Airlines are continually striving to find ways to not only differentiate themselves from their competitors but to make the travel experience more enjoyable for their passengers, in particular, those who travel in premium cabins.
With new, larger aircraft entering the market comes the opportunity to offer a more luxurious journey; co-branding initiatives are occurring as more consumer brands become willing to pay airlines to let their passengers experience their product in a relevant setting; and there has been an increased investment in food and beverage improvements – all indicators of change in the airline industry. What should you know about these changes in service levels? The UNIGLOBE experts are here with a glimpse of some premium offerings available.
How do new and larger aircraft affect my journey?
All three of the large U.S. airlines have been improving their front cabin seats in recent years, including flat-bed seats on their long-haul transcontinental and international flights. Delta has been the leader in this regard, earlier this year having achieved the status of the only major US carrier with fully flat beds with direct aisle access on all wide body international flights. The direct aisle access is a key benefit to ensure that no one has to climb over someone to reach the aisle. United and American have a mix of flat-bed and recliner seats; and many of the flat-beds still require a ‘hop’ to reach the aisle.
For those interested in the utmost in comfort, several airlines have used to spacious Airbus A380 aircraft to push the bar even higher by introducing private bedrooms, suites and even showers onboard the aircraft. Airlines such as Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines offer amenities such as a sliding door for privacy, a private mini-bar, your own private vanity table, mirror and wardrobe. Some even offer a stand-alone bed. Etihad goes beyond all others with The Residence, a 125 square foot suite complete with bedroom, bathroom and lounge.
How can co-branding enhance my travel experience?
Since 2012, Delta has partnered with Porsche to offer a complimentary transfer to select elite passengers with tight connections at its Atlanta hub. In return, Porsche places information about the cars inside the vehicles and in the Delta lounges. This program is now in place in Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York JFK and LaGuardia, and Seattle airports.
American Airlines recently announced a partnership with Cadillac that includes benefits such as luxury on-site airport transfers, AAdvantage miles for test-driving a Cadillac and Cadillac exhibits at major airports. This luxury airport transfer program at LAX identifies ConciergeKey members with tight transfer times and escorts them to their next departure gate in a Cadillac CTS, SRX or Escalade.
Similarly, United Airlines shuttles some of its First Class and Global Elite members using Mercedes Benz vehicles. This service is offered at all United U.S. hub airports.
How has the food and beverage service onboard improved?
Over the past few months, United Airlines has introduced new menu choices for those in premium-class cabins. Its chef-inspired menus include four new salad entrée choices, along with premium sandwiches made fresh daily and served with gluten-free soups. By mid-2015 United will have:
- Completely re-designed their menus and expanded premium-cabin meals within North America to all flights that are over two hours and 20 minutes or 800 miles.
- Upgraded premium-cabin meal service on domestic and international United Express flights, replacing snack boxes with freshly-prepared meals
- Significantly enhanced United Economy meals and beverages on long-haul international flights.
Internationally, Air France has partnered with “the world’s most Michelin-starred chef,” Joël Robuchon, to offer a new seasonal gourmet menu to its La Première passengers. Other carriers – such as Singapore Airlines, British Airways and others – are working with world-class chefs and sommeliers to ensure meals and beverages that match what you might find in a fine restaurant.
While such premium offerings may not be available on every flight you take, odds are, the service in premium-class cabins will continue to improve as airlines chase the valuable premium travelers.