This month’s Travel Talk column focuses on air travel, with airlines working towards diversifying their product, using artificial intelligence [AI] to implement trends, and increasing their airlift schedules.
“Every traveler has unique needs, preferences and expectations, so it is important to continually diversify the product offering,” says Pablo Chiozza, senior v.p. of the U.S.A., Canada, the Caribbean and Asia for LATAM Airlines Group. “This means not only digging into what travelers expect, but also what surprises them by truly adding value to the details of their journeys.”
At The New York Times Travel Show, Cenk Ocal, Turkish Airlines’ general manager, said, “The defining trend that will set brands apart in 2018 and beyond will be intangible: which operators can deploy innovation while also striking a balance between profitability and empathy, without forgetting their customer is more than a number.”
Chiozza notes, too, that, “During the past few years, a clear trend has emerged in new carriers entering the market. As industry offerings continue to increase, so does competition and demand for air travel. Additionally, thanks to advancements in technology, a growing number of travel options are readily available to consumers. Without a doubt, the massification of air travel is underway. As travelers look for unique experiences with simplified bookings, LATAM will continue to invest in and explore new technologies that further solidify our market positioning as Latin America’s leading airline group.”
Air Canada, too, is “putting emphasis on technology, including artificial intelligence, to use data to better anticipate the products our customers will want and attend to their needs, delivered through enhanced mobile and online channels so our customers can connect better with us,” says Peter Fitzpatrick, Air Canada’s senior manager for media relations, Central Canada.
Late last year, Air Canada began a multi-year program to renew its North American narrow-body fleet with Boeing 737 Max aircraft, and it’s also moving to complete the renewal of its wide body fleet with 787s.
“The narrow body fleet renewal is a major investment that customers will notice the most, with 18 of a planned 61 of the new jets in service by the end of the year.
“Another area where we expect developments is in improving the airport experience.” In fact, late last year a new Signature Suite luxury lounge opened its doors at the airline’s Toronto Pearson global hub.
Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, has unveiled the first of four new Airbus A330-200 aircraft with catchy names to join its fleet, including The Daydream Believer, which begins service this month; Scarlett O’Hara and Honky Tonk Woman, which will join the fleet in the upcoming weeks; and Strawberry Fields, joining in spring 2018. The four new aircraft will initially operate from Manchester to New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Barbados. The planes’ Upper Class Cabins, featuring 19 Upper Class Seats, introduce three new seat styles for the airline—the Love Suite, the Freedom Solo Suite, and the Corner Solo Suite—all offering direct aisle access.
But it’s not just up in the air where airlines are upping the ante. Qatar Airways, for example, is now offering a selection of pre-bookable city and desert tours for passengers transiting through Qatar. The Discover Qatar Transit Tours allow passengers with a transit time at Hamad International Airport of five to 12 hours to choose from a range of activities during their stopover.
Or, those who need to freshen up while waiting for their departure time can make use of Delta Air Lines’ new Asanda Spa Lounge in its Delta Sky Club in Atlanta.
“With the addition of Asanda Spa Lounge in Atlanta, we’re providing industry-leading, innovative spa and meditation options, and another way to relax and unplug at the club,” said Claude Roussel, managing director, Delta Sky Club, in a press release statement. “This is one example of our ongoing efforts to continuously elevate our guests’ experience in the Club.”
And wellbeing is also front and center at Air France’s newly revamped business class lounge in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle. The lounge is completely redesigned, much larger and totally renovated with an open kitchen, private saunas and a detox bar.
• Delta will offer Saturday service nonstop to Aruba beginning June 9 through Aug. 18.
• LATAM has already announced 23 new routes for 2018, and has debuted its three times a week nonstop flight from Boston to Sao Paulo, Brazil, making it the only carrier to offer this route. “We are proud of our presence in destinations that other airlines have not yet reached…we are thrilled to play such an integral role in their development,” says Chiozza.
• Emirates will introduce nonstop service between Newark and Dubai starting June 1, adding to its existing daily flight that operates with a stop in Athens, Greece.
• Throughout 2018, Air Canada will be launching new routes, of which 10 international routes have already been announced, including Montreal to Tokyo and Dublin; Toronto to Zagreb, Bucharest, and Porto; and Vancouver to Paris and Zurich.
• Beginning March 14, Caribbean Airlines will launch non-stop service between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and New York’s JFK; the weekly service will operate on Wednesdays.
• Three airlines will increase their service to St. Thomas this year: Spirit Airlines will increases its Fort Lauderdale to St. Thomas frequency to daily starting March 10. Delta Air Lines will reinstate its daily service from New York to St. Thomas on May 24; and JetBlue added a second daily flight from San Juan to St. Thomas in February.
• Interjet launched a nonstop flight from Chicago to Guadalajara, Mexico in February.
• This month, British Airways will begin flying three times a week to Las Vegas from London Gatwick.
Air Canada: aircanada.com
Air France: airfrance.com
British Airways: britishairways.com
Delta Air Lines: delta.com
Qatar Airways: qatarairways.com
Virgin Atlantic: virginatlantic.com