Impact Publications : MiceBTN_59
Page 58 • MICEBTN - M AY 2015 Bedrooms in the sky, more first/business classes.... With premium travellers worth so much, will the next focus be airport upgrades? THOSE of us with long memories still remember Australia’s TAA and its domes- tic competitor Ansett in the mid 1980s, a time when Qantas was restricted to operating international services, writes Jack Handley. The two domestics’ customers were, for the most part, flying on company money and on company business and only about 10 per cent of Australians flew regularly for any reason. Eventually, of course, TAA was re- named Australian Airlines and then ab- sorbed into Qantas - and Ansett failed. Today, Australia’s Qantas Group is head-to-head with Virgin Australia for domestic services and competes with a plethora of names in the international arena that simply didn’t exist 30 years ago. But what has more choice meant for the premium traveller? Well, for a start, definitions have changed. Premium travellers today are ranked - depending on airline and route – a s those flying ‘super’ first class, first class, business/first class, business class or premium economy. On some airlines, some frequent flier premium passengers also can be recog- nised when flying economy class and of- fered frequent flier/premium passenger rewards including better meals, amenities kits and free drinks. For passengers paying enough to be at the sharp end of the plane, however, it’s no longer just a case of more entertain- ment choices, better-presented food and expensive drinks. One of today’s buzzwords is privacy, with major carriers (ie, those using the largest planes) using their negotiating muscle to ‘encourage’ manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to customise their offers. Some already have exclusive private, first class areas and Etihad was the first to offer a three-room suite with a living room, bedroom, bathroom and shower (plus a butler) on its A380s. Emirates has joined in, with a recently-announced ‘bed- room initiative for its A380s and B777 metal. Emirates also is tipped to start selling exclusive wines to its premium customers. Smartphones and other mobile devices too are playing a part, making it possible to avoid queuing and time wasting at air- port desks with updates on flight delays ‘pushed’ to devices that already double as boarding passes. Security procedures also are being speeded up – and for the business trav- eller, further ‘fast tracking’ initiatives can be expected as airlines move to protect their premium passenger profit centres. This means that if one top tier airline adds a superlative ‘plus’ to its offers in the air or on the ground, its competitors are likely to try to leapfrog it with initia- tives of their own. Think ‘super airport lounges’ with a gymnasium, swimming pools and en- hanced entertainment for travel’s elite. Where space restrictions exist, it’s not outside the bounds of possibility that some airlines will offer ‘super first’ short- term near-airport accommodation at selected destinations. Down side On the down side, of course, all pas- sengers are competing for finite airport public and shopping spaces, while airlines bid for slots, gates, lounge space and everything else they can think of that might boost their premium market share (and profits) by the occasional percent- age point. Every traveller now can expect more flight delays caused by airport conges- tion (both takeoffs and landings), or unpredictable weather and airport access roads that are increasingly crowded. Parking, taxis and trains/buses all are becoming more expensive and more in demand. If you doubt that our skies are busier than ever, visit https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=yx7_yzypm5w for a time-lapse presentation of a single day’s global flights. It’s worth a look. 35,000 new planes The numbers keep growing. US plane maker Boeing and its main rival Europe’s Airbus say demand for air travel in the next 20 years will require about 35,000 new planes. The largest deals ever for Airbus - 234 aircraft in 2013 worth US$24 billion list - and 230 jets in 2011 worth US$22.4 billion for Boeing were from Indonesia’s Lion Air, though UAE-based Emirates eventu- ally topped those figures with a US$56 billion order for 200 Boeing 777X aircraft. Etihad was the first to offer a three-room suite with a living room, bedroom, bathroom and shower (plus a butler) on some of its a380s.