Opinion: Publisher’s Notebook – Part Two

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After seven years serving as publisher of APEX Media, Spafax has elected to move on from the role with great appreciation to APEX for the opportunity. While APEX’s platforms will continue strong as ever under the ongoing direction of the association working with a new partner, Spafax’s executive vice-president, Al St. Germain, looks back on a highly rewarding and eye-opening time at the helm of this unique media venture.

In my first post, I looked at how the world of in-flight content has changed since the first issue of APEX Experience magazine in the summer of 2014. Another area that has undergone significant changes is the aircraft cabin itself. While I didn’t want this recap to be viewed solely through a post-COVID-19 lens, there is no way to avoid acknowledging the impact the pandemic has had on so many of the key assumptions around passenger comfort that we harbored a few short years ago.

Much of the previous debate was around the effective use of space. Which seat manufacturer could come up with the most effective interlocking business-class design to maximize cabin density, while still keeping those high-value customers lying fully flat? Was premium economy a must-have or a dilution of the cabin in front of it? Just how narrow can we make the lavatory?

And then there was an airline’s partners. High-end hotels were putting their stamp on bedding, while amenities were being provided in increasingly stylish kits. It was not enough to serve meals ­– carriers and their catering suppliers sought out top-tier restaurants and chefs to make sure they had their own seal of approval on increasingly healthy and sustainable dining options.

Illustration: Angelica Geisse

Soon, everything changed.

Last August, I flew in domestic first class on a wide-body aircraft with a major US carrier. My pre-flight snack was replaced with a packet of Purell. Once in the air, I was offered a shelf-stable snack box with water, wine or canned beer. There were no tablecloths, pillows or blankets to be found. At every touch point, I was reminded of this carrier’s partnership with a major household cleaning brand, not to be confused with another major carrier’s partnership with another household cleaning brand. And yes, everyone had a mask on.

Those of us who have been in the business a long time have always braced themselves for the next big crisis, but no one expected this. APEX members were all affected differently during the pandemic. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who creates high-profile partnerships to support onboard food and beverage for airlines. How do you adjust quickly enough to maintain your business? Now imagine you are an APEX member that has been trying to convince airlines about the merits of antimicrobial surfaces for years. How do you keep up with sudden demand?

Everyone is trying to predict the new normal. While no one knows what it will look like, it’s a very safe assumption that cabin cleanliness will require more investment and attention from the APEX community than we ever could have imagined back in 2014, or 2019, for that matter. But it’s great to see APEX take the lead in this area with its newly established APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying program.

In Part Three, we will take a little time to thank the folks that made our award-winning run as APEX Media’s publishers possible. 

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