Airlines Lure Passengers With Technological Gadgetry

In an age that is dominated by computer wizardry and the common expectation of immediate contact and interaction with ones social group, however far distant they might be, it is only to be expected that airlines will lure passengers with the promise of better, snazzier gadgets to play with during long, boring flights.

Hot on the heels of Virgin Atlantic Airways announcing that it will allow in-flight mobile phone calls, and British Airways already allowing text messaging on flights, smaller airlines are also cashing in on their passengers’ addiction with all things electronic.

One prime example is the announcement by Scoot, the low-cost subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, that it will be providing its customers with in-flight entertainment via I-pads, pre-loaded with popular films, TV shows, music and games. Passengers in the carrier’s business class cabin, ScootBiz, will have the use of a complimentary I-pad, while other passengers will have to rent them for around GBP11.50 per flight. Scoot eventually intends to provide on-board wireless Internet access, where passengers will be able to stream content from an on-board library, to their own electronic devices. This would be charged for on a pay per flight basis for economy passengers, but be provided as a complimentary perk for business class travellers.

Scoot are far from alone in their desire to provide the latest in in-flight entertainment, they are only a part of the current stampede to find the latest gizmos to blow their customers’ minds. This is good news for the technology industries, who will be only too keen to provide the airlines with ever more clever equipment to pacify the travelling hoards, in an arms race that is set to run and run, but probably not such good news for the traveller who just wants to sit back and enjoy a peaceful flight.


Virgin to Offer Mobile Phone Calls In-Flight

Virgin Atlantic Airways, the UK-based airline operator, has become the first Britsh airline to provide access to mobile phone calls for passengers travelling on its new A330 aircraft, and has future plans to extend the service to its B747 aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic intends to have 20 aircraft fitted with the Aeromobile technology by the end of 2012, which will include B747’s that are currently undergoing AGBP50m refurbishment. Passengers in all cabins will be able to make and receive telephone calls, send and receive text messages and access e-mail and the Internet.

Customers choosing to use the service will be charged according to their individual provider’s international roaming rights, though this is currently restricted to 02 and Vodafone with whom the airline has signed agreements, so passengers on other networks will not be able to use the service initially.

Other usage restrictions include no connection while the airplane is taking-off and landing, and in order to comply with Federal restrictions, the service has to be disabled within 250 miles of US airspace.

The idea of passengers using mobile phones while sitting in adjacent seats will undoubtedly be a matter of trepidation for a proportion of travellers who expect rest and relaxation during lengthy flights. How Virgin Atlantic intend to deal with the possible nuisance aspect of in-flight phone calls is not yet known.

Uk-based airline, British Airways does already offer air mobile phone technology on flights to New York from London with its A318 Club World City, but phone calls are currently disabled and only e-mails and text messages can be sent and received.

Virgin Atlantic Improves Online Strategy

Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group, is currently revamping its Internet marketing strategy.

eDigitalResearch, a research specialist company offering insights to online communication, has recommended an upgraded Virgin Atlantic website as means of improving the online presence of the airline and customer satisfaction. The airline’s new website is presently offering major improvements in its design, functionality and usability, from the previous version.

Virgin Atlantic shares a long standing relationship with its research partners, eDigitalResearch, and has been using its insight tools, including HUB Panels and Communities, eDigitalSurveys, and eTravel Benchmark study to expand on its consumer insight, develop a loyal customer following, and compare online performance against competitors.

Fergus Boyd, the airline manager of e-business strategy, said, ‘At Virgin Atlantic we obsess about the voice of the customer and customer feedback. Our work with eDigitalResearch in general, and on our new website in particular at, has been instrumental in helping us measure the success of our new designs and improved customer experience.’

Derek Eccleston, eDigitalResearch head of research, said, ‘Listening to the voice of the customer and bringing feedback into the business is an integral part for any organisation looking to grow over coming months. By using a variety of our innovative insight tools, Virgin Atlantic is ensuring that it reaches a whole range of consumers, not just those that book through the site, and allows them to tap into what all customers are saying. The long-standing relationship between eDigitalResearch and Virgin Atlantic means that our insight professionals have a real understanding of key business objectives and work closely alongside each other to provide the most comprehensive, yet cost-effective, research solutions at our disposal.’

European Commission Releases Statement on bmi Sale

The European Commission (EC), the executive body for the European Union, has released a statement defending its decision to approve the sale of British Midland International (bmi), an airline owned by Germany-based Lufthansa, to British International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways.

Earlier Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group, had announced its intention to appeal against the sale of bmi, although the sales process will not be affected by this appeal. Virgin Atlantic has claimed that the EC has approved the sale too quickly, and the 14 airport slots that BA are giving up at Heathrow airport, as a proviso of the £172.5 million deal, were insufficient to ensure healthy competition in the UK aviation market.

In a statement, the EC has clarified its stand by saying, ‘We are confident that the commitments proposed by IAG address all competition issues identified and we stand by our decision to clear the transaction subject to these conditions.

In this case, a decision was reached in 35 working days, which is not particularly fast. For example, out of 319 adopted merger and acquisition decisions in 2011, 98 percent were adopted within this timeframe.

Moreover, as described in our best practices guidelines, the commission held in-depth pre-notification contacts with the parties as early as November 2011, well before the notification took place on February 10, 2012.’

Virgin Atlantic will be able to appeal to the General Court of the EU within two months of publication of a full report by the EC on the sale of bmi to IAG.

Gatwick Airport Opens Runways as Normality Returns after Emergency Landing

London Gatwick Airport, considered to be London’s second airport after Heathrow, will be operating close to normal on April 17, 2012, following an emergency landing incident involving a Virgin Atlantic aircraft on Monday, April 16, 2012.

On Monday, a Virgin Atlantic aircraft made an emergency landing at the airport, following which the runway had to be closed to operations for several hours, as the aircraft’s passengers were evacuated and taken to safety. The aircraft was flying with its full capacity of 299 passengers and 13 crewmembers on board, and used its emergency chutes to evacuate all passengers to safety on landing.

The airport runways remained closed for several hours following the incident, and flights only resumed by 15:23 GMT for arrivals, and 16:00 GMT for departures. The airport has reported that around 26 flights were diverted and nine flights were cancelled due to the temporary closure of the airport.

In a official statement released later, the airport authorities said, ‘Following the incident earlier today when a Virgin flight bound for Orlando made an emergency landing, our main runway is now fully operational for departing and arriving flights. Passengers should expect some delays for the rest of Monday but disruptions are not expected to continue into Tuesday.

Virgin Atlantic, in a separate release, said, ‘Due to a technical problem onboard the aircraft, the captain decided as a precautionary measure to immediately evacuate the aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic can confirm that all the passengers and crew have now safely disembarked. We can confirm that there have been four minor injuries.’