Nine organisations were last night recognised for their outstanding efforts to improve the passenger experience at the 4th Future Travel Experience Awards, which were presented at Future Travel Experience Global 2014 in Las Vegas.
The Future Travel Experience Awards are presented annually at the Future Travel Experience Global event. The Awards celebrate the outstanding efforts of organisations that have gone the extra mile to improve the passenger experience. Presented to the winners in the presence of their industry peers at the Gala Evening, the Awards recognise the most innovative, ambitious and effective initiatives and organisations. The winners are chosen through consultation with a panel of industry experts.
Best Check-in Initiative: United Airlines
United Airlines was presented with the ‘Best Check-in Initiative’ award for its development of a unique passport scanning function for its iOS and Android apps, which enables more passengers to make use of mobile check-in for international flights. United is the first carrier to offer such a service. To use the feature, travellers can simply access the app’s check-in function and scan their passport via the device’s camera. The passport information is then quickly verified by a credentials management company, allowing the passenger to then complete the check-in process and obtain their mobile boarding pass.
Best Baggage Initiative: Air France-KLM
Air France-KLM was presented with the award for ‘Best Baggage Initiative’ following the development and launch of a permanent, reusable bag tag and baggage tracking device concept. The electronic bag tag includes two e-ink displays and can be attached to the outside of the suitcase, while the electronic tracking device can be placed inside the luggage and can be tracked via smartphones through GSM, GPS and Bluetooth technology. Impressively, the carrier has developed the electronic tag and tracking device with the aim of creating something that can benefit the entire industry, rather than just Air France-KLM and its own customers.
Best Airport Security Initiative: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol was awarded the title of ‘Best Airport Security Initiative’ for the ongoing rollout of its new-look security screening lanes, which make use of innovative design to reduce waiting times. Each of the new security lanes has multiple preparation areas at the start, reducing the time spent waiting for the person in front to remove their jacket or their laptop from their bag, for instance, while bags that are selected for additional screening are separated from those that are deemed safe and secure, reducing delays caused by manual inspections. The security checkpoint, which is focused on making security a service, also has an improved ambience thanks to more open spaces, use of natural light and the inclusion of plants and trees.
Best Passenger Assistance Initiative: Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic won the award for ‘Best Passenger Assistance Initiative’ thanks to its groundbreaking adoption of Google Glass and the Sony Smartwatch in the Upper Class Wing at London Heathrow Airport. The airline was the first in the industry to undertake a passenger-facing wearable technology trial when it equipped agents with the devices to help enhance and personalise the passenger experience. During the initial trial premium passengers were personally greeted upon arrival at the Upper Class Wing by the Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch-equipped agents, who used the devices to start the check-in process and provide up-to-the-minute information such as flight status updates. The carrier has since announced that it plans to make Google Glass a permanent fixture following the success of the trial.
Best Immigration and Arrivals Initiative: U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was presented with the ‘Best Immigration and Arrivals Initiative’ award for the development of the world’s first Mobile Passport Control app. The app, which is initially available for iPhones and iPads, enables travellers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form via their personal device upon arrival at the airport, rather than having to wait for a CBP agent to submit the information on their behalf. Once the information has been submitted via the app, the traveller receives a QR code, which is then presented directly to the document verification officer.
Best Initiative at the Gate: Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines received the ‘Best Initiative at the Gate’ award for its forward-thinking rollout of iBeacons and smartwatches at Tokyo Haneda Airport’s Domestic Terminal 1. iBeacons, which use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and geofencing technology to trigger the display of location-relevant information on nearby devices, were installed at each boarding gate in the terminal and they were used to pinpoint the location of the airline’s boarding gate staff via their electronic devices. By equipping staff with smartwatches, Japan Airlines’ control desk was also able to assign tasks to specific team members based on their exact location, helping to improve efficiency.
Best Up in the Air Experience: Etihad Airways
Etihad Airways was presented with the ‘Best Up in the Air Experience’ award, which recognises the airline that has gone the extra mile to provide an industry-leading in-flight experience. In December 2014, the airline’s all-new Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner will enter service, helping the carrier stand out in an ultra-competitive environment. The A380 will include the first-of-its-kind ‘Residence by Etihad’ – a three-room luxury onboard apartment with a reclining sofa, 82-inch long bed, en-suite shower room, 32-inch flat screen TV and a personal butler. The B787 will include private First Apartments, including an 81-inch long bed, a 24-inch TV, a wardrobe and an armchair. Both aircraft types will offer private First Suites with an 80.5-inch long bed, dining table and 24-inch TV; a Business Studio with an 80-5-inch fully-flat bed, 18-inch TV, a pneumatic comfort system to adjust the firmness of the seat with an in-seat massage function; and the Economy Smart Seat with a fixed wing headrest, adjustable lumbar support, 11-inch TV screen and personal power outlets. Across the carrier’s existing fleet, travellers in all classes can also enjoy a range of other amenities ranging from the ‘Flying Nanny’ onboard childcare service and next-generation in-flight entertainment, to onboard menus created by a hand-selected team of world-class chefs. The carrier has also made a concerted effort to personalise the in-flight experience– even in Economy Class, gifts such as chocolates and cards are left on passengers’ seats to mark special occasions – while onboard Wi-Fi is also being rolled out.
Best Up in the Air Initiative: Emirates
New for 2014, the ‘Best Up in the Air Initiative’ award was presented to Emirates, which recently became the first airline to offer Audio Description soundtracks on its in-flight entertainment content, making onboard movies more accessible to visually impaired passengers. At present, 16 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures movies include Audio Description, which offers a recorded narration explaining the scene during gaps in dialogue. The welcome initiative marks an important step forward in the drive to improve the onboard experience for passengers with visual impairments, and the airline has already outlined its intention to extend the service to cover more content.
Best Mobile Technology Initiative: American Airlines
American Airlines received the ‘Best Mobile Technology Initiative’ award for its rollout of iBeacons to assist with wayfinding in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s Terminal D. The project was the industry’s first major deployment of iBeacons in an airport terminal. Users of the American Airlines app can choose to receive automatic notifications and directions to their gate via their smartphone or tablet when they are in the terminal, while the technology also presents significant retail opportunities.