experiences and places, with flight booking and additional services expected in the future. Around 500 experiences in 12 cities are currently offered by Airbnb hosts, such as making violins in Paris and marathon running in Kenya. “Airbnb is launching Trips, bringing together where you stay, what you do and the people you meet all in one place,” says Airbnb CRO Brian Chesky. “We want to make travel magical again by putting people back at the heart of every trip.”