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Air fares, the advent of “seamless” travel and social media: The changing face of the global travel industry

Premium cabin fares are no longer as expensive as travellers assume – on some routes the difference is “negligible” with tickets providing more value-for-money than economy when all the overall experience, extras and service are taken into account, according to latest insight and statistics from travel specialist Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC).

Passenger comfort, convenience, exclusive menus, advanced entertainment and a general increase in onboard services available are just some of the main trends affecting the global travel industry today. With more passengers than ever before, travel operators must understand these issues and respond accordingly. The World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) is set to address these trends, plus many more – from personalised meals to ethically-sourced cutlery – when it returns to Hamburg on 14 – 16th April 2015.

Premium cabin fares are no longer as expensive as travellers assume – on some routes the difference is “negligible” with tickets providing more value-for-money than economy when all the overall experience, extras and service are taken into account, according to latest insight and statistics from travel specialist Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC).

Expedia reports that on North American short-haul routes the premium fare gap has shrunk to 89% from 138% of the economy seat price, while in Europe the premium fare difference dropped to 53% from 66% of the economy seat price. In the APAC region the difference was even more marked – dropping by nearly half – from 120% of the economy seat price to just 55%.

Expedia puts these changes down to several factors, including a tightening of purse-strings on business travel, the increasing use of upgradeable airfares and the fact that economy fares tend to rise more quickly than premium anyway.

Interestingly, Expedia even suggests that social media could be playing a part in the narrowing fare gap. It says the change could be part of a marketing ploy to entice more “average” travellers to experience premium service with the hope they’ll Facebook, Instagram or Tweet from 35,000sqft and spread the word about what to expect at the front of the plane.

However, customers paying the very highest fares can expect the bar to be raised again as airlines try to out-do each other in the luxury stakes. Emirates and Etihad boast studio-like suites, butlers and private bedrooms, while lie-flat beds, a la carte menus and sophisticated entertainment systems, increasingly including Wi-Fi are commonplace both in the air.

But even before passengers get into the air, convenience and comfort are beginning to play a bigger role as technology and infrastructure advances create the possibility of “seamless travel”. The “seamless” ideal would be for a single booking to take the passenger from their home to and through the airport, onto and off the plane and to their destination hotel – preferably using ticketless, smartphone technology.

Oxford Economics’ report Shaping the Future of Travel, says that seamless travel exists in selective “bubbles” – for instance Schiphol and London Heathrow airports both boast their own rail terminals. Similarly, Singapore Airlines recently struck a deal with the Heathrow Express rail service and First Great Western trains for a fly-rail partnership. Schiphol also uses Bluetooth signals from mobile phones to determine how busy the airport is and whether it needs to take action to reduce check-in queues.

WTCE is the world’s largest event dedicated to travel catering, passenger comfort and buy-on-board products, making it the principal meeting place for professionals from across the air and rail travel industry to network and discuss new business partnerships.

The 2015 show brings together specialists offering a wide variety of products and services from across the globe, with over 50 new exhibitors already confirmed meaning visitors have the perfect opportunity to expand their business networks. Catering and onboard services represented include food and drink, passenger comfort, hygiene products, travel retail, packaging, galley equipment and more.

This year also sees the launch of the new Travel Retail Zone, reflecting the huge growth this sector has experienced in recent years. In this area buyers can meet with suppliers of sale-on-board items such as wines & spirits, cosmetics, perfume and toys, and discuss how they can boost their offering to appeal to the modern traveller. A company trail will also lead attendees to other exhibitors at the show with a travel retail offering, making it easy for delegates to target their visit and come away with plenty of inspiration.

Visitors can also take advantage of the Taste of Travel theatre where they can stay up to date with advancements in onboard services and travel catering. Some of the industry’s most sought after names will host live demonstrations, interactive presentations and sampling and tastings. Insights into key topics will also be explored, including vegetarian and vegan meals onboard, a tea masterclass and African cuisine.

The Passenger Experience Conference – Europe’s premier conference and networking forum for travel sector professionals – also returns to explore strategic issues around airline cabin innovation, traveller experience & expectations, and strategies to maximise onboard revenue.

WTCE is co-located with Aircraft Interiors Expo, the world’s largest event dedicated to sourcing the latest innovations, technologies and products for the cabin interiors, inflight entertainment and passenger comfort industries.

Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website | + Posts

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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