A REVOLUTION is underway in the skies, as airlines prepare to launch the next generation of in-flight innovations.
Showers, double beds, pizza and draft beer are among the special new features that are waiting in the wings, following the widespread introduction of flat beds, designer PJs and menus prepared by celebrity chefs.
Flight Centre’s executive general marketing manager Colin Bowman said the innovative additions would enable airlines to differentiate themselves and provide more choices in air travel.
“Travellers can expect more options in how, when and where we fly, especially in the business and first-class cabins, as airlines globally search for a new X factor,” said Colin.
Flight Centre has compiled a rundown on 10 of the latest developments in the sky:
Mile-high showers have arrived, with Emirates including two “Shower Spas” in front of the first class cabin on the upper deck of its A380s.
First class passengers are invited to make a shower spa appointment and “shower assistants” are on hand to prepare the room prior to each appointment. Exclusive shower kits are also provided.
Virgin Atlantic, V Australia and Emirates are among the airlines that have introduced in-flight communal bars for premium passengers who want to socialize or simply stretch the legs.
For those who prefer to stay in their seats, several airlines, including Emirates and Etihad, have also introduced personal mini-bars.
3) Meals on demand
If you’re hungry between scheduled meal times, you don’t have to fight those hunger pangs or make do with the complimentary peanuts.
Several airlines now offer meals on demand, a service that means you can order when you want. Singapore Airlines has also introduced a “book a cook” service on its flights from Sydney and Melbourne.
Customers are invited to select their choice from a range of Book the Cook dishes at least 24 hours before flight departure.
4) Double beds, bunks and couches
Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Virgin Atlantic are among the airlines that have introduced double beds. They are featured in various first class suites aboard SIA’s A380 aircraft, while Virgin introduced the beds in the Upper Class Suite of its Boeing 747-400 planes.
Air New Zealand recently launched an economy class option called the Skycouch, also dubbed “cuddle class”. The Skycouch design allows rows of three economy class seats to be converted to a large flat space suitable for families or for couples wanting to stretch out next to each other, couch-style.
According to Air New Zealand, more than 30 other airlines have already expressed interest in incorporating the seats into their planes in the future, but German airline Lufthansa has toyed with the idea of providing long haul travellers with economy class bunk beds.
5) Snooze Zone
Tired of being woken during a flight for a meal you didn’t want? Virgin Atlantic may have solved the problem with its Snooze Zone service.
The airline’s cabin crew members recognise that snooze zoners want to sleep, rather than eat, and do their bit to help by making up beds as soon as fasten seatbelt signs have been switched off, serving nightcaps and then leaving passengers to rest with the bare minimum of disruptions.
6) Next generation check-in
Qantas has just introduced its Next Generation Check-in system at various Australian with a view to dramatically reducing domestic check-in times for eligible customers.
By using new Qantas Club or Frequent Flyer cards with “intelligent Q” chip technology, customers can reportedly be checked into their flights within seconds.
7) Airport transfers
Airlines are also taking airport transfers to new heights, with Virgin Atlantic recently announcing that some passengers travelling in its Upper Class cabin now had access to a helicopter transfer service when flying in and out of Tokyo central.
According to the airline, the total journey time is 30 minutes, including 15 minutes in the air, compared to 70 minutes by train.
Leggy passengers don’t necessarily need to squeeze in to a typical economy class seat any more, with many airlines, including Virgin Blue and Jetstar, now allowing travellers to buy additional legroom.
Frontier Airlines, a Denver-based carrier, has also allocated the first four rows of economy seats to a new “STRETCH” seating area.
9) Pizza or a draft beer?
In-flight meal and drink options are hotter than before, even “giving customers the opportunity to have steak cooked the way they want it, fresh pizza and burgers, or toast with eggs” aboard flights. Air New Zealand recently announced that it was the first commercial airline to introduce induction ovens in all cabins.
Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) announced in July 2010 that it would become the first airline in the world to offer draft beer in-flight.
Specially designed kegs were installed to allow the draft beers to be served on selected ANA domestic flights.
10) In-flight entertainment (IFE)
Recent technological advances mean you can now tune in to pay TV, make mobile phone calls, send text messages, check email and surf the net in the air.
Many of the next generation innovations focus on iPads and iPhones, with Jetstar among the first airlines to make iPads available in-flight.
Airlines are also experimenting with new systems that allow you to create a customized movie, music and reading library before you travel.
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