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Setting the agenda for the future of the passenger experience

Reaffirming its position as the place to announce the latest cabin innovations, Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) welcomed the world’s leading airframe manufacturers, lighting and material suppliers and IFEC specialists as it marked its 20th anniversary.

Passenger Experience Week welcomed the industry’s leading senior air, rail and cruise buyers when it returned to the Hamburg Messe this month, complete with four leading events that shared one goal: to define the future of the passenger experience industry.

Comprising Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX); World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE); Passenger Technology Solutions (PTS); and the Passenger Experience Conference (PEC), Passenger Experience Week attendees enjoyed more than 38 hours of educational content, while 950 innovative companies showcased the latest cabin interiors, inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC), passenger comfort, catering, retail and software technology.

Fostering a culture of knowledge sharing
Kicking off the week, the Passenger Experience Conference opened its doors on Monday 1 April, welcoming senior strategists from the air, rail and cruise sectors, as well as the wider industry supply chain to share insights and experiences. Delivering the plenary session, Dr. Joe Leader, CEO of the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and International Flight Services Association (IFSA), stressed the importance of the finer details “no matter the size of the airline or scope of the mission”.

Leader was joined by a panel of industry thought leaders representing Atlantic Airways, Lufthansa, Star Alliance and Virgin Atlantic, who shared insights on the evolution of the passenger journey and the steps operators are taking to improve efficiency and increase ancillary revenue opportunities. From improvements in in-flight entertainment and collaboration with start-ups, to the lessons that can be learned from vertical sectors; such as the automotive industry, the session explored the current challenges facing operators and what can be expected from future trends.

Three breakout streams followed, including Digital: The New Reality; Revitalising the Journey; and The Competitive Cabin, where attendees were invited to learn from experts and visionaries from airlines, airframers, OEMs, suppliers and design organisations on creating a seamless journey in an increasingly competitive environment.

Celebrating 20 years of cabin innovations
Reaffirming its position as the place to announce the latest cabin innovations, Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) welcomed the world’s leading airframe manufacturers, lighting and material suppliers and IFEC specialists as it marked its 20th anniversary. Announced on the opening day (Tuesday, 2 April), Panasonic Avionics revealed its new Arc Inflight Map Platform – a revolutionary 3D in-flight map application and service for its NEXT and X Series IFEC systems.

A series of other exclusive announcements followed with both Recaro and Collins Aerospace unveiling new solutions. The former revealed its CL3710 and SL3710 models, which will set a new standard for comfort in the sky for the economy long and short range respectively. The company also launched its revolutionary new M-Flex™ Duet, a cabin monument that transforms the aircraft doorway into a self-serve social zone or cabin attendant working area.

Elsewhere, a series of new partnerships were unveiled at the show with EAD Aerospace, Envoy Aerospace, Etihad Airways Engineering and Lufthansa Technik officially marking the formation of the Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance (IAMA). Meanwhile TCI Cabin Interiors – the joint venture of Turkish Airlines and TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) – celebrated its official status as Airbus supplier for the aerospace corporation’s A350 XWB Bar Unit SFE Program.

The event’s IFEC Zone demonstrated how in-flight entertainment and connectivity providers are meeting new demands for increased bandwidth, greater coverage, deeper personalisation and more immersive experiences. Thales, a French multinational company that designs and builds electrical systems for the aerospace industry, showcased its InFlyt360-powered Select passenger interface, a new IPTV live television solution, and a voiceover wi-fi telephone service. Inmarsat – a global leader in mobile satellite communications – revealed more about its new European Aviation Network (EAN) hybrid air-to-ground and satellite-based connectivity service, now available on British Airways.

Suesan Chen, Onboard Product Design Specialist, United Airlines, commented: “Passenger experience means everything to our customers and that's what we're striving towards. That's what is great about this event – we can see new suppliers pushing the boundaries. AIX offers a chance for all of the vendors and suppliers in this industry to put their best foot forward. Everyone is showing off and it’s a really cool experience to see what everyone is working on.

Offering attendees a place to learn, network and listen to inspiring industry leaders, the returning CabinSpace Live Seminar Theatre saw suppliers and airlines discuss the future of in-flight entertainment. Representatives from Burrana, Gogo Commercial Aviation, FlightPath 3D, Touch Inflight Solutions, TAP Air Portugal and Cirium explained how airlines can realistically provide passengers with free inflight connectivity, and identified new ways that intelligent content creation can improve passenger engagement and deliver ancillary revenue streams for airlines. The seminar theatre also played host to the winners of the popular Crystal Cabin Awards, as victors presented their winning concepts to attendees.

The role of technology in the end-to-end passenger journey
The co-located Passenger Technology Solutions (PTS) returned for its second year to demonstrate an array of solutions enabling air, rail and cruise operators to deliver a more seamless journey through the use of technology.

On the show floor, FrontM announced the launch of its Always-On AI Software Platform for the air passenger ecosystem. It offers passengers a 'ground like' digital experience to explore, engage and shop, from the comfort of the airline cabin, with applications ranging from in-flight moving maps, with built-in e-commerce, to passenger self-service apps and internet-sponsored services, like hotel booking to social entertainment apps like in-flight chat.

The PTS Seminar Theatre also welcomed industry leaders to discuss the role of technology in the future of the passenger experience, such as how sharing departure information via Siri and third-party delivery apps are enabling passengers to order food to the gate and onboard. Experts from Open Jaw Technologies and Amadeus discussed the importance of blockchain, while Immfly co-founder Jimmy Martinez von Korff spoke about why today’s digital travellers need transport companies to “be there beyond the flight”.

Rebecca O'Leary, Head of Customer Experience at Eurostar, said: “We use the show for all three dimensions – networking, new products and to listen to expert industry insights. It is great to hear things we already know and see things through a different lens. It’s what I found most interesting about the event.

Highlighting the future of technology onboard, the PTS Seminar Theatre also played host to the inaugural PAX TECH HACK, backed by supporting organisation IATA. More than 50 developers presented solutions created live on the show floor in a fast-paced, 48-hour competition.

Winners of the Inflight Passenger Community Challenge, CloudLounge, were chosen for its easy-to-use personal networking experience that enables passengers to use an IFE camera or QR code to join the virtual lounge of a fellow traveller. Team BudJet was chosen as winner of the Boost Airport Retail Challenge for its solution that matches passengers with products available at an airport based on a designated budget.

Speaking about the winners, expert panellist Sylvain Guilbon, Head of Customer Program Management, SITAONAIR, said: “Both teams addressed specific use cases in the passenger journey with an innovative approach and clear, concise, yet out-of-the-box, thinking. Being focussed on safety, first and foremost, the aviation industry tends to move at its own pace. It’s fantastic to see game-changing ideas like these that can enable air transport to be, not only safer, but faster and more enjoyable."

Demonstrating the very best of food catering and travel retail
Completing the 360-degree view of the industry and highlighting the growing passenger expectation for food and drinks served onboard to match the quality and choice available in their favourite restaurants and retailers, the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) continued to attract the crowds as exhibitors showcased the very best of hospitality onboard.

With sustainability high on the agenda, exhibitors demonstrated how air, rail and cruise operators could effectively reduce their impact on the environment. En Route International, a leading provider of food and service solutions for the onboard travel market, launched its ‘Four The Future’ strategy and announced it would remove the plastic linings from its boxed hot hand-held product categories, replacing them with biodegradable alternatives that are manufactured from renewable resources.

Meanwhile, WK Thomas demonstrated the importance of measurable environmental responsibility, showcasing its reusable, rotable and disposable sustainable packaging solutions. Winning the title of ‘Best Sustainable Packaging’ in the Taste of Travel Theatre, the company’s pokito pop-up cup was recognised for combining functional sustainability with style and elegance. Ideal for pre-order or buy onboard, it offers ultra-portability and convenience and features a water-tight screw top lid and spill-proof clip ensuring no dripping or leaks on bumpy rides or in busy stations or terminals.

Further Taste of Travel sessions welcomed representatives from Great Western Railway, Virgin Atlantic, LSG Group, Delta Air Lines and Foodcase to discuss the future of onboard services, challenging attendees to change the way they think about airline meals. Topics such as personalisation and the use of plastic in the air captivated the audience while Ariane Van Mancius of Now New Next Food & Packaging Consultancy revealed the habits, hang-ups and influences of today’s Generations Y and Z and, in particular, how the rules are being re-written through social media.

One of the most popular sessions saw Sajida Ismail, Head of Inflight Product & Service at British Airways, welcome more than 150 attendees to mark the celebration of the airline’s centenary year. Led by British Airways’ Executive chef Mark Tazzioli, the session explored the airline’s £6.5 billion investment in upgrading its services, while samples from the airline’s new menu – prepared by Wolfgang Stoiber Head Chef DO&CO – was met by applause from a captivated audience.

Commenting on the educational sessions at WTCE, Keith Bush, Managing Director, UDIM, commented: “The sessions were excellent and really informative. British Airways has a good reputation and it was a great idea to bring the chefs to the show. I also thought Ariane's presentation was great – she is clearly in tune with the trends and provided useful insights on how important it is to make sure you consider and incorporate your audience.

The latest products striving to get onboard
With more than 100 exhibitors joining WTCE for the first time, air, rail and cruise buyers had the opportunity to discover and sample new products as brands continue to join the show to crack the lucrative onboard market.

From Benjamin & Blum’s bottled cocktails and modern plant-based seaweed snack Oh! My Gim to Craftis activity bags for young passengers and Cambridge Security Seal’s solutions – designed for securing catering trucks and carts, duty free carts, and other onboard equipment – the popular New Exhibitor Villages housed the newest brands and products suitable for onboard.

Products new to the market could also be found in the What’s New Onboard showcase, which highlighted products launched to the market in the last 12 months. Tops Foods showcased its award-winning vegan lasagne, part of its Pure range; while Dr Schaer’s Gris&Go highlighted why it was the gluten-free, wheat-free and lactose-free snack of choice – perfect for any occasion.

Other no less inspirational and important show features included the Focus on World Travel Retail, where attendees sourced new Travel Retail products to help differentiate the offering onboard, and the Spotlight on Travel Apparel, sponsored by Egret Aviation and MODUS, where attendees could find examples of the latest galley carts and uniforms for cabin staff.

Speaking about the event, Kevin Love, Head of Culinary, Alpha LSG, said: “If you want to see what’s new and exciting in our industry, you have to attend WTCE. It's very rare that you get this calibre of food and drink and onboard products in one place, so it’s definitely worth the trip.

Passenger Experience Week 2019
Highlighting the value of Passenger Experience Week’s four co-located shows, Andrea Lenke, Customer Experience Manager at Lufthansa Group, commented: “The co-located events allow us to look at the bigger picture. I work in passenger design so, although I am here for AIX, I can learn information on the latest developments on the catering side should a project in this area arise.” Ethan Grossman from Alaska Airlines added that Passenger Experience Week is the “biggest and best event of its kind internationally”.

Katie Murphy, Portfolio Director for Passenger Experience Week, said: “Passenger Experience Week continues to demonstrate the fast-paced nature of this exciting and burgeoning industry. It was fantastic to return to Hamburg this year to mark the 20th anniversary of Aircraft Interiors Expo and the continued evolution of our co-located shows, Passenger Technology Solutions and the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo."

We’re delighted with the response we received this year from show exhibitors and visitors alike. The show continues to prove its place as the most important date in the industry calendar as we welcome air, rail and cruise buyers from every corner of the globe to source new products, learn about the latest trends and undertake four days of busy networking. We look forward to returning to Hamburg in 2020 and welcoming exhibitors to Los Angeles this September when we open the doors on our Autumn event.

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.