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Love and Strife: Key Aviation Stories You Might Have Missed in February

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Due to my few posts last month, readers might assume that I took the month of February off to celebrate the birthday of the 747, which just happens to coincide with my own. I did. There was chocolate cake. But the celebration didn’t last all of February. During last month I produced a number of stories and special reports, which you might have missed.

The central theme for last month was Love and Strife. There were plenty of things to love happening in the aviation sector, which I was glad to cover, but it was also a month marked by the ongoing strife on Open Skies which generated a number of interesting stories but has yet to be resolved. Here’s a quick summary of all you may have missed.

Aviation Fashion Season kicked-off with Aircraft Interiors Middle East, which featured cabin product trends we can expect to see more of as the season progresses to its peak at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this April.

Saudia released an App which helps passengers access its free Wi-Fi without having to enter credit card details on a browser onboard. What’s not to love about FREE Wi-Fi.

Singapore Airlines revealed its long-awaited Premium Economy cabin. Its cool design is a departure from the rest of the cabin environment, generally characterised by warm tones, but the product could succeed in winning the hearts of fare-conscious travellers willing to spend a little more and is sufficiently differentiated from the airline’s Business class to keep Business class customers paying the higher fares. That’s the sweet spot.

I rated the Best Business class cabins by world region for Skift. All the Skift ratings were a considerable amount of work, but this one was treble. Preparing the Business class ratings required looking at a long list of airlines and an even longer list of variables, then ensuring that the points for each subtle category were a fair representation of the cabin product. It was labor-intensive and a little stressful. I loved every minute of it.

Not in time for those ratings, but better late than never, Korean Air debuted its new fresh Business Class Suites which use B/E Aerospace’s Apex suite structure. I have to say that I love this suite. I’ve always been a fan of B/E’s work–which doesn’t take away from my recognizing the excellent work by other players in the market—but B/E has some real winners on its seating portfolio. This Apex suite and the Super Diamond seat, which Virgin Australia selected for its Business class have a lot of advantages in their design to improve the passenger experience and look great when properly dressed up.

Miami International Airport debuted a new mobile passport app  following Atlanta’s debut of the same app last August. For now, these are the only two airports in the US offering an app-enabled short-cut through CBP. I love that Miami is one of two. After many years of having Miami International Airport as my home-base, I will always have a spot in my heart for that airport. I’m impressed by MIA’s commitment to technology as a tool to improve the travel experience.

Airlines and airports love their tech and have announced a plans to make travel significantly better over the coming years through the smart application of technology to improve systems and processes. They have also indicated a commitment to personalise the travel experience. I looked at statistics of planned improvements provided by SITA to grade both airlines and airports on their progress

JetBlue evidently loves Apple as it announced that it will equip its crew with Apple devices and introduce Apple Pay to improve its passenger experience.

For those who love to shop, aviation is eager to encourage the habit. Airports and airlines compete and make a nice revenue from tempting passengers to make time fly with a little shopping therapy.

But why do we shop so much when we travel? Some believe there’s an element of psychology to it, that our mindset when we travel is different from what it is when we’re at home. This travel mindset makes us more open to suggestion. You can read more about that theory and other ways in which airlines appeal to travelers in the Trends Report I prepared for Skift on Airline Content Marketing

Somewhere between love and strife is American Airlines. American has debuted its long-haul Dreamliner cabins  What American Airlines has done is strike a balance between comfort, attractiveness, durability and cost efficiencies. This is never an easy balance to make, but the airline has done so successfully. It’s hard to tell passengers in Economy that they’ll love sitting in 9-accross seats on a Dreamliner, so I won’t. There will be good entertainment to help make the journey better. The Business class cabin will offer the best passenger experience on this aircraft, without a doubt.

We must recognize that passenger demand for low fares drives all decisions in product configuration. Anyone who doesn’t want to sit in a 3-3-3 Dreamliner Economy, can always pay a higher fare to fly with an airline offering more room. There’s a lot more for me to say on this subject. Just not today. But I’ve covered the correlation between fares and cabin crowding before, so you can read my previous posts about why passengers love cheap fares and why the markets love cheap airlines.

As relations between the US and Cuba slowly improve, airlines are planning for renewed service to the island. JetBlue which already serves Havana with charter flights, added another flight to this charter service as part of its strong Caribbean strategy.

Delta is hot on the Caribbean and Latin American too, announcing that it will install Gogo’s 2Ku High-Speed In-Flight Connectivity on its fleet of narrowbody body aircraft serving the region.  Passengers headed south will be able to work and play to their heart’s delight.

And passengers on Etihad Airways obviously love staying connected when they fly. The airline experienced a massive spike of 80% in use of its connectivity services during 2014.

There was some strife between United Airlines and certain travelers who got too smart for their own good, booking riduclously low fares caused by a computer error which miscalculated the fare conversion to Danish Kroner. It was dirty dealing and the US Department of Transportation decided those scourers of fares too-good-to-be-true didn’t even deserve the courtesy of a private letter telling them to go fly a kite. It was brilliant.

The ultimate strife in today’s aviation marketplace has to be the argument over Open Skies between the US carriers and Gulf carriers. This debacle has pitted US tourism and US airports against the national carriers. When Delta’s CEO Richard Anderson demonstrated exceedingly poor judgment by linking Gulf carriers with the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Richard Quest’s segment on CNN, my arms flailed in characteristic Spanish fashion. This was disruptive to my typing. At the time, I was working on that major Airline Content Marketing Strategy Trends report, but Jason Clampet at Skift was all over this story. We’ll be hearing more on this topic of Open Skies for a while yet. It is one of the most critical debates facing our in many years and well worth following closely.

Whatever issue exists between US carriers and Gulf carriers, the US government has confidence in the Gulf region’s airlines and airports. The introduction of new biometric automated kiosks which help streamline the US Customs and Immigration Pre-clearance program at Abu Dhabi Airport is an excellent example of this.

To wrap up the month of February with plenty of love, let’s talk about the how the aviation industry blooms with the Chinese Spring Festival. The amount of people who travel around this season is astounding, with capitals left vacant as millions rush back home or go off on holiday to be with their loved ones for the Lunar New Year celebrations.

As we start off the month of March, I look forward to sharing more good stories with you. It’s going to be another busy month.

Featured Image: Enjoying the roominess of JAL’s Business class SKY Suite.

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