Uplifting the airline experience: On-brand, not bland

The time has come to question the delivery of typical flight services and seek truly unmatched airline experiences. Many carriers have expertise centered only on delivering operational and engineering proficiency, but few have truly mastered the art of hospitality. An opportunity is emerging for airlines to redefine their business models, to perhaps borrow ideas from industries and companies that have successfully catered to diverse audiences.

Airlines could learn from—or even collaborate with—leaders in the hospitality industry to create an outstanding social experience, not just in social spaces but across all classes. What if Yo! Sushi had its own designated block of seats in economy for those who wanted a different flying experience more aligned with their day-to-day food and beverage habits? We may not be able to import the tabletop conveyor belt, but the brand could still be reinvented and delivered in a new way for a chosen few at 40,000 feet.

Yo Sushi
Image of Yo! Sushi courtesy of Flickr user Peter Morgan

On to business class. For the youthful and achingly cool “business hipsters”—aka the new millennials—perhaps we could import the Ace Hotel vibe. Cool and social at the same time, food, beds, and music all aligned for a limited number of business seats could break the expected and stereotypical delivery of bland Gordon Gekko corporateness.

Ace Hotel
Image of Ace Hotel Portland courtesy of Flickr user John M.

And for first class? What about offering the Aston Martin suite, with chic and timeless elegance, a real sense of rarity and craft that others can only envy from afar? It could partner with Johnnie Walker Blue Label for a perfect pour in a perfectly fitted seat. Mixing up brands in this way could help to reimagine the typically tired and predictable experiences that passengers have become accustomed to as they are processed and packaged from global airport to global airport.

Aston Martin interior
Image of a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 interior courtesy of Flickr user James Joel

So, let’s switch it up a bit, start drawing upon the best of the best for our entertainment needs and focus on what companies are actually good at. After all, would you rather have coffee from Starbucks or “Globo Airlines”? We all know the answer to that. Now where’s the solution?


This piece was originally published in Aircraft Interiors International (September 2016).