The inaugural FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List – launched as part of the “FTE Year of Innovation” to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Future Travel Experience – is an independent initiative that identifies the 25 airline employees who are most empowered to enhance the end-to-end passenger experience, both at their own airline and on a global scale by driving up customer experience benchmarks.
All of the figures on the Power List are ultimately responsible for the end-to-end customer experience within their respective organisations, and have been identified based on a variety of factors, which can be viewed in detail at the bottom of this page. It is important to note that the Power List is not simply a list of today’s top 25 airline customer experiences, but rather a list of the top 25 individuals who have the ability, the experience and the tools at their disposal to considerably enhance the end-to-end customer experience.
In recognition of their important role in raising passenger experience benchmarks, every member of the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List will be granted a complimentary Golden Ticket to Future Travel Experience Global 2015 (9th-11th September, Las Vegas), which is the annual meeting place for those responsible for improving airline and airport customer experiences around the world to network, learn and seek inspiration for their next wave of product and service innovations.
#25 – Curtis Kopf, Vice President, Customer Innovation, Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines has a well-deserved reputation in the customer experience space, and its dedication to improving its product across the board shows no sign of waning. In fact, the dedicated Customer Innovation Department, established in 2013, ensures that customer experience gets the attention it deserves. In the past year, Alaska Airlines became the first US carrier to offer home-printed bag tags to simplify passengers’ experience on the ground, and more recently it has launched ‘Alaska Beyond’, an initiative that encapsulates the carrier’s efforts to create a unique in-flight experience. Ranging from wireless IFE with both free and paid-for content, and an artisan Alaska-inspired F&B offer, to custom-designed Recaro seats with personal USB power outlets and further investment in improving its highly regarded onboard hospitality, the Alaska Beyond project focuses on all elements of the in-flight experience. Near fleet-wide Wi-Fi, and the forthcoming rollout of Boeing’s Space Bins on the 737-900ER, which will increase cabin baggage space by up to 40% and help to combat passengers’ anxiety about whether or not there will be space for their cabin bag, also stand the carrier in good stead on the #PaxEx front. An order for six new 737-900ERs in February 2015 took the total number of aircraft on order to 79. With customer experience high up on the airline’s agenda, Alaska Airlines’ Vice President, Customer Innovation, Curtis Kopf, is #25 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#24 – Fiona Morrisson, Director, Customer Experience, LATAM Airlines Group
By far the largest airline group in South America in terms of passenger numbers, LATAM Airlines Group, the result of the 2012 merger between LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines, is focusing on North America and Europe as its strongest growth sources, with younger, more efficient wide-bodies at the heart of the strategy. In 2014 alone, more than $100 million was invested in digital projects to help improve the passenger experience across the Group. On the ground, the carriers’ smartphone apps were updated and mobile boarding passes were rolled out, while a partnership with YouTube now offers passengers content from the latter’s most popular channels to watch in-flight. A new wireless IFE service was also launched, enabling passengers to consume content via their own electronic devices. The Group’s digital strategy also includes a focus on empowering its workforce through new technology, so expect to read more on this in the coming months. Delivery of new A350s will play an important role in LATAM’s service improvement programme – LAN and TAM have 27 A350-900s on order and took delivery of the first of 10 new Boeing 787-9s in April – and will mark a milestone in the continuing integration of the two airlines, which will share the aircraft. As part of its growth plan, the Group announced in April 2015 that it has started feasibility studies to develop an international and domestic hub in the northeast of Brazil, with Fortaleza, Natal and Recife earmarked as potential locations. With annual passengers numbers pushing 70 million, LATAM Airlines Group has a real opportunity to lead the passenger experience charge in South America, which is why Fiona Morrisson, Director, Customer Experience, LATAM Airlines Group, is #24 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#23 – Bo Lingam, Chief of Operations and Planning, AirAsia Berhad
AirAsia Group carried 45.6 million passengers in 2014, and the brand that has reshaped air travel in Asia over the last decade or so continues to embrace innovation for the benefit of its passengers. Ranging from the recent introduction of fully automated self-service bag drop and home-printed bag tags, to the introduction of in-flight connectivity, AirAsia is very much at the forefront of innovation in a region that has seen a surge in low cost carriers. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes is a well-voiced supporter of all things self-service, so a much wider rollout of self-service solutions can surely be expected, as can investments in onboard products that will further differentiate the carrier from the crowd. As for growth, the expected expansion of subsidiaries in the likes of India and Thailand supports AirAsia’s vision to make affordable air travel as widely available as possible in Asia. AirAsia Berhad itself has been the launchpad for all of the Group’s most innovative passenger-focused initiatives to date, and that is likely to continue to be the case, which is why Bo Lingam, Chief of Operations and Planning, comes in at #23 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#22 – Tetsuo Fukuda, Executive Vice President, Customer Service and Products & Services, All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd
Investing in improving the passenger experience is not only part of ANA’s strategy to beat off competition from other carriers in Japan, but also the bullet train, which provides real competition on domestic routes. Almost 50 million travellers flew with ANA in 2014, and as the carrier attempts to build on that number, it has explicitly made reference to its plans to improve the end-to-end passenger experience. Many of the improvements can be seen onboard: the ongoing rollout of in-flight Wi-Fi, a 40% increase in IFE content, the launch of an in-flight infotainment portal, the addition of a Premium Economy class to more services within Asia, and a team-up with Mitsubishi on a new economy class seat are among them. In May 2015, the carrier’s first international Boeing 787-9 flight took place, bringing with it live TV as part of the upgraded IFE offering. In recent months, ANA has also invested in Skymark Airlines and Starflyer, expanding its domestic reach. Faced with intense competition within its home market, ANA has no alternative but to continue to invest in improving its passenger experience, which is why Tetsuo Fukuda, Executive Vice President, Customer Service and Products & Services, comes in at #22 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#21 – Stephanie Smitt Lindberg, Vice President Customer Journey, SAS
Scandinavian carriers have earned a reputation for being among the most forward thinking over the years, and SAS continues to display its #PaxEx credentials on the ground and up in the air. The carrier was the first in the industry to achieve IATA Fast Travel Platinum status in recognition of its investment in self-service processing, and more recently has invested in its inventive Café Lounge concept, which will be introduced at various Scandinavian airports. Recently updated apps, with Apple Watch compatibility and digital newspapers, also highlight the carrier’s willingness to satisfy its customers’ desire for an improved digital experience on the ground. There has been lots of activity in-flight, too. The long-haul fleet, namely the Airbus A330s and A340s, have been refurbished, with Wi-Fi, new seats and upgraded IFE among the highlights (travellers can even take an online tour using Google Street View). Onboard service has also been improved, with a restaurant-style experience introduced for SAS Business passengers. In addition to the improvements to the existing fleet, starting this year four new A330-300 Enhanced aircraft will be delivered, in addition to eight A350-900s. The new aircraft deliveries will help to support the carrier’s plans to build on the 27.3 million passengers it carried in 2014. With a track record for passenger-focused innovation and future growth aspirations, Stephanie Smitt Lindberg, Vice President Customer Journey, comes in at #21.
#20 – Paul Jones, Executive Manager Customer Experience, Qantas Airways
Qantas Airways has a rich history of passenger-focused innovation. Although its investments in #PaxEx initiatives may have been tempered by its financial struggles of late, the carrier knows that improving the passenger experience is vital to remaining relevant. Things like the introduction of virtual reality entertainment in select lounges and onboard some aircraft may seem like a bit of a gimmick, but investment in upgrading its A330 and Boeing 737-800 cabins, First Lounges, and embedded and wireless IFE offerings are helping to bring consistency to the fleet. On the Ground, Fast Travel Platinum status, auto check-in for domestic flights, an end-to-end app and Smart Security trials show that the carrier is serious about improving and differentiating the passenger experience. Each of these investments highlights the fact that passenger experience improvements can be made even in the most testing financial circumstances, and for that reason, Paul Jones, Executive Manager Customer Experience, is #20 on the Power List.
#19 – Reuben Arnold, Brand and Customer Engagement Director, Virgin Atlantic
The smallest airline on this list in terms of passenger numbers (6.2 million in 2014), Virgin Atlantic makes up for that fact with its original approach to creating memorable passenger experiences. The examples of recent passenger-focused innovation are rather unique: an industry pioneer for wearable technology and beacons, one of the first to sign up to Gogo’s new 2Ku high-speed connectivity solution to complement its latest-generation IFE, airport Clubhouses with the atmosphere of a private members club, and even selfie spots onboard its aircraft! Facial recognition flight information display screens are said to be on the list of technologies to explore next, further highlighting the inventive approach to improving passenger experiences. The recent introduction of its first 787-9, the first of 15 on firm order, only serves to enhance perceptions of its highly regarded onboard experience, helping Reuben Arnold, Brand and Customer Engagement Director, come in at #19 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#18 – Bjorn-Erik Barman Jenssen, Director Ground Operations and In-flight Services, Norwegian Air Shuttle
“Low cost” and “long haul” are words that rarely go together – AirAsia X and Jetstar provide a couple of exceptions – and Norwegian Air Shuttle shook up the industry with its launch of transatlantic services in 2013. The circumstances surrounding the launch of the services are still seen as controversial by some, but there can be no doubting its impact on the competitive transatlantic market. Although they are labelled “low cost”, these routes are served by an all-new fleet of Dreamliners – 17 have been ordered in total – which have received positive reviews from customers to date. As for its short-haul operations, orders for a total of 222 aircraft with both Airbus and Boeing three years ago form the basis of its fleet modernisation programme, but its existing passenger experience has gained many plaudits – from free onboard Wi-Fi and in-seat IFE-based F&B ordering, to its penchant for self-service processing. Passenger numbers increased by more than 3 million year-on-year to almost 24 million in 2014 and the load factor increased by 6% to 83% in Q1 2015. Its low-cost, long-haul operations are likely to grow and its mentality of not being afraid to do something different is unlikely to change, which is why Bjorn-Erik Barman Jenssen, Director Ground Operations and In-flight Services, comes in at #18 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#17 – Renee Smith-Valade, Vice President, Customer Experience, Air Canada
The Canadian flag carrier, which carried 38.5 million passengers in 2014, making it the fifth largest airline by passenger numbers in North America, has recently invested in a variety of initiatives aimed at improving the customer experience. Last year Air Canada became the first non-US airline to join TSA PreCheck, which allows its customers to enjoy expedited screening at US airports, and the PreCheck indicator has this year been added to its e-boarding passes to simplify the airport experience for more travellers. The recent launch of an Apple Watch app further highlights its focus on offering passengers the latest digital solutions. The onboard experience is also the subject of investment. A total of 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners will have been added to the airline’s fleet by 2019, and later this year the carrier is undertaking an extensive refurbishment of 12 Boeing 777-300ERs and six Boeing 777-200LRs, adding the new-look International Business Class and the brand new Premium Economy to guarantee a consistent international experience. Air Canada’s wholly owned subsidiary, the leisure carrier Air Canada rouge, is also receiving a Business Class upgrade, with the existing 3×3 configuration replaced with more spacious 2×2 configured Business Class seat on 20 Airbus A319s. The clear desire to embrace digital developments and create a consistently high in-flight experience earns Renee Smith-Valade, Vice President, Customer Experience, #17 spot on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#16 – Aubrey Tiedt, Chief Customer Officer, Alitalia
Following the acquisition of a 49% stake in the Italian carrier by Etihad Airways in December 2014, customer experience was bound to be a major area of focus for Alitalia. When the first flight of the “new Alitalia” took off on 1 January 2015, the airline’s CEO said “our customers, who from now will be our guests, will be our inspiration”, and significant investment has already been made in upping the standards across the airline. A new customer-first culture has been introduced, Economy, Premium Economy and Business class cabins have been upgraded, staff are being trained in a new Customer Excellence Training Academy, a focus is being placed on traditional Italian hospitality with more personalised levels of service, and airport lounges are being upgraded, starting with Rome, Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate airports. Alitalia is exploring options with Etihad Airways to acquire additional wide-body aircraft, and the Italian carrier will also have opportunities to receive aircraft from Etihad Airways’ existing fleet order book, while increased connectivity with Etihad Airways, and close working partnerships with airberlin, NIKI, Air Serbia and Etihad Regional are also on the cards to increase customer choice across many markets. With a new business model based around creating outstanding customer experiences, Alitalia’s Aubrey Tiedt, Chief Customer Officer, comes in at #16 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#15 – James Ginns, Director Service Delivery, Cathay Pacific
Positioned very much at the full service end of the air travel market, the customer experience Cathay Pacific offers is a point of pride for the Hong Kong-based carrier. The airline operates an all-wide-body fleet of 146 aircraft, and since 2010, every aircraft in the fleet has received a cabin upgrade, and millions of dollars have been invested in upgrading its network of lounges. 48 A350s are on order, offering a chance for Cathay Pacific to further enhance its in-flight offer, and the US$28 billion order book also includes more than 40 more new aircraft. A big focus is placed on staff engagement and development, as well as service consistency, to ensure customer service levels match the premium brand. On the ground, last year saw the completion of a major investment in a Departure Control System upgrade, which will help the carrier support future uptake of self-service processing. A total of 31.5 million passengers in 2014 is some way off the figures posted by some of Asia’s biggest carriers, but ongoing investment in improving the passenger experience puts Cathay Pacific’s James Ginns, Director Service Delivery, at #15 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#14 – Mike Tod, Chief Marketing & Customer Officer, Air New Zealand
With passenger numbers around the 15 million mark, Air New Zealand may have limited reach, but there can be no doubting the carrier’s flare for passenger-focused innovation. The airline was the first to take delivery of the 787-9 Dreamliner late last year, and this aircraft alone, with its four-class configuration, which includes 14 rows of Economy Skycouch, and Android-based Panasonic eX3 IFE system with inventive features such as TripAdvisor integration, highlights the high level experience that travellers have come to expect to when flying Air New Zealand. Also, how can we forget the carrier’s fun, and now famous, safety videos featuring A-list celebrities! $100 million has also been spent on upgrading the 777-200ER fleet to bring the aircraft into line with what passengers can expect onboard the 777-300ERs and the new 787-9s, while last summer the carrier confirmed the purchase of 13 new A320neos. Investment in its digital products and the upgrade of airport lounges is also helping to ensure that the passenger experience on the ground matches that in the sky; another reason why Mike Tod, Chief Marketing & Customer Officer, is #14 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#13 – Abigail Comber, Head of Brands & Customer Experience, British Airways
British Airways’ passenger numbers increased to 42 million in 2014 and the carrier continues to display welcome ambition to improve its customer experience. The airline is refurbishing the cabin interior and upgrading the IFE on 18 Boeing 747s, has undertaken a “radical makeover” of 95 short haul aircraft and has held discussions with Inmarsat about being the launch customer for its air-to-ground connectivity network in Europe. Improving things on the ground is a key area of focus too, and the British flag carrier is investing in its “Airport Futures” programme to drive passenger experience improvements in this space. The development and subsequent trial of a permanent electronic bag tag highlighted the extent of these ambitions, but while we wait for further progress in this space, the widespread rollout of self-tagging and uptake of a baggage delivery service at London City Airport provide further examples of how BA is trying to simplify the travel experience. The fact that British Airways was among the first airlines to launch an Apple Watch app and make its smartphone app Apple Pay compatible also displays its digital spirit. As for future fleet upgrades, 18 A350-1000s are on firm order for British Airways, to support the fleet modernisation strategy. This focus on improving the end-to-end passenger experience earns Abigail Comber, Head of Brand and Customer Experience, the #13 spot on the #PaxEx Power List.
#12 – Pee Teck Tan, Senior Vice President Product & Services, Singapore Airlines
Symbolised by the famous “Singapore Girl”, Singapore Airlines’ hospitality is widely regarded as among the very best in the industry. Passenger comfort is a key priority, and investments across the board highlight the carrier’s desire to improve the travel experience at every opportunity. Recently, $150 million has been invested in upgrading the Boeing 777-300ER cabins, “Home Away From Home” lounges are being rolled out, and A380 and B777-300ER aircraft have been retrofitted with onboard connectivity. Investment in a new customer experience management system, the planned rollout of tablets for crew and the launch of new apps for smartphones and the Apple Watch also highlight the airline’s plans to improve the digital experience and further personalise the passenger experience. Four A330-300s, five A380-800s and three 777-300s are currently on order, as are 70 A350-900s, the first of which will enter service later this year, around a similar time to the introduction of the airline’s new Premium Economy product. Bearing all of this in mind, Pee Teck Tan, Senior Vice President Product & Services, is #12 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List, and could well have been further up the list had the airline’s annual passenger numbers been higher than the 2014 figure of 22 million.
#11 – Joachim Schneider, Vice President – Product Management, Lufthansa
Lufthansa Passenger Airlines carried 77.5 million passengers in 2014 and the German flag carrier has been active of late, rolling out wireless IFE, undertaking a long-haul First and Business Class retrofit, and installing onboard Wi-Fi and a Premium Economy cabin as it invests in its onboard product. A leading advocate of Common Use Passenger Processing Systemm (CUPPS), Lufthansa has long led by example when it comes to simplifying the travel experience on the ground through self-service, while fast track lanes, family check-in desks, a meet and assist service, and an RFID-enabled home-printed bag tag further highlight the airline’s willingness to invest in improving the end-to-end experience. As Lufthansa continues to work towards achieving its ambition of “becoming the first five-star airline in the western hemisphere”, Joachim Schneider, Vice President – Product Management, is #11 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#10 – Jimmy Samartzis, Vice President, Customer Experience, United Airlines
With 138 million passengers carried in 2014 and an active mainline fleet of more than 700 aircraft, United Airlines, like the other legacy carriers in the US, has huge reach when it comes to the total number of passenger experiences it can make or break on any given day. Over the last couple of years, the airline has displayed a welcome willingness to empower passengers through investments in services like self-tagging and self-boarding, and the carrier boasts one of the best airline apps around, with mobile passport scanning and ground Uber integration complementing more common staples, such as real-time journey updates. It is also investing significantly in enhancing its network of Club lounges to improve the airport experience for premium passengers. In the sky, passenger-focused innovations are aplenty, too. It has one of the most well equipped international and domestic fleets in the world and will soon offer Wi-Fi across its entire international fleet, with the exception of the 787-8s, and passengers can stream IFE via the iOS app. United was the first North American carrier to take delivery of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which came equipped with line-fit Wi-Fi, and it is investing in next-generation aircraft such as 777-300ERs and A350-1000s to support its fleet modernisation programme. All of this puts Jimmy Samartzis, Vice President, Customer Experience, at #10 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#9 – Michel Pozas Lucic, Vice President Corporate Strategy & Innovation, Air France-KLM
When it comes to innovation, Air France-KLM is often at the forefront, especially in terms of improving the passenger experience on the ground. NFC boarding pass trials, development of a permanent bag tag concept, a single passenger token project and ongoing investment in robotics are just a few examples of how the carrier is willing to break new ground to help the industry improve the passenger experience. These projects are, of course, the result of a wider team effort and some of Lucic’s colleagues, including the likes of Manuel van Lijf, Director Product Innovation, Air France-KLM, have played a vital role in turning these ambitious ideas into reality. In-flight enhancements are also easy to come by, despite the carrier’s recent cost cutting exercise, which has seen the deferral of the delivery of some new aircraft deliveries, namely 10 Boeing 777s. Air France’s high-end La Première cabin, revamp of Business and Economy products on its A319 and A320 aircraft, and a trial of onboard Wi-Fi alongside Orange provide evidence. As for KLM, beacon-based wayfinding, baggage tracking devices, an upgrade to 777-200 cabins, customer service via WhatsApp and an inventive in-flight gifting service help the carrier stand out. For the third largest airline group in Europe, having carried 77.5 million passengers in 2015, Air France’s recent profit warnings may have caused some alarm, but the willingness to continue to invest in creating an enviable passenger experience places Air France-KLM Group’s Michel Pozas Lucic, Vice President Corporate Strategy & Innovation, and the person now responsible for the Group’s end-to-end customer experience, at #9 on the Power List.
At FTE Global 2015 (9th-11th September, Las Vegas), Tina Bergsma, Vice President International Stations, Air France-KLM will deliver an ‘On the Ground’ keynote address entitled: ‘How Air France-KLM is leveraging biometrics, robotics, beacons, wearables and e-tags to create a seamless airport experience. What has the airline learned so far and what does it have planned next?’
#8 – Joanna Geraghty, Executive Vice President, Customer Experience, JetBlue
It may only be the fifth-largest US carrier as measured by annual passenger numbers, but JetBlue Airways is punching above its weight when it comes to passenger experience power. The list of recent #PaxEx innovations is too long to list in full, but among the highlights are the launch of what is widely regarded as the industry’s best onboard Wi-Fi solution to date, the introduction of the “Mint” premium product featuring private suites and lie-flat seats (all the more impressive given JetBlue’s status as a low-cost carrier) and, more recently, becoming the first airline to allow onboard purchases via Apple Pay. A first-of-its-kind wireless IFE partnership with Amazon also highlights the carrier’s willingness to lead the crowd, rather than follow the flock. Staff have also been empowered thanks to the rollout of iPad minis, while an auto check-in trial, the state-of-the-art arrivals concourse at New York’s JFK International Airport, and an app that features city guides, IFE schedules and digital postcards serve to highlight the importance placed on improving the end-to-end travel experience. Over the next eight years, JetBlue is scheduled to take delivery of three A320s, 44 A321s, 30 A320neos, 30 A321 neos and 24 Embraer 190s, helping to keep down the fleet’s average age and ensure a consistent experience across all aircraft. Given JetBlue’s track record for taking the lead on passenger experience improvements, we expect to see many more “industry firsts” in the coming months and years, which is why Joanna Geraghty, Executive Vice President, Customer Experience, is #8 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#7 – Gil West, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Delta Air Lines
Investment in latest-generation aircraft, high-speed onboard Wi-Fi, wireless IFE, premium flat beds for all wide-body aircraft and equipping every flight attendant with a tablet are just a selection of the reasons why Delta Air Lines earned a place on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List. Having carried 170 million passengers in 2014 – a number bettered only by American Airlines – Delta Air Lines has the power to impact more passenger experiences than all but one of the world’s airlines. Delta offers Wi-Fi on more domestic daily flights than any other carrier in the US and a deal with Gogo to install the 2Ku service will see peak connectivity speeds reach 70 Mbps when it is introduced on 250 aircraft next year. It’s not only about the in-flight experience, though, as is highlighted by the real-time baggage tracking service and the domestic “Bags on Time” promise, which states that no domestic passenger will wait more than 20 minutes for their bag upon arrival. The carrier also offered significant input during the development of a permanent bag tag concept by SkyTeam partner Air France-KLM. With 25 A350-900s and the same number of A330neos recently added to the fleet plan, Delta is also continuing to invest in its fleet renewal programme, which started in 2011. All of this puts Gil West, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer at #7 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#6 – Calum Laming, Vice President Guest Experience, Etihad Airways
The youngest airline to feature on the Power List, Etihad Airways’ fleet expansion plans, appetite for innovation and fast-growing passenger numbers place it high on the list. The airline carried just shy of 15 million passengers in 2014, but that marked a 23% increase on the previous year, and similar growth is expected in the years ahead. Last year’s unveiling of its A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft, including the game-changing three-room premium apartment labelled “The Residence by Etihad”, highlighted the extent of the carrier’s ambition to create a unique passenger experience, and to live up to its tagline: “flying reimagined”. From the First Suites to the Economy Smart Seat, and the world-class IFE to the Flying Nannies, Etihad places onboard passenger experience at the top of its agenda. Over the next decade, the carrier is scheduled to take 200 new passenger aircraft deliveries, including nine A380s and 70 Boeing 787s, in addition to 62 A350s and 33 A320 family aircraft, allowing far more travellers to take advantage of the world class in-flight experience on offer. Passenger experience improvements aren’t unique to what happens onboard, though. Simplifying the experience on the ground is also on the agenda, and the preclearance for passengers flying from Abu Dhabi provides a great example. In addition, as part of its efforts to train and attract the best staff, the carrier has a “Source Develop, Engage and Deliver” programme in place and offers a variety of employee support services. Following Etihad’s recent purchase of a 49% stake in Alitalia, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s premium tastes are expected to rub off on the Italian carrier, with wide-reaching product and service upgrades now in the pipeline, adding further weight to Etihad’s #PaxEx credentials. With forecasts pointing to a 20%-plus increase in passenger numbers for Etihad Airways again in 2015, Calum Laming, Vice President of Guest Experience, comes in at #6 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#5 – Akif Konar, Chief Commercial Officer, Turkish Airlines
Turkish Airlines’ total passenger numbers of 54.7 million during the full year 2014 represented a 13% year-on-year increase. Profits more than doubled in 2014 and the airline is now targeting a similar increase in passenger numbers this year, as it ultimately aims to reach the 120 million passengers mark by 2023. There’s no doubting the airline’s ambition – and rightly so given the fact that its growth will be supported by the development of Istanbul New Airport, a new hub in Istanbul that will eventually cater for 150 million passengers per year. The carrier has outlined its vision to create the world’s best passenger experience by combining new technology with Turkish hospitality. Following recent investments in beacons and IFE upgrades, it is currently investing in improving its website, app and customer relationship management infrastructure, while it has also stated that it will equip flight attendants with tablets to empower them and help improve onboard service levels. To support the airline’s growth strategy, huge investment is being made in expanding and modernising the fleet. In fact, the deal Turkish Airlines signed with Airbus in 2013 for 117 new aircraft was the biggest in Turkish Civil Aviation history, and it was quickly followed by an order for 50 Boeing 737 MAXs and 20 737s. A combination of increasing passenger numbers, future growth potential, lofty ambitions and financial might earns Akif Konar, Chief Commercial Officer, who is ultimately responsible for the end-to-end customer experience, a place on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#4 – Rossen Dimitrov, Senior Vice President Customer Experience, Qatar Airways
The battle for customer loyalty among the Middle East-based carriers continues to intensify, and a by-product of this battle is the continual improvement of the end-to-end passenger experience. This is a point aptly highlighted by Qatar Airways, which became the first carrier to take delivery of the Airbus A350 in December 2014 – the first of 80 A350s due to be added to the airline’s fleet – and more than 250 other aircraft are also on order, including 80 A320neo, 100 777X and 41 787-8 aircraft. In April 2015, Qatar Airways’ new Saudi Arabian subsidiary, Al Maha Airways, took delivery of its first four A320s, further expanding the carrier’s reach in the region. As one would expect from a five-star airline, Qatar Airways’ premium cabins offer a truly luxurious environment, while economy class passengers are offered a comfortable experience, with the latest generation IFE, and connectivity on A380, A350 and 787 services. Importantly, the airline holds a lot of power when it comes to the on the ground passenger experience, too. Its home airport, Hamad International Airport, is the first airport to be designed by an airline, and the carrier has recently rolled out home-printed bag tags, introduced advance baggage check-in and is taking part in Smart Security trials. The 10,000sqm Al Mourjan Lounge serves to highlight the scale of funding that is available to invest in creating a standout passenger experience. Qatar Airways, which carried 22 million passengers in 2014, certainly looks set to play an important role in redefining the passenger experience going forward, which is why Rossen Dimitrov, Senior Vice President Customer Experience, comes in at #4 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
Rossen Dimitrov is an official Event Ambassador for FTE Asia EXPO 2015, Asia’s biggest ever passenger experience expo, which will take place in Singapore from 17th-19th November, where he will offer insight into how Qatar Airways has created one of the industry’s most outstanding passenger experiences.
#3 – Kenny Jacobs, Chief Marketing Officer, Ryanair
Ryanair appearing on any pro-passenger experience list would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago, but such is the change in the airline’s mindset, Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, who is ultimately responsible for improving the passenger experience, comes in at number three on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List. The airline talks a good talk when it comes to passenger experience, but its inclusion on this list is down to the initiatives that have actually been implemented and the solid future passenger-focused investments that are planned, in addition to the carrier’s insistence that it aims not just to play catch-up, but to become a customer experience and digital leader in its own right. The sheer scale of the low-cost carrier’s reach – Ryanair carried 86.4 million passengers in 2014 and is hoping to become to the first EU airline to exceed the 100 million mark in a 12 month period in 2015/16 – adds to its passenger experience potential. This passenger growth is supported by the “Always Getting Better” programme, which has seen the launch of Ryanair’s first ever Customer Charter, a multi-million euro investment in setting up the technology-centric Ryanair Labs, development of native smartphone apps, a reduction in the much-criticised passenger fees and charges, development of a more personalised website and the launch of dedicated business and family products. With 183 737-800s and 200 737 MAX 200s on order, Ryanair plans to increase its fleet size from just over 300 aircraft today, to 500 in just four years time. In response to passengers’ insatiable appetite for onboard connectivity, it is trialling in-flight Wi-Fi and wireless IFE, and cabin interiors are being refurbished to create a more appealing and consistent product across the fleet, which boasts an average aircraft age of just 5.5 years. Thanks to its reputation of delivering on its passenger experience promises to date, the significant future growth potential, and the opportunity to shake things up by combining low fares with a high-ranking passenger experience, Ryanair Chief Marketing Officer Kenny Jacobs comes in at #3.
#2 – Robert Isom, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, American Airlines
The world’s largest airline since the completion of its merger with US Airways, American Airlines carried almost 200 million passengers in 2014 – more than any other airline in the world. Enhancing the customer experience is now very much a priority and the ongoing $2 billion investment programme not only covers new aircraft – in total, 112 aircraft will be delivered this year, and a further 84 in 2016 – but also refurbishing existing aircraft to create a more consistent passenger experience across the fleet, plus making improvements on the ground. Ranging from the premium “hotel in the sky” concept to wireless IFE and connectivity, and multi-million dollar lounge upgrades, modernised ticket counters, the planned installation of more than 400 additional self-service kiosks and investment in mobile and new technology such as beacons, American Airlines is making a concerted effort to improve the end-to-end passenger experience and has the financial power needed to turn its #PaxEx plans into reality. This huge investment, coupled with the unmatched reach in terms of overall passenger numbers, is what places American Airlines’ Robert Isom, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, at #2 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
#1 – Adel Ahmad Al Redha, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, Emirates
The world’s largest operator of the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777, Emirates prides itself of the high level of service offered in-flight and on the ground, regardless of which class a passenger is flying in. Evidence of this is everywhere: dedicated group and family services, leading smartphone and smartwatch apps and high-end airport lounges in key locations from London to Los Angeles are among the many highlights on the ground. The onboard offer is also the envy of many carriers. Onboard Wi-Fi is now widespread with 10MB offered for free and up to 500MB for just $1, plus there is the latest generation IFE with Audio Description soundtracks for visually impaired customers, live TV, premium private suites…the list goes on. To ensure staff can deliver the best possible level of service to customers the Emirates Aviation College provides tailored training programmes and the Journey Manager app has been developed to empower staff. Emirates’ undisputed financial power is clear and is highlighted by the fact that it is investing over US$20 million every year on installing and operating in-flight connectivity systems alone, and plans to offer unlimited onboard connectivity free of charge in the near future. The carrier’s order book stands at more than 280 aircraft – or US$138 billion – with the A380 remaining key to future growth. In fact, the carrier plans to increase its A380 fleet alone from 59 to 140 aircraft. Driven by the battle between the Middle Eastern carriers to offer the most luxurious onboard product possible, it is also reportedly preparing to launch its own premium bedroom-style cabin for the A380 and further details are expected to be made public later this year. In the financial year 2013/14, Emirates carried 44.5 million passengers, and this is expected to rise to around 50 million for 2014/15, highlighting the vast potential for future growth. Bearing all of this in mind, the man ultimately responsible for end-to-end service delivery, Adel Ahmad Al Redha, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, comes in at #1 on the FTE Airline #PaxEx Power List.
Power List criteria
Each member of the Power List has been selected based on a variety of factors, including: the extent to which the individual and airline have displayed fresh thinking to improve and differentiate their end-to-end offer (on the ground and in-flight); the extent to which passengers and staff are being empowered through new technology; efforts made to engage more closely with customers; recent passenger experience achievements and future plans; the airline’s customer experience reach in terms of passenger numbers and growth ambitions; the consistency of the passenger experience on offer; and the extent to which the individual and the airline are striving to create a unique customer experience that reflects both the carrier’s brand and heritage. In order to qualify for the Power List, individuals must be responsible for the end-to-end passenger experience.