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Passenger Experience Conference

Existing industry constraints challenged at the 2014 Passenger Experience Conference

A key theme which emerged from the opening two plenary sessions at the 2014 Passenger Experience Conference was the need for the industry as a whole to expand its existing thought envelope and challenge preconceived constraints to improve the passenger experience.

Key industry experts and stakeholders from across the aircraft interiors sector were packed into the CCH – Congress Centre Hamburg to discuss contemporary issues such as cabin innovation, consumer expectations and strategies for profitability within the cabin. A key theme which emerged from the opening two plenary sessions was the need for the industry as a whole to expand its existing thought envelope and challenge preconceived constraints to improve the passenger experience.

The opening plenary – entitled ‘The Future for Passenger Experience’ – included engaging insights from Mehmet Buyukkaytan, Senior Vice President of Ground Operations at Turkish Airlines, and Daniel Kerrison, Vice President Inflight Product at flydubai. The former highlighted the need for airlines to embrace an holistic approach. “Issues that go wrong at airports are always blamed on airlines… it is important [for carriers] to integrate with airport operators, security staff and immigration officials”. An example of this approach currently being trialed by Turkish Airlines at Istanbul airport is its Bluetooth 4.0 product, which uses push notifications to engage with passengers upon arrival at the airport to inform them about updates in flight information, airport services and special offers in an effort to improve the overall travel experience.

Similarly Daniel Kerrison urged the audience to look beyond existing industry norms in order to offer passenger’s an offering which resonates with the agile and interconnected world of the information age. flydubai covers a diverse catchment area which includes 2.5 billion people – one third of the world’s population – predominantly using one aircraft type, consequently Mr Kerrison was keen to stress the importance of agility and innovation regarding the passenger experience. “As the pace of innovation accelerates in the consumer market, the challenge for our industry is not only to keep up but to catch up”.

In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) received significant attention in this regard. Mr Kerrison welcomed the benefits of the FTTS (Fibre-To-The-Screen) Lumexis IFE system operated by flydubai, which was a third of the weight and half the cost of competitive products at the time the carrier sourced the service. The system was also the only provider who could deliver High Definition (HD) content simultaneously to all passengers on account of its fibre optic, rather than copper or WiFi, backbone. However his praise was tempered by the lack of choice currently available to airlines. “The consumer electronics business is far more progressive than the IFE market. We are currently installing equipment that none of us would be willing to use in 8-10 years’ time… We need to work with suppliers who share our values, who challenge the status quo and who refuse to accept mediocrity”.

After a short coffee break the morning’s second plenary session – ‘Challenging the status quo – new directions for the passenger experience’ – heard the thoughts of Michael Robinson, Chief Executive & Design Director at ED Design, and Devin Liddell, the Principal Brand Strategist at Teague. This conceptual session was moderated by Blake Emery, Director of Differentiation Strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, who set the tone by asking the audience to change their approach to the cabin interior. “One of the biggest existing innovative challenges is trying to get more seats in the airplane without hurting the passenger experience. We will never improve the passenger experience if our sole focusing is restricted to not harming it – our focus has to shift”.

This theme was developed by Michael Robinson; who suggested that the post baby-boom, fully digitised generation will demand a lot more from the aircraft interiors industry within the next 10 years. Devin Liddell subsequently offered a potential solution in the form of collaborative co-branding ventures; designed to create an improved passenger experience as airlines leverage strategic collaborations to produce a unique service offering. “We need new ways to differentiate our brands, there are too many similarities”. Mr Liddell went on to point out that the world’s most recognised airline ranks only 234th in the top 500 global list of brands; a reality which needed to change.

The morning’s second plenary session closed with a Discussion Panel which included Dr Mark Hiller, Chief Executive Officer Recaro, Christopher Mondragon, Senior Manager of Brand and Design Development at Thales, Toby Smith, General Manager,Product, at Cathay Pacific Airways as well as Messrs Robinson and Liddell. The general thoughts of the discussion were well surmised by Mr Mondragon: “It is important to move away from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ operating concept. We need to adapt to the interconnected, digital world to provide a really unique, personalised experience”.

“It was really good to see such a packed conference hall”, said Aircraft Interiors Expo Event Director Katie Murphy. “So many fresh ideas were discussed and it was encouraging to see such an interactive audience; delegates really took advantage of the unique opportunity to engage with the leading experts in our industry”.  

Photo caption: A packed CCH  – Congress Centre Hamburg.

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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.