Airbus A380 11-abreast seating: future-proofing the brand experience (Part 2)

At the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, the Airbus A380 11-abreast seating introduction made a big splash. While operating the A380, most of the challenges that airlines face — be it the long queue for the toilet or the delays in boarding over 500 passengers — are because of systemic constraints. Since most existing systems and processes were designed to handle half this number of passengers, they buckle under pressure.

More seats mean more passengers, and systems that are more squeezed. In Part 1 of our analysis, we discussed the key challenges airlines need to be aware of. In this Part 2, we share some big ideas on how airlines can future-proof the impact on the brand, while still reaping the revenue benefits of more seats on an A380.

Future-proof your airline

In the past, such challenges have been overcome by expanding physical infrastructure and training personnel better. However, the most remarkable improvements happened when people and technology were brought together, making the passenger a key player in increasing efficiency. For example the mobile boarding pass or online check-ins that empowered passengers and increased operational efficiencies.

The biggest challenge in such a situation is communicating with passengers — from the stragglers at the gate, to those requesting services in-flight. The airline will have 1000 unique and efficient channels to reach the customer — via their mobile devices. Since there will be over 1000 devices on each A380!

So, what can the smart executive do to future-proof his airline from potential PaxEx issues, and yet maximize revenues from the new A380 configuration? We have three ideas to share.

1. Mobile apps to aid boarding

Boarding 600 passengers can be daunting for any gate agent. Add to that the complication of boarding zones, and it can be a nightmare to communicate effectively with passengers. However, since there are efficient “in-pocket” channels to reach passengers, this challenge can be overcome. Yes, we’re referring to the ubiquitous smart phone.

Airlines can make dedicated apps to guide passengers through each step of the boarding process. Consider this: the new jetBlue app has features ranging from booking capabilities, to tracking delays, to getting terminal maps. Moreover, some airports like Miami International have smart security check systems that can notify passengers about how long they’ll have to wait for security clearance, or even offer features such as a preferred queue spot.

The time has now come for airlines to integrate features that guide these connected travelers through the different phases of travel whilst being connected to them via their portable devices.

 2. Connecting the crew and passengers

While the number of passengers might increase, the crew to passenger ratio won’t necessarily increase proportionally. This would cause additional strain on the crew. Letting passengers connect directly to crew using social media or dedicated apps would be a nifty solution. Some requests can even be served by airline staff on the ground – like checking arrival gate or time!

Virgin America, for example, connects its customers to its ground staff and on-board crew using the proprietary Chatter and VXConnect software. This enables quick service delivery, low waiting periods, smoother operations and most importantly, satisfied customers!

3. The Loo app!

Even on existing A380 configurations, the long lines outside toilets are a testament to the fact that a high number of passengers can affect in-flight experience adversely. Such problems can be solved by using innovative apps, built into the IFE or even on mobile, which help passengers cue for utilities such as toilets.

FlushToiletFinder, for example, is a location-based app that lets people find the nearest toilet. It has been rated 4.5/5, demonstrating that technology can reduce the pain of searching for essential utilities. There is no reason why airlines cannot extend this logic to a smart in-flight queueing system – what if you could book a time to visit the washroom? This would ensure orderly and efficient use of facilities despite a greater number of passengers.

While we might grumble about it, but the increase in passenger numbers is inevitable — not just on the A380. It is now up to airlines, airports and manufacturers to innovate and work together to ensure that the passenger experience doesn’t suffer. After all, increased short-term revenue at the cost of long-term loyalty can never be a sustainable strategy.

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  • Sandeep Senjit

    Ravi: An interesting article..novell idea. in general mobile apps can solve many problems.. Quite curious to know how you can practically implement it.. there will be many questions which will be asked. Fundamentally – How can I decide a set time to use to toilet? If at all I know my pattern ? Why should I then go after “my time” has passed 🙂 ..The toilet queuing issue is not related to the A380 alone.. it can happen to any aircraft type.. sometimes it happens and sometimes it does not.

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