Airspace by Airbus

Airspace, Airbus’ passenger-centric cabin brand. Image: Maxim Sergienko

APEX Insight: Solicitation of consumer feedback is no longer a predominantly reactive activity; today, industry forerunners are turning to the average traveler to influence their latest innovations. As crowdsourcing becomes an increasingly prevalent phenomenon, companies including Airbus, AirAsia, Wi-Fly and MiFlight are using it to affect decision-making and improve the passenger experience.

Company commitment to consumer engagement once meant soliciting retroactive feedback on products and services whose logistics would likely never change without “expert” decree. However, with increased connectivity comes the proliferation of voices. A brand’s interaction with its consumers has expanded beyond the customer support line; companies are closer than ever to their stakeholders, and they are using this proximity to their advantage. This 21st century mode of operation –­ crowdsourcing, collaboration and co-creation – has challenged the aviation industry to rethink its conventional processes.

The Collective Cabin

Airbus has credited the general public for influencing its newest cabin concept, Airspace. Comments posted on social media provided inspiration for Airbus’ team of designers before they even entered the drawing room. “In the past, we just created a great product, and we allowed the airlines to customize it and to do what they want to do on the airplane,” explained Dr. Kiran Rao, executive vice-president of Strategy and Marketing, Airbus. “Today we’re reaching out to the passengers who fly on the aircraft. Today they are making big decisions based on product, and the experience that they have. So we listen to our customers and our customers’ customers.” By comparing first-hand accounts of passengers’ experiences and preferences, which the aircraft manufacturer then codified into four metrics: comfort, ambience, service and design, Airbus was able to create an innovative design that directly responds to its customers’ needs.

“We’re reaching out to the passengers who fly on the aircraft.” – Kiran Rao, Airbus

Amassing Data With Wi-Fly

A team of Chicago-based researchers, led by Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering professor Fabián Bustamante, has developed Wi-Fly, a recently launched app created to identify where in-flight Wi-Fi is struggling. The app allows users to measure in-flight connectivity speeds while traveling in the air. “Nobody knows really what the performance is like. Everybody complains, we know it’s bad, but we don’t know how bad it is,” Bustamante said. The crowdsourced data can also be used to improve services that support air-traffic management systems.

A Company-Wide BRAIN

It’s still crowdsourcing if the “crowd” is internal. AirAsia is well known for listening to its over two million Twitter followers through its @AskAirAsia handle, but the carrier has also recognized the benefits of decentralizing brainpower in-house. BRAIN, the airline’s employee-sourcing platform, allows all employees to propose new ideas for products, operations and revenue generation and to respond to other circulating ideas. Greater employee engagement does not only generate better ideas, but also promotes loyalty and accountability in the workplace.

MiFlight

MiFlight app. Image: MiFlight

App-easing the Crowds

MiFlight uses crowdsourced updates from travelers to gain real-time insight into the waiting times at airport security checkpoints around the world. Travelers using the app can expect less time spent sitting in crowded gate areas and lounges and a more efficient airport security process. MiFlight conveniently provides terminal maps of airports, too. The catch? It only works if we’re in it together.