airline amenities

Passenger-friendly innovations in skies now – and on the horizon

(Airbus_A320 Family Airspace interior. Courtesy Airbus)

For CNBC this week, I put together some of the most passenger-friendly, or unusual, finalists vying for this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards, which are set to be announced April 10 and often described as “the Oscars of the aviation industry.”

One of the more unusual and intriuging ideas on the list is something called a ‘Durinal,’ by Zodia Aerospace.

 

 

You know how it is: after meals and just before landing, bathroom lines get long and the lav-to-passenger ratio in the economy cabin on airplanes just seems wrong. Worse, when lavs get busy, there’s that wet floor issue that comes courtesy of the male ‘splash zone.’

The Durinal is designed to solve both problems by replacing one regular lavatory with two urinals. Durinal creator Zodiac Aerospace says installing the toilets on planes can improve lavatory “cycle time” and cut down on male use of the conventional toilets, “Thus leaving them more hygienic for the ladies.”

 

 

 

On flights that aren’t full, Zodiac Aerospace’s new Eco Zlounge concept makes it possible for passengers to stretch out with a mechanism that allows the cushion part of the seat in front of a passenger to fold down, creating more leg room.

No doubt the extra space will come with an extra cost, but on long flights passengers may be willing to pay that cost.

See more finalists in my CNBC story, here.

Alaska Airlines expands its Wine Flies Free program

Here’s good news for wine lovers: Alaska Airlines has expanded its popular Wine Flies Free program, which allows the carrier’s Mileage Plan members to check a case of wine – 12 bottles – for free.

The program includes domestic flights on Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and Skywest flights from the cities listed below, but does not include Virgin America flights until May 2018.

In Washington: Bellingham, Pasco, Pullman, Seattle, Spokane, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, and Yakima

In Oregon:  Eugene, Medford, Portland, and Redmond

In Idaho: Boise and Lewiston

And in California: Burbank, Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Oakland, Ontario, Orange County, Palm Springs, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma

In addition to allowing passengers to check a case of wine for free, Alaska’s Wine Flies Free program has another valuable perk: the wine-tasting fee charged by many wineries in Oregon and Washington will be waived for those who show their Alaska Airlines boarding pass.

Details on the Oregon Wines Fly Free are here. 

In Washington wine country, not only do many wineries offer free tastings to Alaska Airlines customers who show their boarding passes, under the Wine Flies Free program Hertz rental car will waive the drop off fee, so travelers can pick up a car in one city, travel through wine country tasting and buying wine, and then drop the car off in another city. Details are here.

So drink up!

 

 

Free chat + Free movies on Alaska Airlines

Alaska is one of the airlines offering  travel waivers for passengers affected by winter weather this week, which means you may have to wait to try out the airlines’ newest perks:

Free use of iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger on Gogo-equipped flights.

The option is offered in a beta version right now and should be fully functional by January 24th, the airline promises.

Also free (through March 31, 2017): access  – on your devices – to the all the entertainment offered to Alaska Airlines passengers during flight, including Hollywood movies and popular TV shows.

The airline’s new Premium Class service also debut this week on some routes, offering passengers who have purchased this perk extra legroom, early boarding, complimentary snacks and alcoholic beverages. About 40 percent of Alaska’s fleet has been retrofitted with the new premium class section seating so far and the airline promises that 90 of the fleet will offer this option by the end of 2017.

 

Light reading on Lufthansa flights

Need something to read on your next Lufthansa flight?

Lufthansa will be providing a selection of e-journals for passengers from a library that currently has more than 250 digital titles available in a choice of 18 different languages that can be accessed by passengers up to three days before their date of travel.

Download  is via the Lufthansa app, where  you enter your name and either your booking code or ticket number, then download a title to your own electronic device, where you can read it as a PDF on the flight or on the ground for an unlimited time.

The number of titles available depends on your booking class – from one (economy class) to twenty (HON Circle Member) – digital magazines/newspapers per flight. Additional titles are available for a fee.

Why is Lufthansa offering this?

“By switching over to digital reading material, Lufthansa is able to provide a better service to its passengers through the considerably wider spectrum of magazines and newspapers, offering many more genres and language options. A contribution is also made towards protecting the environment; the e-journals are more sustainable, as no paper or printing ink needs to be used and logistics services are not required for their distribution. The reduction in printed reading ¬materials also means less weight on board and thus also helps to reduce kerosene consumption. ”

Printed material won’t disappear entirely. In Lufthansa lounges and in the First Class sections on long haul flights, the usual printed reading material will still be provided. Printed versions of the magazines in the Business Class section on intercontinental flights will also still be available. And at Lufthansa’s Frankfurt and Munich hubs – and in Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Düsseldorf airports – newspapers will be offered to all Lufthansa passengers from several central distribution points.

Coolest new airline? Maybe.

Livery for Teague's Poppi airline

Can the air travel experience be calmer, cooler and more comfortable?

The big thinkers at TEAGUE, the Seattle-based design consultancy surely think so.

The company helped design Microsoft’s first Xbox and has been Boeing’s key design partner forever. And to float some ideas about what might make air travel better, they created a new – imaginary – airline called Poppi.

Devin Liddell, Teague’s principal brand strategist, walked me through some of the key features and concepts he hopes airlines will adopt now, “instead of when it’s too late.”

TEAGUE’s most “disrupting” idea might be the banishing of carry-on bags and large overhead bins in favor of slimmer models they call “Fedora bins” that would hold hats, jackets and laptop cases.

Slim overhead bins, dubbed Fedora Bins, would only hold personal items

Liddell and his team are certain that technology is now good enough to make sure everyone’s bag gets where it needs to go. And that keeping all those bags out of the cabin would make everything from the security lines to the boarding process a breeze.

“That would sidestep the nightmare that takes place on the cabin when people try to cram their bags into the overhead bins and would make exiting the plane go much faster,” said Liddell.

In 'click-class' carry-on luggage would snap into the seat

For those unable to part with their bags, Poppi would have a “Click Class” option that would allow passengers to use special luggage that stores in the seat.

Poppi's middle-seat passengers would get special perks and gifts.

TEAGUE has lots more ideas about ways to transform all aspects of air travel, but the one they’re likely to get the most applause for is their suggestion that people seated in the dreaded middle seat be rewarded with gifts or special perks.

Read more about Poppi’s ‘promises’ here.