EXEC predicts some airline trends that will change the face of business travel.
The Seat Hierarchy: Airlines are moving towards providing more business class tickets in an aircraft while cutting back on first class. This is validated by the fact that manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus are seeing lesser first class orders. Not only will there be more business seats but they are definitely going to be better – fully flat beds, aisle access, tray-based entertainment systems; the works. It’s not uniformly good news however. The return of the even-more-cramped 17-inch seat in economy seems inevitable, especially considering how passengers are reluctant to pay for wider seats.
Vis-à-vis: If you are running an airline, there is not much you can do differently to stand out among the competitors. You can always leave a mark with customer service however and airlines are increasingly focussing on a personalised experience that starts right at the time of booking your tickets. Social networking will play a major role in propelling this trend forward.
DIY: With flying now as commonplace as taking the train, passengers will be given more control of the process. This is already becoming a reality with most major airlines providing online booking and check-in option. The message is clear: Do It Yourself.
Stay Connected: The most disconcerting thing about flying for many was probably the total lack of connectivity once you enter the plane – No phones, no internet. But with more and more people experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms without their hourly dose of www, airlines are working overtime trying to bring the internet onboard. The American service provider Gogo, offers 24 hours passes for about $13 (~ `720) within the continent and many players in the rest of the world are raring to emulate their success.
Fly Low: Wrinkle your nose as much as you want, but low cost carriers are here to stay. However, the horror stories we generally relate to low-cost air travel may be a thing of the past with the rise of the Discount Diva; sophisticated tastes but at basement prices. The cheapest seats might do a number on your knees but the service and comfort in the premium cabins of some low-cast carriers rival those of business and premium economy classes.