In Conversation

IFSA backs Air Catering Association

US based trade organization, IFSA has been quick to give its approval to the newly formed Brussels based Air Catering Association (ACA) with parallel interests, founded by dnata, DO & CO, gategroup, the LSG Group and Newrest. Here Joe Leader, ceo IFSA responds to the launch.

As one of the most highly-regulated prepared foods in the world food supply, onboard food and beverage safety continues to be a matter of utmost importance for the global inflight industry. Thus, the presence of another organisation with common goals will only result in greater support for issues, regulations and interests impacting our members, and the advancement of the inflight food, beverage and service industry worldwide.

IFSA applauds the executive-level participation of the giants of airline catering within the Airline Catering Association, as it advances the industry’s mission, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the ACA to further advance those goals. For over 50 years, IFSA has been focused on furthering the airline onboard and catering industry through our work with the European Union and deep relationships with other government institutions worldwide. It continues to be IFSA’s duty to lead, develop, and represent the global business interests of the onboard services market.

Acting for more than five decades as the leading global onboard and catering organisation, IFSA works to identify challenges, and is committed to providing solutions for members and the industry as a whole. Through the work and dedication of IFSA’s Government Affairs & Education Committee and European Union (EU) Task Force, IFSA has served as the voice for airline and onboard companies with regulators and stakeholders worldwide, assuring that the industry’s voice is heard as new and revised regulations impact airline, catering, and passengers. IFSA’s European office in Brussels continues work to address issues specific to Europe.

IFSA is always looking to extend its presence worldwide, and strengthen its working relationships with other industry associations, publications and groups.

New era for APOT Asia

APOT Asia is broadening its reach with new appointments, a relaunched website and logo, plus a widened remit. Founder Keerthi Hapugasdeniya (AKA Happy), chairman Bambang Sujatmiko, and the association’s newly-appointed ceo, Jeremy Clark welcome a new era

Happy says: APOT is designed to showcase Asia Pacific’s hospitality and the region’s unique approach to doing business.

We welcome senior personnel from across the airline, hospitality, tourism, inflight service and product supplier sectors as members and our gatherings are designed as relaxed networking events with time to build friendships and established shared goals in a relaxed environment.

Ours is the fastest growing tourism region in the world and we have a lot of work to do to keep on top of this growth. Our key goal is to focus on the raising the profile of regional travel, building links with local communities in destinations beyond the key hubs. This is where the biggest growth is happening and it is important business leaders recognize this and support it. We are already pioneering connections through an International Food Tourism Forum, as culinary experiences are a key way to attract tourists to the region.

The appointment of a new ceo, Jeremy Clark, and two new forum ambassadors, Salim Hazife, gm at Perth Inflight Catering, and Afdal Amir, vp corporate marketing for PT Aerofood Indonesia, will enable us to move forward on our targets more quickly and efficiently. They will oversee this year’s annual gathering in Perth (June 24-26) and build our membership.

Bambang Sujatmiko adds: “APOT’s tagline is ‘Networking Differently’ and the difference is that this is a not for profit organisation and membership is free. Often personal relationships fall by the wayside as people focus on their careers so our aim is to help connections stay in touch and find time to meet.

“Even though our organisation is located in the Asia Pacific region, we have lots members around the world especially from Europe, North America and the Middle East, and as a not for profit, independent organisation, we connect the industry and its suppliers in a uniquely social way. It’s something that really adds value to our business and personal roles.”

Looking ahead, Jeremy Clark explains further: “APOT is all about encouraging the carriers and their colleagues to recognise WHERE they go and not just WHO they carry. That the job doesn’t stop with just the passenger’s onboard experience but with how they engage with the destinations they fly to. We are looking to raise awareness in all these aspects of the travel industry.

“One statistic that stays in my mind is that by 2025, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 of all flights taken anywhere in the world will be from or to or within China. That’s 25%! This is a market we still know little about, but will dominate our region and the world. The tourism growth in Asia/Pac will accompany this growth and APOT is an ideal platform to engage with this growing market.

“We need to be more socially and culturally aware of our neighbours. This is a big part of APOT’s ethics – promoting cultural awareness and the benefits that derive from this. Environmental awareness is also at the forefront of our concerns as we look to protect our region’s assets whilst promoting them as a destination.”

Flying into the future

Paul Priestman, chairman of cabin design specialists PriestmanGoode is speaking at the GREAT Festival of Innovation, in Hong Kong March 21-24. The four-day event from the Department for International Trade will promote the UK as a leading place to do business in, with conference sessions looking at how innovation will shape tomorrow’s world. Here he talks legroom and cabin comforts.

The thought of spending hours on a long-haul flight in economy shouldn’t have to fill people with dread, and as designers our job is to make the passenger experience better.

In economy, there are things that we can play with to give people extra legroom without causing the ticket price to soar. For example, we can make the seat thinner at the point at which your knees rest, and sculpt the seat around the spine to create additional knee room for the passenger. Even basic design amendments, such as moving the magazine pocket higher up, can free up much-needed space – one of our design ideas you can now see in economy class on SWISS and United Airlines.

People also don’t sit in just one position; we vary our positions and posture to get comfortable. And in economy you can’t custom design seats for the individual – a seat has to work for a child as much as it does for an adult. Regardless, you can always improve the overall comfort of seats.

There are some amazing materials and technologies coming through that can really boost comfort, such as foams with various density and firmness at different points, so that the seat provides comfort and support where it matters.

You can also design seats so that the armrests can be moved out of the way completely enabling passengers to snuggle up and sit sofa-style, and change positions more easily.

But frankly, a beautifully designed, comfortable seat with extra legroom means nothing if people aren’t being served by happy, helpful staff. We therefore focus as much attention on designing great spaces and facilities for staff as we do for passengers so that they can focus on delivering a stand-out customer service, and leave a positive lasting impression on them.

This is really where our expertise lies. We carry out significant research with passengers, crew and maintenance teams to understand what their individual needs are. We work with suppliers to develop new materials that are harder wearing and easier to maintain. We build mock-ups throughout the development process to ensure our designs are fit-for-purpose.

Looking at future trends, however, zoning of economy class could be the future.
In the battle for the passenger, airlines need to constantly find new ways to hold onto existing customers while attracting new ones. Price for many passengers remains a priority consideration, but what we’ve seen with Premium Economy is people’s willingness to trade up for some extra legroom and a slightly more deluxe service.

Some airlines have also introduced further service and price point differentiations within economy, including Economy Plus and Economy Basic.

It makes sense then that people might, for a reasonable price, pay a little extra to sit in a kids-free zone, or a work, sleeping or family zone. The seats would be the same but the service levels provided would be different and priced accordingly.
This type of zoning is already happening in airports so why not onboard aircrafts.

Erdmann Rauer explains the launch of ACA

Following last week’s launch of the new Airline Catering Association, its first president, Erdmann Rauer, discusses the association’s aims and ambitions with Onboard Hospitality’s Julie Baxter

Erdmann Rauer, ceo of the LSG Group, has been championing the idea of an industry association for some years. He admits: “It’s been a long journey to get here,” but as the wraps come off the new Airline Catering Association (ACA), it is clear his vision of a global organisation for the industry is now shared with the leaders of businesses which together represent around 85% of the onboard catering market.

Five leading airline catering companies: dnata, DO & CO, gategroup, LSG Group and Newrest, have stepped forward to launch ACA with a ‘significant’ but undisclosed investment committed to get the ball rolling. A non-profit international organisation, based in Brussels, Belgium, ACA will have its own managing director, Fabio Gamba, and aims to drive and develop strategic progress for the industry.

Rauer says: “Ours is a unique industry but has never really been organised like other industries in terms of having an industry body representing it for legal, regulatory or development purposes. From the front end perspective we are all dealing with the same type of customers and have the same challenges, so we have common interests on how our industry should look. This is something I have felt strongly about for some years and once the ceo of gategroup and other key partners became supportive, we came together in Madrid to discuss and progress the association in December.”

ACA will hold its first Strategic Committee meeting on April 8, during WTCE when it will draw up its priorities. Rauer anticipates these will initially revolve around regulatory, taxation and security issues and joint operational concerns such as food labeling, invoicing and the like.

He adds: “The key point is that ACA will be a global association. We want to attract new members – but we also want to have a tight enough structure to ensure we have an efficient decision-making process.

“There will be a membership threshold of around 500m euros in global revenue but we will keep under review how we can add new members, both from airline-owned catering operations and associated industries covering tableware and amenities and the like.”

The global aspirations of the association, will also see it reaching out to other established organisations such as IFSA. Rauer says: “We see a very big opportunity to work with the people of IFSA too with their obvious standing in the US market. The response so far has been good.”

The association will seek to provide direction and leadership for the industry and Rauer concludes: “Yes, we are competitors and that won’t change but we have to learn to work together on some levels as an industry. This is about leadership and it is in no way contradictory of competitors to come together for the greater good of their airline customers and the passengers.

“Just as I have long seen the importance of bringing all the big five businesses plus other entrepreneurs together at an annual show (WTCE), so too is it important that industry leaders have a vision and do something for the industry to give it shape. This has benefits for the whole sector, in particular for our customers, in the longer term.”

Vegan inflight

Veganism is one of the fastest growing lifestyle choices worldwide. Simone Groeschl, ProVeg International’s corporate outreach & services manager, reports on a recent survey of airlines to see which are best at responding to this demand

The number of vegans has grown by 360% in the last decade in the UK alone, with around a third of the population now reducing meat consumption for health, animal welfare and the environment. These ‘reducetarians’ are helping to drive demand for plant-based meals not just onland but in the air, too.

Our first ever survey ranking of the veg-friendliness of the world’s 50 largest airlines evaluated the number of suitable options onboard (standard and special meals as well as among the snacks offered); customer friendliness (in terms of the availability of online information about veggie options and the ease of ordering veggie); as well as onboard retailing. It also assessed airlines’ future plans.

We only considered Economy and did not evaluate quality. Inevitably not all airlines responded but of those which did the results were as follows.

Top was Scandinavian Airlines which works with chefs who specialise in plant-based food. It offers vegan and vegetarian options among standard snacks on every flight and has added new vegan dishes, and reduced meat portion sizes while at the same time increasing plant-based ingredients within its dishes. In the future the airline plans to offer more milk alternatives and vegan options too.

Swiss International Airlines also did well, working with Haus Hiltl in Zurich, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, for inspiration ex-Zurich. Vegetarian meals are available by default on every flight and several new vegan meals and snacks have been introduced to the offer in the past year.

Alitalia was also good, offering vegan and vegetarian options among its standard meals onboard on specific flights/destinations. Free vegetarian snacks are available as a standard.

Air India should be recognised for only offering vegetarian and vegan meals on its domestic flights and it’s encouraging to see that vegetarian buy-on-board options on easyJet significantly outnumber non-veggie options.

For airlines looking to become more veg-friendly, I’d recommend working with veggie chefs to develop menu items; replace dairy products such as milk, cream and butter with a plant-based alternatives in all vegetarian dishes; and always offer at least one plant-based milk. Simplified catering codes and standardised labelling would also increase transparency.

ProVeg is the world’s first international organisation dedicated to promoting plant-based living. Its mission is to reduce global consumption of animal products by 50% by the year 2040. ProVeg originates from the German Vegetarian Union (VEBU) and is currently present in Great Britain, Spain, Poland and Germany.

Bringing the taste of Vietnam onboard

Vietnamese-Australian chef, Luke Nguyen, is an ambassador for APT cruises in Asia where he is creating exclusive culinary experiences being served on the Mekong and Irrawaddy

My passion for Asian food began almost from the moment my family arrived in Australia. My mother is Vietnamese/Chinese and I was born in Thailand and raised in the family restaurant in Cabramatta, New South Wales.

At 23 I opened my own restaurant, the Red Lantern in the Surry Hills district of Sydney, but at the busiest time of the year, between Christmas and New Year, I travelled to Vietnam to learn more about the cuisine that is my heritage.

My regular customers began to ask if they could come with me on my culinary ventures and this has now become a reality by working as an ambassador for river cruise specialist, APT. Food is a really important expression of the Vietnamese culture. It tells a story of the land and of the history of the Vietnamese people, and my role helps ensure that passengers sample a true taste of Asia.

I like to add unforgettable experiences during my tours of Ho Chi Minh City and encourage visitors to sample the street food made from recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation. Visiting the areas where my parents were raised gives guests the chance to meet the people I know and love while seeing the way families bond over food and gaining an understanding for the way the local community interacts.

At the same time, it is sometimes good to get away from the bustle of the city so it can be a welcome relief to set sail down the Mekong. When cooking onboard I like to include some of my favourite dishes such as tiger prawns served with young green rice cakes or alternatively roast pork belly with crackling.

Vietnamese food takes on Chinese, French and Thai influences so what you taste is a unique balance on the palate alongside lots of colour and tradition.

Next year I am excited to offer APT guests who visit Ho Chi Minh City as part of their river cruise, exclusive access to my new restaurant, Vietnam House, to sample a special tasting menu designed to showcase dishes from across the country.

The restaurant is in a restored colonial building that once housed the famed Café L’Imperial in the early 1900s and the building retains many of the original features which add character.
Vietnamese food is a stunning combination that always surprises and delights and that’s what keeps people coming back for more.

Creative solutions

Stefan Patermann, ceo Retail inMotion, looks to the future as he tells us how his team designs retail and tech solutions for over 40 airlines

Retail inMotion has seen tremendous growth as a 360° onboard retail provider in the past two years. We are a young, agile company full of creative, ambitious, problem solvers striving to change how this industry works.

We manage fully-outsourced onboard retail programmes for some of the world’s largest airlines. We are especially strong in Europe, where we work with over 50% of the continent’s airlines, but we’re moving into the Americas and Asia too.

In the short-term, we’re focused on rolling out our software solutions and aim to stay ahead of the curve by creating game-changing technology, products and services which drive ancillary revenue.

One of our biggest challenges has been scaling up to meet the growth in onboard retail. Five years ago, we had only one customer, today, we’re working with airlines on five continents. Our integration into the LSG Group has certainly helped.

Our key goal is to anticipate and meet the needs of the industry by combining strong, reliable solutions with agile and innovative software. We aim to solve problems in creative ways.

While there will always be a strong market for airline catering and culinary excellence for long-haul operations, we see a clear trend towards significant and steady growth in onboard retail in mid- and long-haul operation. In Europe, 67% of all air travellers receive an onboard retail service. Other markets globally are moving in this direction too, especially Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

We focus on technology and product solutions that give airlines complete control over their ancillary scheme and reach passengers when and where they want to be reached. I firmly believe that the way airlines interact with customers will fundamentally change in the next decade. That’s why we have started to deliver our end-to-end retail platform, connecting passengers throughout the entire travel chain to ancillary services.

We have also developed solutions like mobile payments, IFE/retail integration, comprehensive pre-ordering and reliable data collection that take the guesswork out of product selection.

It’s impossible to deny the financial benefits of a well-developed, well-functioning onboard retail programme and I think that across the travel retail market, managers see that. Add in the personalisation and choice these programmes bring passengers and it’s a win-win all round.

James McIntyre tells us why onboard suppliers need to wise up to the value of the cruise market

The global cruise market is growing at a phenomenal pace. According to Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) annual state of the market report, more than 25.8 million passengers were expected to sail in 2017, a strong surge from 15.8 million just ten years before. More ships are expected to take to the water too, following an investment of more than $6.8 billion in new ocean vessels this year, taking the total to 448. But why the sudden popularity of the holiday once favoured by the baby boomers? James McIntyre, procurement director, MSC Cruise Management talks trends…

The cruise market is experiencing huge growth, especially due to the broadening demographic range of its guests. Travellers from the younger generations, including millennials and Generation X, are embracing cruise travel more than ever before, meaning that we have a new group of passengers with different expectations to satisfy. As the CLIA report explains, the types of cruises that passengers are opting for are diversifying significantly; there’s now much greater interest in different types of cruises, such as our North Europe cruise which takes in the magnificent Norwegian Fjords and the spectacular Norther Lights, as well as the Scandinavian capitals cruises. Private island tours and expedition voyages such as our South American experience, which satisfy the wanderlust of adventure travellers, are also more popular.

As a result of such growth in the industry, cruise lines must adapt and enhance the guest experience to maintain a competitive advantage. At the same time, there is increased scope for product differentiation between operators themselves, enabling distinct brand characteristics to be channeled through the products and services offered. MSC Cruises is a family-owned cruise line and its associated values are carried throughout the whole guest experience, whether it is in the architecture of the ships, the cabin interior design or the food and beverage offering, all these elements contribute to the MSC Cruises experience. In terms of specific passenger experience trends, the three key ones are: Personalisation – whether this be through products or experiences; pampered luxury through exceeding expectations (attention to the small details can make a big impression) and connectivity.

There is a lot of competition in the travel space therefore in the same way that hotels and airlines adapt to guest and passenger demands, we must do the same. Connectivity has been a major factor in recent years, particularly enabling our guests to have seamless experiences through utilising mobile devices, whether that is for booking excursions and meal reservations or getting destination advice. We are driving this forward through our Smart Ships programme MSC for Me and all of the ships in our modern fleet will be purpose built with a connected experience in mind.

As we introduce new ships into our fleet as part of our new build programme, we work with architects and interior designers (in-house and external) to ensure that we offer a product that is on trend and in line with our brand identity. As part of this, we take inspiration from different influences around us; from hotels and spas to fine dining restaurants and theatres. Further to this, an enhanced focus on global procurement is enabling us to expand our product development and sourcing scope. As the industry continues to grow there is going to be an increasing need to differentiate and enhance guest comfort.

As we continue to introduce new and larger ships into our fleet, the operation of managing passenger comfort grows in scale and complexity. An example of this is through introducing enhanced 100% cotton bed linen. We must be sure that we source the products from the right suppliers, ensuring ethical sourcing, optimum commercial terms, fit for purpose specifications and lean supply chains – an area we’ll be further exploring when we attend WTCE in April. In addition, we must also work with the operation onboard, including the laundry and suppliers of cleaning consumables. It is certainly a logistical challenge, but one which we believe we are addressing successfully, with scope to further enhance this.

Our number one priority when we are looking to enhance our offering is to listen to our passengers. We conduct regular research to find out what we are missing, and then we go about figuring out how we can deliver it. One of the best ways of doing this is to get out and about within the general hospitality industry to see what learnings we can implement within our own business. New and interesting suppliers are often our first port of call, particularly when we are looking to source the perfect products, so we find trade shows like the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) particularly useful. The show has a focus on the airline industry, which is interesting for us as we know that the sector has a lot of creative and experienced suppliers, many of whom are also relevant to the cruise business. We are looking forward to attending to see what new products and ideas we can implement in our business as well as learning about forthcoming trends that may also impact the cruise industry.

The World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo will take place from 10-12 April 2018 at the Hamburg Messe, Germany. For more information and to register to attend, visit

Archana Sharma gives an insight into planning WTCE 2018

As planning progresses on the 2018 World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo, Archana Sharma, exhibition director, looks ahead

The amount of planning that goes into staging an event like this is huge and we start before the previous show has even opened its doors. Logistics are a key consideration, but in addition to that, we must ensure that the event evolves and meets the needs of our visitor and exhibitor community. Our primary focus is to ensure that we are delivering the right variety of exhibitors, with the best possible products, that will interest and inspire our visitors – and this coming year is no exception. For the first time, our floor space will span across four halls of the Hamburg Messe, showcasing even more companies and product innovation than before, making 2018 our biggest show yet.

WTCE 2018 will be an exciting mix of new and returning features. One change for this coming edition has been to enhance the meeting facilities at the event. This year we have added the WTCE Business Meeting Hub – a dedicated place for attendees to schedule meetings. VIP attendees are invited to book space in advance of or at the exhibition itself.

Also aimed at improving networking is the online My Event planner. Both visitors and exhibitors can enhance their experience of the event by utilising My Event to build their own itinerary and maximise their time at the show. It enables all attendees to create a personal list of must-see contacts and book meetings ahead of the event, as well as ear marking interesting products and relevant Taste of Travel sessions.

Many of our popular features will return in 2018. The New Exhibitor Villages have been expanded to provide additional inspiration. This area will be complemented by the What’s New Onboard showcase which shines a spotlight on the new products that have launched in the past year. We will also be bringing back our Focus on World Travel Retail which was launched to great acclaim at the 2017 event. A dedicated showcase for the onboard travel retail industry, the area will unveil the products and services available for inflight purchase. We already have some great names signed up for this feature, including Laduree, Butlers Chocolates and Bottega SpA.

The majority of companies that are exhibiting at the event for the first time this year will be located in the New Exhibitor Villages. These will be revamped and expanded, with four zones dedicated to first-timers across the Halls A1-A4, and aim to match air, rail and cruise operators with exciting new companies and products. Products on show include Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Domenico Manca Spa, gourmet snacks from nibnibs and unique nut mixes from BitesWeLove, amongst many others.

Our industry-renowned educational programme will be back to lead the debate in 2018, with more expert sessions, panel discussions and practical demonstrations than ever before. It will kick-off with The Passenger Experience Conference, which returns to the Hamburg Messe on Monday 9 April and offers delegates to chance to hear from world-leading experts on a broad cross-section of topics affecting the industry in the coming year.

Our highly popular Taste of Travel Theatre, in partnership with Onboard Hospitality, will also be returning this year with a roster of new speakers and content. This year’s programme is expected to feature some of the onboard hospitality industry’s finest chefs as well as business owners and consultants, who will deliver thought-provoking presentations and delicious demonstrations that cover the hottest industry topics.

All sessions are free, so we recommend that visitors arrive at the theatre early, and expect to be impressed by some of the most cutting-edge cooking the industry has ever seen – we can’t wait!

The event also offers a unique platform for buyers from leading air and rail operators to see the newest products and innovations, benefit from expert insight and advice and network with peers.

Together with its sister events, Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) and the new Passenger Technology Solutions launching in 2018, WTCE completes a trio of exhibitions which make the Hamburg Messe a must-attend destination from 10-12 April 2018 for all professionals within the air, rail and coach industries to discover the latest cabin interiors, inflight entertainment and connectivity, onboard technology, passenger comfort, catering and retail offerings for the ultimate passenger experience.

For more information and to register visit

Jo Austin reveals what to expect from Taste of Travel 2018

Onboard Hospitality is delighted to once again work in partnership with Reed Exhibitions to put together the Taste of Travel Theatre at WTCE Hamburg. Jo Austin gets planning and highlights upcoming trends and challenges the show will address

Q.What is the Taste of Travel?
A. The Taste of Travel is very much a highlight of the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE®). Now in its seventh year, the theatre, located on the show floor and run in association with Onboard Hospitality, hosts influential presentations by industry experts and live demonstrations from some of the world’s finest onboard chefs, all designed to benefit, inform and inspire travel professionals. Education and new products are an integral part of the programme and the audience is encouraged to participate, taste, sample and let themselves be inspired by the newest wave of innovation. All the sessions across the three-day show are free to attend.

Q.How did the Taste of Travel come about?
A. The Taste of Travel Theatre has been an integral part of WTCE since its inauguration. It serves as an acknowledgement of the importance of live demonstrations and discussions to provide an immersive and educational experience for delegates, in addition to the benefits of the exhibition.

Q.What can we expect to see at the Taste of Travel in 2018?
A. The programme incorporates all the latest trends from the onboard industry, as well as utilising expert insight to offer a glimpse into the future. This year, attendees can look forward to learning about the hottest food trends onboard, how to build a brand and how to deliver the best passenger experience through the amenities available. Leading brands will present an insight into their own success and the topic of sustainability will also feature in the jam-packed Taste of Travel in 2018.

Q.How many sessions will run at the 2018 show?
A. The Taste of Travel will run over the three days, with at least 12 individual sessions in total. These will vary from live cookery demonstrations by inspirational chefs, some of whom specialise in onboard cooking and all of whom are experts in their fields, to lively debates and interactive sessions led by those in the know. Several sessions will also be dedicated to an exclusive look at products new to market.

Q.Why should travel industry professionals attend the theatre at WTCE?
A. In addition to the information available at the exhibition, the Taste of Travel offers travel industry professionals an insight into the latest catering and lifestyle trends as well as brand collaborations through lively discussion, demonstrations and debate with industry professionals. The theatre, which will have a new location in Hall A2 as a result of WTCE’s expansion in 2018, offers expert free advice based on suggesting solutions to the challenges faced by the industry. It also provides the opportunity for live Q&As and debates with the audience to really deepen delegates’ understanding and information-gathering at the show.

Q.Who will chair the programme?
A. The programme will be chaired by former editor of Onboard Hospitality and recognised authority on all things onboard, Jo Austin, who has chaired the Taste of Travel since its inception. Austin also puts the programme together using top industry contacts, and chaired the theatre to great success in 2017.

Q.Who have past speaker lists included?
A. Past speakers have included Michelin chef Mark Sargeant, on behalf of American Airlines; neuroscientist Stathis Kefallonitis; Jaap Roukens, founder of pre-order app iFleat; Emirates regional catering manager, Antony McNeill; and Levi Roots of Dragons’ Den and Reggae Reggae sauce. The 2018 show promises another stellar line-up.

For more information or to register visit

Kenny Harmel tells us why eco-packaging is the future

Galileo Watermark is claiming an onboard industry first with the launch of OCN plastic packaging for inflight amenity toiletries. Kenny Harmel, head of aviation at Galileo Watermark explains why

Plastics can take anywhere from 500-1,000 years to degrade and approximately 8 million tons of it makes its way into the ocean every year. Alarming figures indicate that in 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. The aviation industry a significant contributor to plastic waste and our airline partners are working towards more sustainable options across all aspects of their sourcing requirements. We want to support this drive as much as possible by offering innovative solutions to both waste reduction and sustainable material usage.

OCN plastic is a significant leap forward. It is our contribution to what needs to become a global movement.

Q.What is OCN recycled plastic?
A. OCN is a sustainable plastic option created by Galileo Watermark that uses reclaimed and repurposed plastic from our oceans, seas and waterways to create plastic product and as a first step, tubes for cosmetic use. It’s an alternative to standard recycled plastic and to creating and generating more virgin plastic.

Q.How is it made?
A. We work with a number of partners to collect plastic rubbish from beaches, waterways and canals. These plastics are sorted, recycled and refined to then be used in the creation of new products.

Q.What plastic can currently be recycled?
A. When collecting from the ocean or beaches around the world usually one will encounter two main plastic types, HDPE (such as a milk bottle) and PET (soda bottles) roughly at a 75/25 % split. We’ll be using recycled HDPE (rHDPE) for use in our tube manufacturing and recycled PET (rPET) to make bottles. The opportunities for using ocean recycled plastic are limitless and we are working on a number of possible applications.

Q.Is recycled plastic safe to use?
A. Yes it is completely safe to use. The product is tested like any other product to ensure that it meets all regulatory standards.

Q.Does the plastic not get damaged in the sea?
A. UV sunlight and the ocean environment can degrade plastics and as such not all collected plastic will be usable. In order to identify plastic that is too damaged to be re-used we must sort through it. Plastic which is not suitable for our purposes can be used for other secondary products like outdoor equipment, bins and furniture and plastic that is not useable goes to landfill

Q.How much of the new packaging is actually made of recycled plastic?
A. We are working towards making product using 100% ocean recycled plastic, however at the moment this is not possible from a manufacturing perspective. A key aim of OCN is to invest in research and technology to drive up the percentage levels. Currently the product will include approximately 30%+ ocean plastic, the highest proportion of ocean plastic included in any vessel around the world. We are committed however to having the remaining plastic % in the composition as post consumer recycled product to ensure the entire product is recycled.

Q.Where is the plastic sourced from and how?
A. We work with a number of local and international partners around the world to collect plastics and rubbish on our behalf primarily from beaches and other coastal areas.

Q.Where is the recycled plastic made?
A. The waste plastic can be recovered anywhere in the world and we currently have the capability to recycle and pelletise in Europe, North America and hope to bring on partnerships in Asia and Australasia soon.

Q.Can OCN recycled plastic itself be recycled?
A. Yes absolutely, OCN recycled plastic can be treated in exactly the same way as virgin plastic after it has been used. We are working with travel and hospitality partners to develop closed loop recycling collaborations where we develop collection streams to redirect OCN plastics to be recycled and reused again, giving the product an infinite life cycle and ensuring it doesn’t end up back in the ocean.

Q.How much OCN plastic is there?
A. According to National Geographic there are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, with approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean. Every year approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean and as such the scope of this man-made problem is alarming.

Q.Can the plastic be sourced anywhere?
A. Recycled plastic can come from anywhere however with OCN, the focus is on plastics recovered and collected from oceans, sea, beaches, waterways, canals and other coastal areas.

Q.What are the future plans for OCN?
A. We will partner with other organisations, in and outside of our industry, to address the issues and highlight the problem and the need to take action. We will look for ways to further develop our OCN plastics supply chain, so that we have collection, sorting, pelletising and manufacturing facilities near all of our client bases. Our aim is to get to a place where all plastic used onboard and in other industries is 100% recycled, making us less heavily reliant on virgin plastic and more reliant on utilising plastic we have already manufactured both from the ocean and elsewhere.

In Conversation with Simon Pont

Simon Pont, ceo, ECR Retail Systems, explains how mobile point of sale technology can help drive onboard revenues and enhance the customer experience

Globally, airlines are facing tough times as they strive to drive profitability and compete. Beyond selling seats, the focus is on driving ancillary revenues through new service offerings and with this, customer experience and personalisation has become a key differentiator for the sector.

The challenge for airlines lies in the customer journey. The entire customer sales journey from web research to ticketing, time at the airport and inflight purchase of ancillary goods presents countless opportunities for airlines to form richer connections with customers.

Personalising this experience across every payment touch point is fundamental and made possible through access to data. Passengers buy through multiple channels and progressive airlines use data sourced from these touch-points to personalise the offer.

Assuming airlines have the necessary e-commerce, payment and logistics technologies in place for personalisation, they then need to consider whether their current payment methods and equipment are up to the task. Are they modern enough to accept the varied needs of passengers today? Do they support multiple currencies, loyalty programmes, destination attraction ticketing services and do they have the necessary back-end technology to support analytics? Can their inflight mobile point of sale (MPoS) systems support contactless payments?

Unfortunately, many airlines across the world are still ill-equipped to accept contactless payments. This will need to change soon, with the looming VISA and Mastercard’s contactless mandate which takes effect at the end of 2019. This means that merchants accepting payments from global payment networks must establish contactless payments as a standard.

In addition, airlines globally must evaluate if their current multiple-piece MPoS systems are suitable for the modern crew and passenger. Legacy technology has meant that crews have needed to carry two or three individual devices in the airline aisles when selling ancillary goods and services. This approach comprises an MPoS device, card reader and receipt printer, and can be cumbersome, time-consuming and less economical for staff to carry, store, charge and utilise. Airlines should investigate using modern all-in-one, contactless, MPoS technologies that not only take payments, but support personalised sales, and enhance the experience.

The time for airlines to modernise is now. Driving onboard ancillary revenue opportunities is key, and a positive MPoS strategy will be key. To act now will undoubtedly contribute to future commercial success

Rob Britton talks on-time service

Could it now be time to fix some basics in the U.S? Rob Britton looks at how improved air traffic control could reap rewards for reliability and customer satisfaction levels too

In the U.S., many elements of airline service quality have been improving, often with little public or media notice. Flight cancellations, for example, have decreased substantially – in 2016 Delta Air Lines, for example, flew for 200 days without a single mainline flight cancellation, in the process carrying 157 million passengers on nearly a million flights. Similarly, there are improvements in baggage handling.

For decades, airline customer surveys have consistently shown a large positive correlation between on-time performance and passenger perception of service quality. Simply put, when the plane is on time, flight attendants are friendlier, cabins are cleaner, and the entire experience is better. But when it comes to this crucial on-time dependability, airlines are stymied.

Although in 2016, 81% of U.S. airline flights arrived on time, that number has improved little since the federal government began tracking reliability in the late 1980s. Carriers know the problem: an antiquated Air Traffic Control (ATC) system. And they know the solution: reforming ATC by converting it from a government function to an independent, non-profit organisation. That change would allow the introduction of a “next gen,” satellite-based ATC system as it would take Congress and politics out of the picture, bypassing a broken procurement process.

The new system would reduce delays, and enable more direct routings, saving time and money, and reducing emissions. Customers and airlines would both win. The new system would handle future growth more effectively and an independent ATC entity would charge user fees, ensuring all users pay their fair share. Separating ATC services from the FAA’s safety function would also remove potential conflict of interest (and follows the U.N recommendations for civil aviation).

Furthermore, 60 nations have already done it, starting with Australia in 1995; and in 1996, Canada which created NAV CANADA, an independent, non-profit user cooperative. Although there was initial opposition and scepticism, every stakeholder group was quickly converted, and 20 years later the system works superbly and at lower cost than in the U.S.

The current system is safe (there has not been an midair airliner collision in decades) but it’s outdated. Radar, the core ATC technology, was awesome in the 1930s, but not today, with satellite-enabled solutions based on GPS.

The idea of reforming ATC has bounced around Washington for 30 years, in initiatives from both major parties. This year is different: President Trump has gotten behind the idea, and legislation has been introduced to spin off the ATC function. Nearly all major stakeholders support separation, including, critically, the ATC controllers and their union, who understand the system is broken. It really is time to fix the basics.

Alexis Steinman talks tech

Richard Williams asks Alexis Steinman, senior vp, digital media solutions at Global Eagle Entertainment about recent awards, acquisitions and partnerships, and what they mean for the business

Q. What’s so special about the new Airtime portal and how is it different to what has gone before?
A. Our creative and talented team devoted countless hours to fine-tuning this IFE package and we have put a lot of effort into execution and detail. It is our third generation entertainment and connectivity portal, created through engagement with 48 participants from six continents through user-centered design. We identified and followed best practice in e-commerce sites.Airtime is a digital mobility platform which extends pre- and post-flight. It links to an entire suite of Airtime solutions too. You can pre-browse options pre-flight, pre-buy wifi and use a single login to stream video onboard or in lounges. Just over 900 aircraft plus maritime and land customers are using the system.Another differentiator is monetisation.We seek out sponsors, advertisers and brand partners that bring value, and our proprietary ad platform enables rich airline campaigns across the user interface, tailored to passengers and routes. A lot of the value to airlines lies ‘under the hood’. Our big data analytics and reporting platform is often cited as the gold standard. Our software and content are loaded to aircraft through satellite, with a touchless process. We also have patented technology for high-speed browsing. Airlines can deliver a unique quality of passenger experience.

Q.Tell us about Content-to-Go
A. Simply put, Content-to-Go is a mobile app solution that delivers low-cost IFE. Passengers download their personalised IFE selections to their preferred device any time prior to take-off, and then enjoy it inflight. With the flexibility of digital mobility, our airline partners are quickly embracing the fact that they can break free from the cabin and cover a passenger’s entire journey, adding on anything digital: newspapers, magazines, audiobooks, IFE listings (i.e. pre-browsing IFE options to create playlists), and most interestingly, all kinds of cool video content available on the ground to make time fly during that four-hour layover. Available for iOS and Android, Content-to-Go can be deployed as a stand-alone service or integrated seamlessly into the airline’s app. As an example, check out what Qatar Airways offers through its Oryx One Entertainment app.

Q.What sets your content offerings apart from other providers?
A. Our close relationships with major studios, TV networks and content creators give us an edge in terms of exclusively distributed content. We remain very focused on internationally sourced content, which is key for airlines. In the last 18 months, we have also invested heavily in global live events and sports rights.We have 30 live channels delivered to planes and ships globally and have been a first mover in the liberal definition of IFE content, including deals for short-form and other snackable content.

Q.How has the acquisition of EMC affected your business?
A. We see tremendous synergies and opportunities for technology transfer between aviation and maritime sectors. Live programming and channels are typically licensed for both markets. We are already deploying the Airtime portal on one of the biggest global cruise lines, and other cruise lines will follow.

Q.How are you working with Skylights Theater on the passenger experience?
A. We have established a strategic relationship with SkyLights, which has developed a proprietary headset delivering a premium immersive cinema experience. Under the agreement, our EIM distribution subsidiary will provide SkyLights award-winning content from our extensive catalogue. We will also work collaboratively with SkyLights to bring to market immersive entertainment solutions that will give airlines a competitive edge. VR and AR – virtual and augmented reality applications – are going to advance rapidly in the next two years.

Q.Will seatback IFE make a comeback as electronic devices face a cabin ban?
A. The number of aircraft equipped with seatback screens continues to go up, not down. That is particularly true on medium and long-haul routes. Most people don’t see that changing. We have definitely reached the tipping point for connectivity – most major airlines are equipping their wide-bodies with connectivity, or seriously considering it. It is also clear that for narrow-bodies – especially thousands of ‘dark aircraft’ with no IFE or connectivity – airlines now have a much broader set of solutions to choose from, ranging from Content-to-Go to fully connected wifi and seatbacks.

Q.What new types of content will passengers demand in the future?
A. The content universe is expanding in every direction, with an explosion in short-form and snackable content, more high-quality TV series than ever, emerging VR and AR content, and clever content marketing that allows brands to tell stories to a highly engaged audience.Content is going to be more personalised and more intuitive. This is catching on quickly with mobile IFE, followed by wireless systems and even seatback screens that support device pairing and some connectivity.Live programming – including news and sports – is becoming key and can be delivered cost-effectively over satellite, freeing up bandwidth for other time-sensitive or social applications. The various delivery mechanisms and rights schemes are getting more complex, but this is exciting for us as we have the relevant expertise. None of this plumbing should matter to passengers – it is our business to provide the best experience and the broadest infotainment options, in the most
efficient way.

Oszkár András Fekete talks truffles

Oszkár András Fekete co-founder and managing director of t di Tartufo in Hungary tells Jo Austin how he’s creating a trusted truffle brand for caterers

Q.You have come a long way in the past twenty years to build a genuine truffle business in a region where the truffle industry did not exist. What is ‘t di Tartufo’ all about?
A. We created the ‘t’ truffle brand because it defines our core of trust, traceability and transformation. The letter ‘t’ also stands for truffle, trüffel, tryffel, tartufo.

Q.Why are you defining these three principles as the core of your business?
A. The truffle business is a trust-based process but unfortunately there are a lot of ‘fakes’ out there using low quality substitute materials like champignon or even Chinese truffles instead of the Périgord. We want trust to be rebuilt around truffle products where consumers are assured genuine, high quality, tasty and enjoyable products.

Q.This is an interesting and bold affirmation, but how does this connect to traceability?
A. Traceability and origin can often be misconstrued. Truffles are perceived to originate from Italy, however most summer truffles (Tuber aestivum) arrive from from countries like Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary. The legendary Périgord truffles (Tuber melanosporum) do not come from France anymore, but Spain. In the summer we see an abundance of high quality Melano (black truffles) from Australia and Chile. Meanwhile the famed white truffle (Tuber magnatum) from Piemonte is increasingly found in Croatia and surrounding countries. We can have excellent white truffles in Hungary one year and in Piemonte the next and customers need to know their true origin as this has deep implications on harvest sustainability.

Michel Emeyriat looks beyond traditional catering models

At the heart of the recent merger with gategroup, Servair ceo Michel Emeyriat, talks integration, tactics and future trends

Integrating the two businesses really hasn’t been hard. They were very complimentary with very little geographical overlap, so a great fit.

They reinforce each others strengths – Servair brings the advantages of its culinary capabilities, taking the lead on culinary innovation strategy; while the gategroup team is strong on the delivery side with expertise in technological innovations, onboard retail and product development.

The real added value in the integration comes in the power of the network, and the subsequent HNA involvement has offered further opportunities too. Of course we have to be careful of rapid evolution and are in a market that is also changing fast. We want to be recognised by our customers as innovative leaders as the market evolves. It’s not just about growth in buy-on-board, it’s packaging and presentation, the quality of the offering etc, all are becoming much more important. This means there are many changes coming in terms of our mission.

In the next 10 years our job will change and we have to be ready for that. As market leader we can’t just expect growth, if we want to develop we have to find new markets, meet new needs. We are probably one of the very few companies now able to provide food service right around the world with high quality and safety standards but we also have to be capable of offering large, widespread capacity for other activities too.

We have to respond to the trends in retail. As with any new opportunity, it requires a strong collaboration with the airlines to release its full potential. They vary in how they want to take it forward and we are trying to help them. We anticipate the retail side will grow 6-8% while culinary will grow 3-4%.

Retail will clearly be gaining weight but the culinary element will still be key for Business and First. There is polarisation of the market. Standard, basic catering, the traditional catering of Economy, is dead – congealed pasta is just not an option for tomorrow. Passengers will prefer to buy something good or have nothing if what we offer is just average. We have to be ahead and surprise them with what we offer.

It is interesting to note that spending at airports is ten times higher than spending on aircraft. There is a huge opportunity there we need to help our airline clients tap into. Preordering has to be the future and we need to address those needs fast. We will become the airline partner that delivers the passengers favourite dish to their aircraft seat. The new model and the need for innovation is here to stay, airlines need to leverage new opportunities in the market and we intend to be the partner that helps them do just that.

Marc Warde talks grab and go

Culinary consultant, Marc Warde, looks at how pre-purchase trends could soon inspire new restaurant and brand collaborations down the back of the aircraft

Today’s traveller has more choice than ever, and that choice hits them even before they get off the ground. Airports target them with a varied, contemporary catering offer and actively encourage them to take ground bought products onboard. It hard for onboard caterers to compete, especially for short haul.

Great familiar brands that people love jump out at waiting passengers, as well as stylish hampers from fine dining eateries or celebrity chefs while, unless you are in First or Business, today the meal is usually some kind of packed lunch or a biscuit or, of course, nothing – unless you pay.

The growth of buy-on-board presents new challenges – load too much and an airline has issues controlling waste, don’t load enough and they potentially lose sales. Having an extensive choice just isn’t viable and ensuring the loading algorithm is right can never account for that extra hungry and dehydrated football club that buys up everything and leaves everyone else viewing your service as unreliable, and hence fuelling the buy-before-you-fly momentum.

Long life food or dry foods can be a solution but often these are not very sexy and serving them doesn’t exactly enhance the brand.
Developing the pre-purchase trend seems an obvious solution, if airlines can make it work. In Asia and Australasia pre-order is well established and Europe needs to catch up. Air Baltic and Thomas Cook have risen to the challenge – and clearly giving a passenger something they ordered, something that makes them smile and enhances their flight experience has to be a good thing.

Some airlines are already using this trick to inspire those in Economy to upgrade to a product more akin to the Business class meal. And in the not too distant future there will surely be more associations with big restaurant brands – trusted food names that will inspire a pre-purchase. While premium passengers have long seen big name chefs or restaurant associations in their cabins, Economy is only just beginning associations with the everyday restaurant brands passengers love.

With so many of those popular chains already based in airports, a hybrid offer of a complimentary sandwich/meal which the passengers pick up at the departure gate is also an obvious option – saving time and logistics.

While carriers have invested much in recreating the golden age of travel in premium classes, it is surely now time to recognise that in our more inclusive world, great, informed choices from trusted brands should be available further down the plane too.

Passengers well know, you get what you pay for. Give them something they actually want and paying for it might suddenly seem ok!

Jeremy Clark talks tagging tech

Jeremy Clark turns techy to envisage a future where kids, wives and carry on bags can be tracked throughout the journey

In previous columns I have waxed lyrical on a couple of constant concerns to all frequent travellers. Namely kids on planes and carry on baggage.

Well, time reveals all sorts of interesting innovation and I now note with great interest Delta’s idea to include a request for information (RFI) with a bag tag plus an application you can have on your phone to trace its progress. The bag that is, not the phone.

My first reaction to this news was “Surely it is your job to track my bag? That’s what I paid you for didn’t I”. But then on further consideration, I realised this does open up all sorts of possibilities to resolve a number of common airport and travel problems.

Whilst we’re there at check-in, for example, couldn’t we tag the kid too? And the carry on? And maybe the wife? It resolves a huge number of issues in one go. The wandering or misplaced child, the partner lost in the labyrinth that is World Duty Free, the carry on mistakenly (or deliberately) picked up by another passenger – all traceable via a simple app on the phone.

With this technology in place, Dad can happily sit in the lounge or bar and watch on his iPhone as She Who Must Be Obeyed hammers the credit card in Harrods and little Johnny runs amok in WH Smith.

Then when it’s time to corale the troops to the gate he can use the app to message them all. No more urgent announcements: “Will the Bloggs family please make their way to gate 905 immediately – you are delaying the flight!”.

But there’s more too. It’s not beyond the skills of contemporary programmers to link the app to other devises and other apps so if Her Ladyship is going overboard with the Dolce & Cabana, the app could warn Dad who can put a stop on the card automatically.

You could even link it to a blood-sugar level skin patch so if the kids have raided the pick’n’mix sweets you’ll know if they’re about to go hyper-active and if necessary re-route them back home or onto a different flight.

Imagine how useful this could be to crew if everyone checking in on the BoozyJet flight to Magaluf were RFI tagged with a skin patch measuring alcohol levels of passengers before boarding. No problem getting stand-by seats on that flight!

Yes – this new technology opens up a whole new world of opportunity. Perhaps not politically correct in my proposed applications (when was I ever?), but when it’s a choice between correctness and ancillary revenue, I know who’ll win – so watch this space!

Matthew Jensen talks wearable tech

Matthew Jensen is an architectural consultant working with technological wearable, Seaband, to make the passenger experience better onboard cruise ships. Here he discusses how wearable technology can work across travel

In the constant quest for new, improved passenger experiences, airlines regularly use leaps forward in technology, IFE, service and infrastructure but the burgeoning cruise industry seems slower to evolve.

Traditional processes seem to remain dormant. While entertainment, boarding, dining and accommodation may have changed, the passenger itinerary has consistently revolved around a key card. This system for identification, room access and payments onboard has been reliable but simply has not evolved to reflect app-based trends seen in aviation and hotels.

Latest among such trends, are engaging ‘wearable’ technologies which could be about to transform the cruise experience. The largest constraints are of course cost and execution, but research into IOT (Internet Of Things) and contactless payment systems shows potential for a disposable, recycled and mass produced travel wearable which will dramatically improve the passenger experience. This technology can provide passengers with a life-long ID and key and help build connections between a business and its customers, reinforcing loyalty.

The wearable SEABAND solution, for example, was created as part of an R&D project on cruise ship innovation, architecture and environments. By utlising a simple QI technology, the SEABAND captures guest data such as medical information, preferred events, food and beverage, and climate control, to help the cruise line deliver a tailored onboard experience in both public and private guest areas.

Aside from the experiential benefit of being easy to use, the operator also prospers by gaining access to enhanced data on guests’ characteristics and movement.

The worn device uses the ship’s technological infrastructure, gathering data via sensors which can monitor passenger movement and statistical activities within the ship.

The wearable itself shows dining schedules, notifies passengers when the ship is at-sea or docking, provides personal message alerts and SOS emergency indicator (so could also be part of the onboard safety procedures).

As more wearable devices emerge into the travel market, the cruise industry is set to serve as an inspiring case-study on how to use technology to bring passenger service improvements and innovation.
They can help manage guest expectations and preferences, and make both the passenger experience and onboard management easier.

They could work in rail and air markets too as a mediation point between the brand and user helping to craft bespoke travel experiences.

Sheelagh Mahoney talks taste

As Portfolio marks its 16th anniversary, new head of commercial strategy, Sheelagh Mahoney, talks tastes and trends

The industry knows Portfolio Partners as a leading provider of premium branded food and drinks for travel, with a reputation for its passion about food and a laser focus on innovation, new product development and customer service.

I first connected with the company while managing partnership marketing and ancillary revenue for easyJet and bring that perspective to our airline buy-on-board sourcing – delivering passenger satisfaction as well as revenue requirements.

Versatility and a broad range is key to staying ahead so Portfolio takes a proactive approach to bring forward new products and ideas, focusing on everything trending and tasty. We can often trial new products onboard before they are even seen on the wider retail market whether its for adult soft drinks, craft beers, quality ambient long shelf life snacks, quality pre-order meals or interesting European brands.

We also aim to drive change, adapting standard format products to something more airline-friendly both in terms of size and packaging. This results in robust, on-trend, offerings that maximise trolley space and revenue as we did with Pringles, Joe & Seph’s and Corker Crisps in a box and Fentimans, now in cans.

Currently, healthy, organic and gluten free/free-from food is very popular as are halal and kosher food and snacks, and we recognise that our airline customers require products with pan-European reach for their diverse customer base. Quality and gourmet products, trendy snacks such as Biltong and snacks that respond to sugar tax legislation are all growing in demand and we are also developing two-day bars, refrigerated trolleys, coffee trolleys and boutique gin bars in response to trends.

Probably the most significant trend is online and mobile ordering. As airlines evolve from being just a carrier to more of an e-commerce platform, personalisation becomes key to sales and ancillaries growth.
The role of crew is vital too. They are under increasing pressure to deliver sales revenue alongside their customer care role with limited time. We support a range of fun crew training activities to help up-skill them.

I’ve lived and breathed trains, planes and automobiles throughout my career from working with Cathay Pacific to being part of the Eurostar launch, driving European sales for Hertz and most recently overseeing ancillary revenue for easyJet. I joined Portfolio at an exciting time with many events planned for the 16th anniversary including a charity cycle ride. We will be applying the same energy required for that to our product innovations and relationship management.

Roland Grohmann focuses on the power of brand

Onboard collaborations send a message. Roland Grohmann, managing director at FORMIA explains just how

When we first began positioning brands onboard we represented very few but in the last eight years that has risen dramatically. Airlines really get it now, they see the benefit of associating with branded products and, if they can find a collaboration that is different and turns heads, that only adds to their credibility and their brand experience.
We have compiled an extensive portfolio of handpicked brands that cover different needs and convey different values and styles. That ensures we can offer airlines a wide choice and the option of brand exclusively onboard. Of course some airlines still want to see co-branding, the airline name alongside the brand, but most recognise that for cosmetics in particular there is much more value for them in using the cosmetics’ own brand and labelling, the science and story behind that name than stamping an aerospace engineering brand onto a lip balm.

Our role has become critical in helping airlines understand just which brands they should be aligning with, which match their own brand best. They are driven by innovation and constantly want to see something new. They are hungry for the next big thing so it is our role to spot consumer behaviour and interpret it for the industry, anticipate where the consumer is headed and find products and brands which respond to that change.

Innovations such as the hard case miniatures or amenity kits which double as iPad cases are great examples of this but it is not just about one off good ideas, it is about working with your brands to create sustainable business. It’s about much more than just securing a brand license.

The amenity kit is the only piece of the airline’s branding that goes with the passenger after the flight. It’s an amazing part of the brand communication the airline makes with its customer so its important to get it right, to say what you mean to say whether it is a message about quality or fashion, or style and mood. Every brand says something quite different about an airline, but they all help make a statement and give a message which is significant long after the flight.

David Long shines a light on lighting

Internet of Things (IoT) LED lighting technology can help modernise the passenger experience.David Long, Lighting Engineer at Schréder UK, discusses how The Internet of Things (IoT) LED lighting technology can help modernise the passenger experience

Lighting around us is changing and increasingly it has the power to actively support the passenger experience. The Internet of Things (IoT) connected lighting is a fast growing area of technology and while it has not yet to be widely implemented in transport environments – stations, airports and ports – its potential is huge.

It can encourage interactivity and social connectivity in public areas and combines energy-efficient LED lighting technology, CCTV cameras, public address systems, internet connectivity and charging applications all in one unified column.

Modern travellers expect a positive digital experience and multifunctional smart lighting columns can also help operators meet that demand and improve the experience.

While electric charging is still not widely available at airports and stations, passengers can use electric charging ports embedded in lighting columns to charge their devices. In countries like Norway, where electric cars have been widely adopted, these columns can also be installed at stations and ports to allow passengers to charge their electric vehicles.

Operators can also use an embedded wifi network to improve their commercial relationship with passengers. In a retail context, operators can use the columns to send out alerts on retail offers and facilities, to inform them of any delays or suggest alternative options if required—helping to reduce confusion and anxiety.

Smart lighting also helps operators prioritise passenger safety. In the event of an emergency the first priority is to keep passengers safe. The second is to help them complete their journey. Lighting columns can be used to push out important security announcements and remind passengers of emergency procedures. The PA system when used in conjunction with the column’s CCTV cameras and LED light ring is capable of physically guiding passengers to designated safe-zones.

By implementing smart lighting columns, a more dynamic level of service can be achieved, enhancing the passenger experience and improving customer loyalty. The future of the transport lighting is bright: LED bright.

Yannis Martineau, chef Eastern & Oriental

Yannis Martineau, executive chef on the Eastern & Oriental express, talks rail catering in Asia

I was born in a pastry shop as my father was a baker but as I don’t like early mornings I thought I’d be a chef. I had classical French training with Paul Bocuse and in the past cooked for President Mitterrand. For the past nine years, with six supporting chefs, I have developed an absolute passion for Asian interpretations; designing and delivering fine dining menus that reflect the E&O rail route between Bangkok and Singapore.

Catering for up to 80 rail passengers each trip, the challenge is the very limited kitchen space and the constant movement of the train. Organisation and logistics are key and everything has to be loaded in the order we are going to use it. Veg is cleaned and peeled pre-departure, meat is boarded pre-cut and fresh stock is prepared off train but the rest is prepared onboard. We try to source most ingredients locally.

The menus aim to connect passengers to the places they are visiting but at the same time ensure they know what they are eating and find something familiar to their mother tongue. Often when we travel, the biggest worry is whether we will find food we like so I try to offer things people will recognise combined with local touches – a fusion of styles that include traditional elements alongside local flavours.

I’m a curious chef. I’m adventurous and interested in exploring local and regional cooking and I’m still discovering new things. I encourage my team to bring me ideas and new discoveries too.

The menu changes each season (September to May) with the exception of a few signature dishes such as the aromatic steamed cod fish and fresh leek salada, served with egg tofu and shitake mushroom (a Chinese-style dish adapted with less ginger and heat) and the Tom Yum Cappuccino, which is a local dish adapted to a western style which everyone loves. Also the laksa soup – a Singaporean soup we adapted to make more creamy and herby.

Asia is where culinary development is really happening. On the train we are moving through three countries taking in the influences of varied cuisines and feeding on trends from across the region.

It’s an open kitchen, there is no hiding, but I don’t need to hide, I like to hear passenger feedback and to see they are happy. The kitchen may be small but it has a great view. I can look out of the window and see jungle or rice fields, plantations and cities. It is always changing and that makes it a great environment within which to work.

Service is a challenge as all passengers dine at once, albeit through two sittings, but waiting staff and the kitchen team have a set system, rules and procedures that ensure everything works fine. Everyone has their own part in the process and knows what they have to do. There is no shouting or drama, there is no room for that and anyway that is not the Asian way. We are respectful of each other and work as a team. I believe that to give pleasure you have to give yourself pleasure too. If you are a mad man in the kitchen you simply cannot create a beautiful meal, you have to use your passion and give your heart.

It’s a full kitchen but we work as a team. It may be small but it really is a great place to work.

Maarten Grisèl, Sola Airline Cutlery

Maarten Grisèl, of Sola Airline Cutlery, charts the growing importance of tailor-made pieces

In recent years we have seen airlines, cruise companies and rail operators become more focused on developing new cutlery designs in cooperation with cutlery specialists like Sola. This is great, as it means they get purpose-designed cutlery tailored to their needs and brand and achieve great savings. We even give them free samples as part of the design process.

There are quite a few challenges when designing onboard cutlery. First we have to understand the needs of the brand and the style required, and work out how to accommodate that within the cutlery design. Then we have to work with the other components of the dinner setting and ensure our designs coordinate with that. Airlines often want the cutlery to be an integral part of the onboard brand style, consistent with a theme reflected across the entire cabin.

In addition, we have to focus on weight savings and comply with safety norms, and the product has to be a practical solution in terms of packing, washing and maintenance. The cutlery has to be robust enough to be in service and maintain its quality for at least five years of use, and of course we have to optimise all the measurements to suit the limited space available onboard.

There is always a price limitation and timing is often critical too – we have to work to set time-frames.

We often develop designs for the onboard setting by translating products previously seen in retail and hospitality markets. Although retail designs can be trendy and exotic they often appeal to only a small group of prospects and if their operational characteristics are compromised to improve the design image they may not be right for onboard.

Cutlery design has evolved from a classical to a modern style and currently we see a specific hospitality focus. This is a time when the hospitality industry is serving people who appreciate fine dining and they want appropriate cutlery with longer blades and prongs as well as comfortable user-friendly bowls.

Key words in the design discussions today are ‘well balanced’, ‘comfortable to hold’ and ‘appropriately sized’. Our clients are looking for ergonomically shaped, timeless designs which sit well in either modern or traditional settings. Our latest successful designs are Hermitage, Lausanne and Montreux.

In order to stand out from their competition airlines often choose an individual texture or finish, so we have seen the emergence of coloured or bi-coloured cutlery achieved by adding a titanium coating. We are seeing a growing demand for this across hospitality, retail and cruise markets.
In creating great design we find inspiration in the travel experience itself, from within the airline industry, from nature, and in daily contacts and conversations with friends, industry colleagues and our production team.

The airline industry is challenging, but also rewarding, thanks to the fact that so many inspiring colleagues are so focused on serving people well onboard.

Graham Ede, Yonder Digital Group

Graham Ede, of Yonder Digital Group explains why both automated and live customer service teams must work in harmony

Airlines are rapidly discovering that when it comes to ensuring customers are satisfied with their services, the devil is in the detail in this increasingly competitive environment.

All travellers now come armed with smartphones or digital cameras and are ready to vent their frustration online, whether by firing off an email to customer care, or posting images of a less-than-satisfactory meal or their lack of leg-room. Travellers love to share their experiences, they are armed with their smartphone and 76% of them post travel experiences on social media.

Given that customer experience ratings for the airline industry decreased by 7% between 2015 and 2016, there is a huge temptation to hop on the latest technological band-wagon – especially if it offers the silver bullet of (inexpensively) managing customer interactions automatically. Surely, any experienced professional is aware that such silver-bullet solutions are a tempting pipe-dream, especially if they rule out all the need for any human interaction.

Tools to manage touch points and interactions more cost-effectively via total or partial automation of customer service operations are, of course, gaining in capability and importance. This is particularly true in a world where travellers may contact a business via a range of channels before finally picking up the phone to customer service. They may have used a chatbot, sent an email or posted a tweet and they expect the company to have a seamless live record of these interactions – which very often it does not.

Each consumer will have their own contact preferences. Some prefer companies to reach out over one channel such as email or post, but would rather initiate contact themselves over social media. Others may prefer to buy tickets online, but deal with complaints over the telephone. The key is understanding the customer journey, not forcing people down the company’s preferred channels.

Dispensing with live agents altogether is usually a dreadful mistake. In fact, a study by IT consultant Accenture shows that 83% of consumers who switched providers say if companies provided better live or in-person support, they may have retained their business.

In conclusion, while technology and new media play an important role in providing the customer with more choice and should not be ignored, it’s vital that businesses don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and eliminate human interaction – especially at key stages of the customer journey.

Live and automated need to be both connected and symbiotic. With Aberdeen Group Inc. showing that companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies, businesses cannot afford to ignore the importance of providing a consistent service across a number of channels, offering seamless human interaction when required.

Yonder Digital Group is a customer management company for outsourced customer contact.

Jeremy Clark, Plate weight

Jeremy Clark weighs in on the trend towards more ludicrous or tacky plating offerings onboard

If you happen to follow me on Twotter – and if you don’t, then @trayset is where you need to be – you will know that I am regularly moved to point out ludicrous plating offerings in restaurants and share it with the very vocal @wewantplates movement.

Until now, airlines have largely avoided this pitfall but recently I was presented with a cheese selection on a slab of Welsh slate that weighed way more than the combined rest of the trayset provided.

That got me thinking about how little trayset equipment has changed. The standard trayset is pretty much the same as it was in the 1950s – sure the dishes are lighter or come in weird shapes, and disposables have increased but little else. Disposables I dislike intensely. On some Economy trays the packaging seems to outweigh the contents and is often more nutritious.

Business cabin equipment is conspicuous by its sheer weight and quantity. Recently, I unravelled a napkin to be deluged by a tsunami of cutlery – more than I could ever use to eat the meal with and probably enough to open a small hotel. “Who needs this much?” I thought as half of it clattered noisily to the floor. They even brought additional silverware with the dessert so by the end my table looked more like a scrap metal yard.

One airline, I noticed recently, decided that the unoccupied area of the tray needs to be covered by a 750g floor tile. Why? That, times 124 seats is – er, well almost another passenger.

In my work I sometimes get to advise on this area of the service so here are my tips – for free.

Cutlery: The standard knife, fork and spoon is just fine – we can use for both courses and if we want spares, we’ll ask. Teaspoon can be optional with the hot drink. In Economy if using disposable then please be sure to offer ones that don’t snap at the first stab of a pea.

Cups: Large enough for a proper drink. Forget any ridiculous thimbles designed by Coco Chanel or whoever. Think ‘mug’. In Economy, think melamine. Never polystyrene – ever!

Hot meals: In Economy, bring back melamine or china please. Foils should be banned.

Glasses: Ones that don’t tip over. Never plastic. The clue is in the name – GLASS.

Trays: Simple. Ones that don’t slide off the table at the slightest opportunity.

J Class cruets: Make these into something the passenger can steal without guilt (see Virgin Atlantic’s). Some 50% of them are going to get pinched anyway, just accept that.

Finally, First Class: Very easy. Champagne flutes and teaspoons only. They ate before boarding, they don’t need impressing and they are quite happy with a tin of caviar and a bottle of Bolly.

Debbie Stevens, The Cruise Line

With 20 years of experience onboard luxury cruise ships and now at The Cruise Line, Debbie Stevens detects a marked change in just what customers consider a luxury experience onboard

Dining onboard cruise ships is having to change to keep up with luxury trends which now value a relaxed atmosphere over a formal setting. As more and more people step out to explore and holiday by sea there is an ever-growing demand for different experiences and there has been an over haul of the catering services.

Luxury ship operators are blending the traditional and the contemporary, with freedom of choice emerging as a key deciding factor when customers look to book. Clients show exponential demand for an increased variety of experiences and as little structure as possible onboard.

Luxury customers pay handsomely for a lavish holiday and expect a wide range of choices without added cost and as a result many cruise lines have broadened the dining styles and the cuisines they offer onboard.

While it has become common for luxury cruise ships to house speciality restaurants, a large number of guests still prefer the consistency in setting and cuisine on offer in the main ship’s dining rooms. There’s a classicism and romance to the main dining room on a ship and an ambience not easily replicated in a speciality dining venue. In addition, many speciality restaurants work on the basis that diners must pre-book, which can be irksome to some guests.

Those speciality restaurants that have proven successful have done so by working on a fusion concept, offering a luxurious combination of cuisines, restaurant styles and service. Tuscan Steak on Oceania Cruises’ Sirena, for example, has combined the traditional steakhouse with modern style, to offer such dishes as fresh seafood along with rustic Italian cuisine. Similarly, Regent’s Seven Seas’ Explorer has Pacific Rim, a venue renowned for its pan-Asian fusion cuisine offering.

While some clients do not want the structure and formality of speciality dining, they are still very much in search of a luxurious quality to their trip. It is in meeting this need that a trend for relaxed timetabling has emerged.

Clients no longer want to eat to other people’s schedules, and having to gather en masse to dine can create an off-putting ‘cafeteria’ feel. By allowing clients to dine in their own time, a balance of luxury and relaxation is being achieved.

Dining is being redefined onboard cruise ships. A shift in taste and ideas of what constitutes luxury has put emphasis on a more relaxed atmosphere. Customers are moving away from stringently-organised cruise holidays, instead looking for more of a luxury retreat on the ocean, and it is up to cruise companies and ships to adapt to these tastes and requirements, in order to fully live up to their luxurious reputations.