Embarking on a journey of innovation

Embarking on a journey of innovation

Syreeta Tranfield, Event Director, WTCE

Picture this. You’ve just boarded a long-haul flight at the airport. You take your seat, stretch your legs and contemplate the journey ahead. You start thinking to yourself, ‘what could possibly make this the best flight I’ve ever taken?’ Naturally everyone’s response is different, but I’m fairly sure most people would say delicious food and drink, a blissful night’s sleep and a never-ending supply of latest release movies.

Excuse the pun but, dream on. We’re talking long-haul travel here. If you’re expecting to recreate a home-from-home environment on an aeroplane, you’re in the wrong place. It’s impossible to have a comfortable travel experience when you’re flying at 38,000 feet over the Atlantic for 12 hours.

Or is it?

According to the 2015 IATA Global Passenger Survey, the top three activities most enjoyed during a long-haul flight are: watching movies (72%), sleeping (70%) and eating and drinking (42%). So it’s no surprise airlines are putting these at the top of their to-do lists this year. Passenger comfort has always been – and will continue to be – one of the most important elements of the overall in-flight experience. It is a key factor in the airline decision making process and, as the competition between carriers grows ever fiercer, operators will have to go to even greater lengths to sustain passenger satisfaction.

Over the past few years, innovation – in all its guises – has been one of the key points of difference between airlines. There are those that are quick to adopt the latest advancements in technology, IFE and catering, for example, whilst the remainder simply don’t see it as a priority for their business. However, the difference that these changes can make to an airline’s brand perception are huge.

Take the in-flight food and drink offering for example. Gone are the days of dry chicken or watery scrambled eggs. Airlines are now hiring Michelin-starred chefs to design their menus in a bid to ensure they serve the very best food they can. Airline catering consultant Nikos Loukas, recently identified four major airlines that have revamped their catering to great effect. Among these are Korean Air who carry the freshest organic food of all airlines – its ‘farm to fly’ programme specifies that all its proteins come from Jedong pastures in South Korea’s Jeju province; Virgin America who have recently teamed up with Dean & DeLuca to offer snacks such as gummy bears and caramel popcorn and Turkish Airlines with its roster of 400 in-flight chefs who make sure the food is cooked and presented perfectly every time.

But where do the airlines get these ideas from? Surely even the most creative of brainstorms doesn’t always come up with such business-boosting ideas? One place, where airline – or indeed other travel operators (particularly rail) – can gain inspiration for their carrier is at the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo. At this year’s event there will be an entire feature – What’s New Onboard – dedicated to the very latest products to hit the market place. This enables visitors to see, at a glance, the latest in travel catering, onboard retail and passenger comfort products which could add a serious point of difference to their business.

Companies with featured products include Tranquini with its relaxation beverage; b4 with its single use hand sanitizer wipes and Tops Foods with its authentic German Currywurst with bread. Visitors can also discover a wide range of new products across the show floor, where the travel catering and onboard services industry’s most significant innovations will be revealed.

With the latest IATA Global Passenger Survey revealing the traveller of tomorrow has ‘higher expectations of products and services’, airlines need to dig deep if they’re going to keep their perennially discerning customers happy.

Find out more about the featured products

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