Eight new airline initiatives


Seatplans compiles some of the latest airline initiatives, including BA’s First off First trials, Lufthansa’s a la carte dining, and Emirates’ home check-in service.

BA First

British Airways

British Airways is currently trialing two new priority services for its first class passengers arriving into London Heathrow.

Dubbed “First off First”, the two services include the use of dedicated coaches for First customers on flights arriving at remote stands at Heathrow.

BA says that the buses aim to get passengers en route to the terminal “within 90 seconds of leaving their seat”, adding that “Early trials have found that we can get them there up to ten minutes quicker than before”.

The carrier said that around 9 per cent of BA flights arrive onto “off-pier” stands.

The other initiative is around the prioritising of checked luggage for First customers at arrivals. BA is currently trialing a new service on routes from New York JFK, Los Angeles, Dubai and Johannesburg, whereby bags “are reserved space in containers closest to the hold doors, and then separated on arrival at the baggage hall so that they are more easily identified”.

The carrier said that while both services are just being trialed at this stage, they are “going down very well with customers”.

Lufthansa a la carte dining


Lufthansa has announced a new a la carte dining option for economy and premium economy passengers on long-haul flights.

From May customers have been able to choose from seven paid-for meals costing between €13 and €33, with choices including grilled steak, a Japanese Bento Box, “hearty Bavarian snacks”, an Asian “vitality” menu with quinoa, Mediterranean pasta with shrimp, and a Thai curry.

The meals will be available “on almost all” of the carrier’s intercontinental flights from Frankfurt and Munich, and can be ordered at up to 24 hours before departure.

Lufthansa is keen to stress that the a la carte options “do not replace the existing food and drink offerings in Economy and Premium Economy Class, but complement them at the passengers’ individual request”.

Emirates home check in


Emirates has launched a new Home Check-In option, enabling customers departing Dubai to check-in from anywhere in the emirate.

The new service – which costs AED 350 (around £70) per trip for up to seven pieces of luggage – can be booked online up to 12 hours before departure.

An Emirates check-in agent will then visit the customer’s preferred location to weigh and tag bags, as well as check-in the passenger and issue boarding passes.

Checked luggage will then be sealed and transported to the airport, allowing the passenger to head straight to immigration on arrival.

The carrier said that it had been trials of the new service since October “to ensure that the customer experience and security checks are faultless”.

Airportr offers a similar service in the UK, for carriers including British Airways and American Airlines on flights departing London.

SAS wifi


SAS has launched a new inflight wifi service which it says is “more stable, stronger and faster than many other solutions found in the industry today”.

The high-speed wifi connection is now available on 28 short and medium-haul aircraft, with around 40 aircraft to be fitted by September – the carrier says it expects “the vast majority of its fleet” to be fitted with the technology by the first quarter of 2020.

Customers travelling on SAS Plus fares, as well as Eurobonus Diamond and Gold members, can access the service free of charge, while Silver Eurobonus members can enjoy complimentary access until August 19.

Other customers travelling on Go fares will be charged €4.90 per flight, and all passengers can access the SAS onboard portal via the SAS app, with free access to the carrier’s websites and online magazine

SAS says the new Viasat service is “ten times faster than traditional wifi onboard”, enabling customers to “stream their favorite movies, use social media, send images from their seat or answer their emails”.

Delta RFID baggage tagging


Delta has expanded its real-time baggage tracking service to flights departing Heathrow.

It works by attaching Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to checked luggage, allowing customers to track their bags “from check-in to the arrival carousel” via the carrier’s Fly Delta app.

The tags are read by RFID antennae at various points along the journey, with users able to receive push notifications to their mobile device, as well as view a map of their bag’s journey when travelling in the US.

The service was launched at airports in the US in 2016, and is now being expanded internationally, with Amsterdam and Paris due to come online in the coming months, and plans for all of the 344 airports served by Delta worldwide to receive the technology.

Customers booking onto Delta-operated flights from Heathrow through partner carrier Virgin Atlantic can also avail of the service.

Delta said that “initial results” of RFID-tagged items show a 99.9 per cent tracking success rate.

Delta says that is has invested US$50 million to ensure the accurate routing and loading of the 180 million bags it handles each year, and highlights that it has recorded the lowest mishandled bag numbers in US Department for Transportation data six times in recent months.

Qatar Airways food

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has launched new inflight dining menus and products for its business and first class passengers.

The new range – which is debuting on the carrier’s European routes – includes new menus, tableware, cutlery and chinaware.

The airline says it has also “put a greater focus on featuring regional influences within the menu design process”.

This means signature dishes based on route destinations, such as porcini and truffle risotto on Italian sectors, although Arabic dishes including kabsa, biryani and flame-grilled meats will continue to feature “on most routes”.

There will also be new warm dessert options in business class, as well as afternoon tea on selected routes, and Qatar Airways says it has “recognised the emerging trend of its travellers being more aware of their dietary needs and expressing interests in healthier food options”, with new lighter options including salads, woodland berries, warm breakfast oatmeal and cold pressed juices.

In first class there is now an “enhanced caviar service”, accompanied with “Balik-style salmon and showcased on a bespoke crystal plate”.

Aside from the revamped menus, tableware additions include new mini condiment grinders and linen-lined bread baskets.

Finnair A330


Finnair is to offer passengers digital newspapers on its A330 and A350 services, in a move which will also see the carrier stop distributing print newspapers on long-haul flights.

The airline said that over 50 international newspapers are now available to read in pdf format via its Nordic Sky portal, through the wifi connection on its A330 and A350 aircraft.

Note that Finnair’s A350 aircraft also operates on selected services between Helsinki and London, meaning short-haul customers on these flights can avail of the new service.

Passengers can access the portal using their personal devices, and do not need to purchase a wifi package to read the newspapers.

Finnair said that paper copies would continue to be offered on European flights “for the time being”, until its short-haul fleet is equipped with wifi later this year.

Commenting on the news Tiina Vesterinen, Director for Customer Experience Development at Finnair said:

“We are happy to be able to offer a wide selection of digital newspapers to our international customers.

“With digital papers, customers always get the latest copy, regardless of where their flight is departing from, and we never run out of stock.”

KLM IFE audio descriptions


KLM has launched a new audio description option for blind and visually impaired passengers accessing its in-flight entertainment content.

The service sees a narrator describing the visual elements of content during breaks in dialogue, including character descriptions, facial expressions, location information and plot development.

It is now available on all of the carrier’s B777 and B787 Dreamliner intercontinental flights, and has launched with the following three films, with more to be added in the coming months:

- Home Again, starring Reece Witherspoon

- Kingsman, The Golden Circle, starring Colin Firth and Taron Egerton

- The Lego Ninjago Movie, starring Dave Franco and Justin Theroux

Last month Virgin Atlantic became the first carrier to offer iPad-based accessible entertainment for customers with sight loss, through a partnership with UK tech company Bluebox Viation Systems and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

By Mark Caswell