Editor’s comment: Failing to impress

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Wednesday’s UK Budget was notable for not only its support for the hospitality industry, investment and innovation sectors, but also for its lack of focus on the retail and travel markets.

The silence has not gone unnoticed, but many observers and stakeholders have reacted with incredulity.

Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “Aviation has been the hardest-hit sector in the pandemic, but the Budget is blind to the impact of the near-complete shutdown of international travel.”

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said: “The Chancellor said not one single word about aviation in his budget. I am utterly dismayed that he can ignore this industry which is clearly going to be the last to recover from Covid.

“This is a massive slap in the face for the industry that has supported repatriations, brought in vital supplies and faced never ending changes to restrictions and rules and a total shutdown as a result of Government policy.

“This budget could push many airlines further in to a death spiral and cost even more jobs.

“We must now look to the vital Global Taskforce report on 12 April to give our aviation industry certainty and security and help us to plan a way though this crisis.”

The Global Travel Taskforce’s recommendations are aimed at facilitating a return to international travel as soon as possible “while still managing the risk from imported cases and variants of concern”. Following that, the government will determine when international travel should resume, which will be no earlier than 17 May.

Air travel’s corridor of uncertainty remains.

Galaga will soon be available on Panasonic IFE equipped aircraft

Editor’s comment: Blast from the past

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Galaga will soon be available on Panasonic IFE equipped aircraft

Until the end of the 20th Century, nostalgia was regarded as a psychological issue. However, recent academic and scientific studies have proven the contrary.

In 2017, a study by the University of Southampton, found that once people enter into a state of nostalgia, their moods are elevated, their self-esteem is boosted and they feel more content.

Last year, Netflix released an ‘Arabic nostalgia’ season in the run up to Eid during lockdown. All titles came from the 1970s and ‘80s. The hope was to create a sense of connection and shared reminiscence during the enforced period at home.

So, it’s no surprise to see airlines tapping into this stream, as they begin preparations for a recovery of air travel.

British Airway, for example, has already teamed up with celebrity chef Tom Kerridge for its short-haul menu, which includes British favourites Warm Steak and Ale Pie and Ploughman’s Sandwich.

Now, gamers can re-run their misspent youth following the impending availability of retro games on IFE systems offered by Panasonic.

The company has partnered with Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc, the developer behind such multi-million-selling video game franchises such as Pac-Man (the best selling arcade game of all time) and  Galaga, the follow-up to the acclaimed fixed shooter, Galaxian.

With so many of us being grounded for so long, airlines are hoping these connections to the past will allay any fears of returning to flying and a bright new future.

BA cabin crew with face mask

Editor’s comment: Brand appeal

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BA cabin crew with face mask

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is working with British Airways and Reckitt Benckiser employees to advise them on health-based cleaning protocols and additional personal safety measures.

From March, Reckitt Benckiser’s disinfectant brand Dettol will supply hand sanitiser stations at all check-in desks, self-service bag drop, lounges and at departure gates, at Heathrow Terminal 5. The airline will also use Dettol antibacterial wipes, cleaners and sprays to keep surfaces clean at the airport and in its lounges.

Each customer will be handed a packet containing the wipe as they board the aircraft.

The partnership with BA is Reckitt Benckiser’s latest foray into aircraft hygiene, following its collaboration with Saudia in June last year, which saw it become the official hygiene partner of the carrier.

In the US, Reckitt Benckiser works with Delta as part of the airline’s Delta CareStandard protocols, supplying its Lysol disinfectant products.

Associating with household cleaning brands is one way airline’s are appealing to an apprehensive public. As more airlines appoint dedicated officers, i.e. WestJet’s new Chief Medical Officer Dr Tammy McKnight,  to oversee and guide their cleaning and health protocols, passengers could see more of the brands commonly found in the cleaning cupboard, in the cabin.

Editor’s comment: Time to retrain

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KPMG’s restructuring practice has recently been appointed as joint liquidators to Norwegian Air Resources UK Ltd, which slashed more than 1,000 jobs after low-cost carrier Norwegian exited from its long-haul routes.

Based at Gatwick Airport, Norwegian Air Resources UK Ltd is Norwegian’s UK crewing business and employed approximately 1,100. Such losses are indicative of the wider redundancies effected by the aviation industry in response to the grounding of aircraft fleets and the collapse of air travel as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

But help is at hand for those finding themselves unexpectedly re-entering the job market.

A survey of 800 cabin crew who have lost their jobs in the crisis found that 78% wanted help to identify skills that can enable them to transfer into other roles.

In response, IATA is offering a three-hour online training course, to be completed within six months,  free-of-charge for those who register between 9 and 23 February.

Cabin Crew – Leveraging Professional Skills course has been developed with input from former crew members to help provide aviation professionals and cabin crew members with the tools, techniques and confidence to enter the job market and achieve the goals they set out for themselves.

“Tens of thousands of crew members have lost their jobs in this crisis. This offering is a salute to their service to the industry. We hope to welcome them back to aviation, but for now many will need to seek opportunities to earn a livelihood in other sectors. Fortunately, they have the skills to make the transition. Applying IATA’s training expertise, we will help them to present these skills to potential employers,” said Stéphanie Siouffi, IATA’s Director of Training.

Full details can be found here:

JetBlue Mint Studio

Editor’s comment: Mint freshness

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JetBlue Mint Studio

JetBlue raised the curtain this week on its reimagined version of its Mint experience, for its A321neo business-class cabins.

In the first major overhaul of Mint since its introduction in 2014, passengers should be able to appreciate the enhanced product when it debuts on JetBlue’s first-ever transatlantic flights to London (planned for this summer, travel restrictions permitting). Domestic passengers in the US will be able to enjoy it on select flights between New York and LA later this year, albeit on a smaller scale.

JetBlue’s refreshed Mint cabin is the result of a collaboration with London-based design studio Acumen, and the outcome is amazing.

At the heart of the experience is a bespoke version of the VantageSOLO seat from Thompson Aero Seating, which includes all seats having suite doors – the first all-suite-door business-class cabin on an A321.

As Neil Taggart, Vice President and General Manager at Thompson Aero Seating, commented: “The arrangement of the VantageSOLO (inward-facing herringbone layout) is quite ground-breaking on this type of aircraft. From only a 33-inch seat pitch, it offers a fully-horizontal flat bed with direct aisle access for every seat. For JetBlue’s reimagined Mint, we have configured this with a fully functioning suite door, offering an exclusive business-class-seating experience normally only the reserve of a widebody cabin.”

Bespoke styling and features for JetBlue include unique mattress comfort technology from Tuft and Needle incorporated into the seat cushions supplied by Sabeti Wain, plus personal and additional stowage facilities including a laptop drawer.

The brand-new Mint Studio, an enhanced front-row seating product, includes an electrically actuated guest seat that translates into bed mode at the same time as the main seat to provide an increased sleeping surface and a large executive table for enhanced dining or working.

Other features include integrated wireless charging and customised lighting including a Polystone feature light and custom-colour reading light from Beadlight, plus customised thermoplastics (from Kydex) with unique Mint graphics.

As Mariya Stoyanova, Director of Product Development at JetBlue, commented: “Mint’s thoughtful design has resonated with so many customers over the years, and we are looking forward to bringing this next evolution of our award-winning premium product across the pond later this year.”

And so are we.

Qatar Airways A350 mid-flight

ABM enjoys continuing cleaning success

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Qatar Airways A350 mid-flight

Weeks after announcing a cabin cleaning contract with Etihad Airways at Heathrow Airport, ABM has signed up Qatar Airways.

Antony Marke, Group Managing Director for ABM’s UK aviation business, said: “Qatar Airways is one of the few global airlines to have continued flying throughout the pandemic and we are focussed on helping them build on this success.

“Ensuring passengers feel safe enough to fly again plays a major role in this and delivering clean airports and aircrafts is therefore essential.”

Qatar Airways has recently extended its fleet of Airbus A350-1000 aircraft with the addition of three new aircraft.

Dr. Henry Ting virtually joins Delta CEO Ed Bastian and Bill Lentsch, Delta's Chief Customer Experience Officer, for an employee town hall.

Editor’s comment: Health matters

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Dr. Henry Ting virtually joins Delta CEO Ed Bastian and Bill Lentsch, Delta's Chief Customer Experience Officer, for an employee town hall.

In a memo to staff at the beginning of the year, Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote, “We will be building a new Delta centered on a medical and economic recovery that hasn’t yet taken shape. While our long history has taught us much, our success will depend on our collaboration, our willingness to be open to new ideas, our ability to adapt and our humility in recognising that we won’t always know the answers.”

This week, the airline appointed Dr Henry Ting as its first ever Chief Health Officer. Ting is a world-renowned cardiologist and currently serves as Mayo Clinic’s Chief Value Officer.

The appointment strengthens Delta’s relationship with Mayo Clinic, which deepened last June as part of the Delta CareStandard.

The clinic has advised the airline on employee testing, strategies for cleanliness and operational tactics to reduce the transmission of the virus.

Ting, who assumes his new role on 5 February, has co-led Delta’s Integrated Advisory Council since June last year. The council comprises professionals from both organisations, meeting frequently to review and assess Delta’s health and safety policies and procedures. Mayo Clinic will also provide Delta with ongoing clinical guidance to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through enhanced safety measures for employees.

Announcing Ting’s appointment to staff, Bastian said, “We know we can continue to improve and establish Delta as a model for how organisations promote physical and mental health.”

Where Delta leads will others follow?

Biden Harris Administration

Editor’s comment: Presidential terms

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Biden Harris Administration

Ex-British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson reportedly said that “A week is a long time in politics.”

Yet hours into his Presidency, Joe Biden, the 46th US President has already begun reversing some of the policies of his predecessor, and shaping the future direction of US politics.

One of the Executive Orders already signed is a 100-day mask mandate for interstate travel and aviation. Supporting the call, the Air Line Pilots Association said “Voluntary implementation leaves too much risk of COVID-19 exposure for frontline aviation workers.”

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA responded via Twitter: “We applaud @POTUS’s mask mandate for interstate travel/aviation. It is fantastic to finally have this leadership we’ve been calling for for a year. The Biden Admin is demonstrating in the first days that combatting #COVID19 is a priority & essential to our health/economic stability.”

US airlines have for some months vigorously enforced their respective mask-wearing requirement. For example, Delta has confirmed it has banned in excess of 800 passengers for non-compliance of the rule which came into place last May.

These passengers may be allowed to fly again once the requirement is lifted.

Image courtesy of The White House. 

Passenger checks in using QR code on phone

Editor’s comment: Needlepoint

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Passenger checks in using QR code on phone

Despite the progress of vaccinations, Alexandre de Juniac, IATA CEO, has not mixed his words with his recent remarks during the first media briefing of the year.

“Governments’ tightened borders in a knee-jerk response to a virus mutation. Canada, UK, Germany, Japan and others added testing to their COVID-19 measures without removing quarantine requirements. In other words, they have chosen policy measures that will shut down travel,” he said.

“This approach tells us that these governments are not interested in managing a balanced approach to the risks of COVID-19.  They appear to be aiming for a zero-COVID world. This is an impossible task that comes with severe consequences – the full extent of which it would be impossible to calculate,” he added.

For de Juniac, testing and vaccinations should replace quarantine requirements to safely reopen borders. But will vaccines boost forward bookings?

In November last year, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce faced a backlash when he said that the airline was considering making travel pursuant on proof of vaccination.

“The Qantas Group acknowledges some people have concerns regarding vaccines. However, we believe we have a duty of care to everyone on board our aircraft to create a safe environment. All our policies are ultimately shaped by this.

“We don’t intend to formalise the detail of our vaccine requirement (including how long it might apply for) until a safe and effective one is well-established; and only then once international travel from Australia is ready to restart in earnest, which we are estimating will be between the middle-to-end of 2021,” the airline said in a statement.

This week, Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “It will take a significant amount of time to vaccinate the global population, particularly those in less advanced countries, or in different age groups, therefore we should not discriminate against those who wish to travel but have not been vaccinated.

“Only a tiny percentage of people around the world have so far received the vaccine, whereas there are vast numbers who have not, but who could be tested, show a negative result, and travel safely.

“The common-sense approach is to allow the free movement of people who can prove a negative test result, rather than reserve travelling or jobs for a small minority who have been vaccinated.

“Furthermore, the most vulnerable groups should be prioritised, a blanket vaccination requirement would simply discriminate against non-vulnerable groups, such as Generation X, Z and Millennials, who should be able to travel with proof of a negative COVID test.”

The restoration of international travel seems a long way off.

Insignia face covering

Colour changing ‘smart labels’ ensure face masks keep passengers safe in the skies

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Insignia face covering

Technology that will alert users to the need to replace their face mask has been unveiled by smart packaging company, Insignia Technologies.

Designed to encourage safer mask practice while bringing peace of mind to the public, Insignia’s smart label changes colour to indicate when a disposable face mask has reached the end of its recommended lifespan or when a re-usable mask requires to be changed.

As COVID-19 cases rise in countries around the world, face masks are now part of everyday life, with requirements in place for people to wear them in public spaces including onboard aircraft. However, little attention has been given to whether people are changing their masks regularly enough.

Whilst the recommended maximum time to wear a mask is dependent upon a number of factors, The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine has published its recommendation – typically between four to six hours – alongside recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE).

Face masks and coverings are now a mandatory part of travel, with many airlines requiring passengers to wears masks during flights and when in airports. Despite major carriers such as British Airways requesting that passengers change their mask every four hours, there is little regulation in place to monitor compliance and ensure both airlines and travellers are wearing masks that are still safe for use.

Insignia’s solution provides an additional level of reassurance to both passengers and flight attendants, reminding mask wearers to change their masks regularly and ensuring that the safety of all parties remains the top priority.

Founded in 2012, Insignia Technologies’ smart labels are used across the food and drink sector. With an estimated 18 million tonnes of edible food sent to landfill in the UK each year, Insignia set out on a mission to reduce food waste by developing a label that uses smart pigment technology to change colour over time to show how long a packet of food has been open.

When COVID-19 hit the UK, Insignia’s team of scientists redeveloped its label technology so that it could be suitable for application on face masks.

Dr Graham Skinner, Product Development Manager at Insignia Technologies, said: “We modified our labels so that they fit the recommended time frames given for effective mask use. The label sits on the outside of the face mask and changes colour to indicate when the end of the recommended time has been reached, providing an easy to use visual reminder and marker of reassurance.”

David Kilshaw, CEO of Insignia Technologies, said: “We want to educate mask users of the importance of following recommended guidelines when it comes to face masks. The travel industry has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, and now passengers and crew are required to wear masks in airports and for the duration of their flight. With these requests in place, it’s important that both passengers and airline workers remember to change their masks regularly to ensure they continue to practice safe mask use. By including our innovative label technology on masks, we can ensure that PPE is being used responsibly and isn’t being worn for too long, or thrown away too quickly.”