Aeroporti di Roma, Finnair, FraAlliance, KLM, Avinor, Lufthansa, Hamad and more shortlisted for FTE Innovate Awards

Future Travel Experience is delighted to announce the shortlisted airlines, airports, vendors and startups in the FTE Innovate Awards, which will be at the epicentre of the co-located FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing events, taking place in Dublin on 23-25 May 2023. There are three awards categories: Finnair, KLM and Lufthansa are shortlisted for Most Innovative Airline Initiative; Aeroporti di Roma, Avinor, FraAlliance and Hamad International Airport are shortlisted for Most Innovative Airport Initiative; and DRCT, Lufthansa Innovation Hub, MPASS and UCPlaces are shortlisted for Best New CX Concept.

Each of the shortlisted entrants will pitch on-stage in Dublin in an effort to impress our judges and audience, whose all-important votes will decide who wins. Find out more about the shortlisted initiatives and concepts.

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Most Innovative Airline Initiative shortlist

Finnair’s elevated long-haul experience

Finnair’s elevated long-haul experience is a complete re-think of the cabin experience and delivers an all-new concept for Business Class seating.

The AirLounge, designed in collaboration with PriestmanGoode and Tangerine, and engineered and manufactured by Collins Aerospace, is described as a seat unlike any other currently flying. Actuation and recline has been replaced with a large contoured shell to give back more living space to the customer and create an “at home lounge-like space”.

Two panels come up to form a very large and wide bed to deliver a leading sleep experience. Partnering with Finnish design house Marimekko, Finnair provides two pillows for seat and sleep comfort, plus a mattress and duvet.

It’s not often a completely new Business Class seat comes to the market, let alone a seat that is a completely different concept. The airline explains: “While there have been concepts in the past of similar elements, such as fixed space living, we at Finnair believe we are the first to actually deliver on this and deliver the concept to reality.”

KLM’s ‘Bold Moves’ sustainability initiative

In 2021 a core team of sustainable aviation enthusiasts started the ‘Bold Moves’ initiative at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which resulted in the eventual creation of the Sustainable Flight Challenge that is now orchestrated by SkyTeam.

KLM highlights some impressive figures:

  • “15% better than ourselves: Operational improvements (route and maintenance optimisation, eco-piloting, weight reduction) measured through average CO2 intensity (CO2/RTK) of thrust-specific fuel consumption (TSFC) flights compared to our own baselines.”
  • “32.7% better than industry average (28.9% excluding Sustainable Aviation Fuel): Through technological improvements (64% operated with latest-generation aircraft) and use of uplifted Sustainable Aviation Fuel, measured through average CO2 intensity (CO2/RTK).”
  • “4.4% total CO2 reduction (while increasing RTK production by 20.6%): On average per flight over the 19 TSFC flights compared to our own baselines.”

Through the Sustainable Flight Challenge, KLM is challenging itself to innovate and find as-yet undiscovered solutions that can be put into practice across the industry, helping to create a more sustainable future.

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Lufthansa’s Metaverse and Extended Reality innovation

While many people are currently talking about the Metaverse and Extended Reality (XR), Lufthansa has applied the idea and technology to add value in marketing, training and cabin design use cases.

Starting in October 2022, Lufthansa with its partners and RAUM – and with the support of Meta – developed different use cases, using cutting-edge technology to deliver value for the product launch of the new Lufthansa Allegris and Swiss Senses long-haul product.

Lufthansa Allegris was launched on 28 February 2023. In parallel to the real-world product launch in Berlin, Lufthansa performed a virtual product launch in the Metaverse for top customers from the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions that could not make it to Berlin. In two 75-minute events, customers were able to experience and interact with the new Lufthansa Allegris seats, as well as a full cabin in Business and First Class.

Attendees at the co-located FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing events, will hear more on how Lufthansa is leveraging the Metaverse with Mixed Reality to champion new product offerings. Dr. Björn Becker, Head of Program Future Intercont Experience, Lufthansa Group, will deliver a case study alongside Bastian Schütz, Product & Business Development, Meta Reality Labs and Camillo Stark, Deputy Managing Director (AR/VR Labs), There will also be dedicated space in the exhibition where attendees can take a VR headset, enter Lufthansa’s Metaverse event location or the Mixed Reality full-scale model of the cabin, and experience Allegris for themselves.

Most Innovative Airport Initiative shortlist

Aeroporti di Roma’s Open Innovation Model

Aeroporti di Roma (ADR), a Corporate Partner of the FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub, is a pioneer in both airport and aviation innovation. It has developed an Open Innovation Model with the mission to create a digital, reliable, data-driven and sustainable airport.

In 2022, ADR created its Innovation Hub – a dedicated 650sqm space for startups to design and implement their innovation ideas, located in Rome Fiumicino Airport’s Terminal 1.

With the aim to create an innovative company mindset, ADR also created the Innovation Cabin Crew – a group of 29 experts from ADR’s business units and controlled companies, who are the direct owners of the know-how for the startups both in terms of mentoring and business effectiveness.
ADR launched and promoted an international network of airports – named Airport for Innovations – with the aim to promote innovation and startup services among all the worldwide partner airports.
Meanwhile, in order to close the circle with the startups, ADR launched ADR Ventures, with the purpose to realise equity investments in international seed, pre-seed, early-stage start-ups focused on aviation, travel and sustainability.

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Avinor’s next-generation baggage handling system

Avinor is shortlisted for improving and developing a next-generation baggage handling system. This sorts baggage to load cells by batches pulled from a dynamic bag storage. Loading and transportation between the load cells and aircraft is performed by semi and fully automatic loading systems. Transportation is by an automatic logistic system operating autonomous vehicles.

The new system improves traceability, efficiency and capacity for airport, airline and ground handling services. It is currently under construction, with tests so far providing data that demonstrates high efficiency and improved ground handling operations. The full system is set to be operational by Q2 2024.

Avinor explains that the highest impact will be on reduced cost and improved traceability and efficiency for the airlines. This direction of innovation has brought industry stakeholders together to take responsibility for a common development in a more cost-efficient and improved direction.

FraAlliance’s Lab Gate for “testing innovative and surprising experiences”

FraAlliance – a joint venture between Fraport and Lufthansa – opened Lab Gate in mid-January 2023. The 50sqm area at Gate B43 in Frankfurt Airport’s Terminal 1 is “a multifunctional, dedicated area for quick testing of innovative and surprising experiences, products and services with direct customer feedback”.

The first two projects have been successfully launched:

  • As part of the FRAwards #B43 campaign, using a gamification approach, passengers can pass the time with mini-games. By registering on the platform, they gain points for playing these games, which they can exchange for discount coupons that can be redeemed at participating partners such as the online duty free platform Compensaid, or the Lufthansa Worldshop and the CAPI Electronic Store located in Terminal 1.
  • The Lab Gate is also used to test new technologies for passenger flow and behaviour measurement. In parallel to the gamification case, a LiDar (Light imaging, Detection and Ranging) solution is being tested. This is a method for determining ranges by targeting an object or a surface with a laser and measuring the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver. Using defined KPIs and dashboards, it is possible to evaluate how many potential Lab Gate visitors are moving through the areas within and around the Lab Gate, how many of them stop in front of the Lab Gate, and how many passengers spend where and how much time in the Lab Gate.
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Hamad International Airport’s Digital Twin platform

Hamad International Airport has a large number of systems, assets and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Historically, optimal decision-making has been difficult due to data silos – these have been broken down by integrating the wide variety of data into a single Digital Twin platform.

This has an intuitive 3D airport interface. It is capable of ingesting, processing and displaying information and recommendations from many systems and sensors.

The Digital Twin platform filters information noise by providing contextual data, performs analytics, provides holistic situational awareness and intelligent recommendations, and delivers data-driven decision-making.

It runs in the Aviation Operations Control Centre and Facilities Maintenance control rooms and has been upgraded with Artificial Intelligence/Computer Vision features.

According to Hamad International Airport, the Digital Twin is pioneering the future of airport management and tackling longstanding issues of sub-optimal decision-making, due to insufficient information, while accelerating the adoption of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to make complex data analysis into simple recommendations, ushering in a new era of efficiency. The programme also incorporates data from ground handlers and airlines into the airport Digital Twin, which is a breakthrough in aviation stakeholders working together to drive benefits for all parties.

Best New CX Concept shortlist

DRCT’s NEO solution to engage next-gen customers

DRCT is an IATA-recognised technology provider of distribution solutions. Its research found that most airlines’ websites lag behind in e-commerce solutions and other important features essential for younger, next-gen customers.

In response, the DRCT team started building NEO – a solution for airlines that features a B2C channel allowing them to engage with next-gen customers through an airline-branded native app and website, improving the overall CX with the carrier.

DRCT NEO aims to meet the needs of the next-gen, composed of Millennials and Gen Z. The platform is based on five pillars – easy-to-buy, self-service, mobile-friendly, payments, and support – to help airlines satisfy these customers, and increase retention and sales.

The airline creates a subdomain website for NEO. DRCT takes the airline product (tariffs and ancillaries) and adjusts them to the user needs on the airline-branded website and mobile app. This means it creates the entire customer journey – from search to post-sales. DRCT explains: “We attract next-gen users to the website or app, provide easy-to-navigate interfaces for shopping, and offer a wide choice of payment options to finalise the purchase. We automate the main actions like changes, cancellations and refunds, so that passengers can do the main servicing fast and independently. If any other issue arises, we deliver efficient 24/7 concierge-like support.”

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Lufthansa Innovation Hub’s loyalty programme built on blockchain

Lufthansa Innovation Hub’s Uptrip is a new type of loyalty programme built on the blockchain, utilising gamification and driving customer engagement and experience.

Travellers can transform their boarding passes into unique digital trading cards, which reflect their personal and distinctive trip information, such as their flight number. Users have the option to choose their favourite cards as city cards, airplane cards, airline cards, and more. Each trading card will be minted as an NFT on the blockchain and has unique metadata.

Users can then collect those cards along their trips and use them to complete pre-defined collections – like ‘Europe’s 10 biggest cities’. Once completed, a collection can be redeemed for a unique travel-related reward, like lounge access, Wi-Fi vouchers, class upgrades, or even a Senator Status. There are also rewards from external partners, including free luggage storage, free postcard delivery, or a voucher for a local tour guide.

Lufthansa Innovation Hub will soon include a marketplace to allow users to trade their cards with others from the Uptrip community. It, therefore, won’t be only an app to get rewards, it will be a community where people can exchange their cards and challenge each other to unlock collections and rewards.

MPASS’ gamification experience at Frankfurt Airport

The FraAlliance joint venture between Fraport and Lufthansa is collaborating with MPASS Ltd to offer an enhanced engagement and gamification experience for travellers, via the FRAwards initiative. The FRAwards objectives are to upgrade the traveller experience, to evaluate the services offered by Fraport and Lufthansa, to collect feedback from travellers, and to stimulate the purchasing behaviour of travellers.

FRAwards is available as a web service, as well as via interactive infotainment kiosks installed in the Lab Gate at Frankfurt Airport. The MPASS platform offers a variety of configurable elements, such as a reward engine for points, badges, vouchers marketplace, leaderboards, assignments, redemption policies, and more.

On the infotainment kiosk there are eye-catching sliders that invite passengers to stop and interact. They can play a game of luck and win points instantly. Travellers must register to accumulate the points and can then access more games and Augmented Reality challenges. After accruing a defined number of points, a player can redeem them via tangible vouchers that can be used in affiliated retailers and F&B outlets, as well as for Fraport or Lufthansa services.

FRAwards also supports an integrated notifications engine. This is customised to send digital coupons, such as voucher IDs, via text or email, that can be redeemed directly at in-airport retailers or F&B outlets.

UCPlaces’ fully-branded, GPS-guided tours via airline mobile app

UCPlaces is targeting three issues:

  • “Airline mobile apps are only used by 15% of their customers, and even then, only for a very short period of time.”
  • “Marketing budget is spent on content people are actively trying to avoid.”
  • “Ticket sales are mostly done in a red ocean full of competitors.”

UCPlaces explains: “By offering valuable content and features that customers are actively looking for, you get their undivided attention for a long period of time, in your blue ocean where you can provide your targeted offerings.”
UCPlaces offers fully-branded, GPS-guided tours that passengers can take on their schedule, in their preferred language and directly from within the airline mobile app.

Knowing their passengers’ destinations, airlines can offer tours in multiple categories. These tours may be offered for free, for miles or for a fee. Airlines may also offer tour sponsorships and add their own offerings to each experience. Each tour keeps customers engaged with the mobile app for the length of the tour, which is usually well over an hour.

UCPlaces is described as an easy way to exceed customers’ expectations, helping to improve loyalty and keep customers coming back to the app and website.

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The neutral judging panel for the FTE Innovate Awards comprises: Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Strategy & Development Officer, Bengaluru International Airport; Charu Jain, Senior Vice President Merchandising & Innovation, Alaska Airlines; and Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future.


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