The mere thought of air travel can elicit a wide range of emotions —excitement, anxiety, fear and of late, shock. Despite the recent incident on board a United Airlines flight that exposed customer service at its worst, many airlines have taken the opposite approach in the wake of stiff competition in order attract and retain first and business-class passengers. Here are some innovative ways that some of the premier airlines aim to garner both your attention—and your lifetime loyalty—when you fly.
Ranked by millions of reviewers from Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards as the best airline in the world for 2017, Emirates offers a five-star luxury hotel experience. Right before the new year, Emirates launched new comfort products including the world’s first moisturizing lounge wear designed for an airline, luxury blankets, skincare from VOYA, and a new range of amenity kits from Bulgari. Those traveling in suites who like feeling squeaky clean can book a 30-minute session in one of the onboard showers. Coming July 2017: a newly designed bar on board the A380.
Singapore Air flies neck and neck with Emirates and Qatar in the category of creature comforts—which is why it is no surprise that the airline ranked second on Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards list. Earlier this year, the airline announced a new strategic partnership with French crystal glass company Lalique to replace the amenities currently provided to passengers traveling in suites and first-class. Come mid-2017, Singapore Airlines will launch its all-new Airbus A380. Newly situated on the upper deck, the suites will no longer come with an onboard shower. A revised layout will accommodate much more space as the airline continues to focus on service and reliability.
There is no free ride—unless you were one of the lucky ones who spotted one of the zero-fare “Golden Tickets” the airline hid on its online flight schedule earlier this year. Qatar pampers its clientele with BRICS amenity kits, sleeper suits and slippers, and other upscale tchotchkes by Italian designer Giorgio Armani. Passengers relax in ultra-wide seats made of the softest fabric that double as fully flat beds. Those hankering for delicacies other than caviar can dine on signature dishes inspired by celebrity-chefs. Aboard Qatar’s A380 is the airline’s impressively stocked bar that serves both first and business class passengers in an open, spacious area. Among the many perks is sparse foot traffic and (rumor has it) free Krug Champagne.
The Residence—a private three-room suite billed as a “penthouse in the sky”— is Etihad’s first-of-its-kind, proprietary offering for passengers making the long haul from New York City to Mumbai. Replete with a butler and a turndown service for the luxury bedding, passengers can indulge in freshly-made meals prepared by an onboard chef as they catch up on their latest shows on a 32-inch flat screen television. Passengers can travel down the hall (yes, a hall) to a private bedroom and bathroom which includes a shower. And did we mention the personal mini-bar? A one-way ticket goes for approximately $38,000.
Several forward-thinking airlines strive to provide an improved overall customer experience for passengers of all classes. Here are some in-flight novelties that are generating serious momentum.
Quantas was the first airline to offer an in-flight virtual reality entertainment experience. Other airlines, such as XL Airways, have jumped on the bandwagon with others in fast pursuit.
Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to enhance a passenger’s in-flight experience and combat jet lag by installing LEDs inside the cabin. Since 2015, Icelandair’s Boeing 757 has displayed the northern lights inside Hekla Aurora’s main cabin and also on the aircraft’s exterior.
Companies like Gentherm and Panasonic are partnering with the airlines to optimize comfort during flights through personalized environmental controls. Taking a cue from the car industry, manufacturers will use heating and cooling technology to customize passenger seats, cup holders, interior panels and sleeping quarters for overnight flights.
By Shana Martin
Feature Photo: Qatar Airlines first-class seats