Travellers jetting off on holiday are used to cabin crew looking after their comfort and safety. But now a few airlines are trying to look after their post-flight travel needs too.
British Airways has begun trialling a new in-flight service where cabin crew offer passengers local travel information and advice – via an in-flight iPad app.
One cabin crew member on select long-haul flights is now doubling as an ‘onboard travel advisor’ – helping passengers with general travel requests.
The scope of the service includes recommendations on local restaurants, hotels and best shopping spots, all through BA’s new iPad app.
While the information in the app is hand-picked by BA, it is not used as a sales tool or a source of commission for cabin crew, said Victoria Madden, a spokesperson for the airline.
The free service is being trialled on nine routes, including to New York, Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Johannesburg.
If successful, British Airways said it will consider offering the service on more flights this Autumn.
How it works
Since the app works offline, British Airways doesn’t need to rely on internet connectivity in-flight. The ‘travel advisor’ must therefore download the travel app before take-off.
The lack of Internet connectivity also means that while passengers can ask for a hotel or restaurant recommendation, cabin crew won’t be able to book a room or a table through the iPad.
British Airways adds that it has no plans to introduce on board Wi-Fi in the short to medium term based on customer feedback. “Customers have been telling us that they enjoy their privacy,” BA’s Madden said.
For now, British Airways only offers Wi-Fi on its business-only London City to New York service, which allows passengers to email or text in their seats.
While the new iPad trial with passengers only goes so far, British Airways says it is an important step for the airline as part of a wider investment to improve the in-flight customer experience.
Last year, British Airways handed out iPads to senior cabin crew allowing them to access data such as flight passenger lists and safety manuals – saving paper and space – as well as details on customers’ individual travel needs, such as those with special meal requests.
British Airways isn’t the only airline to try and differentiate itself from the competition by offering a personalised, travel-focused service in the skies.
Air New Zealand – a niche airline – has hired its own ‘International Concierge’ team to board its long-haul flights and share their local knowledge with passengers – without the use of iPads – before they reach their destination.
Passengers can ask for advice about onward travel, rental car and hotel recommendations, best shopping locations and local restaurants to visit, as examples.
Could airlines do more to help us with our travel needs – or should they be involved in the process at all? Tell us what you think in the comments box below.