High - Your Lounge in the Sky
by air can be as plush as the luxury of your living air or
as productive as your office. Charmaine Fernz unveils the
whole new world up there...
was a time when travellers sat on cane chairs inside aeroplanes.
Nowadays they sleep on flat beds, turn their seats to face
each other to hold a meeting or just lie back as they pick
and choose from a selection of music programmes or cable channels
Sentiments like 'If only I could have finished that report
during the flight', 'I couldn't sleep a wink' after a long-haul
flight have been more or less laid to rest. Travelling is
getting very user friendly about as productive as your
office and as comfortable as your living room. Especially
for the business traveller.
The business travel market is one of the most keenly fought
after one in the airline industry. Not surprisingly, airlines
are going to great lengths where services are concerned. Broadly,
leaving aside food and wine which Express Business Traveller
touched upon in its October issue, what the business traveller
would be interested in inside a flight are seating, entertainment
and nowadays increasingly, fitness facilities.
Snug In The Comfort Zone
The prime issue in the battle for the business traveller's
loyalty has been space or seat-width, legroom, and angle of
incline. While seats with a 160 degree incline are more or
less commonplace at present, some airlines have started converting
to complete flat beds. British Airways (BA) recently shelled
out 600 million pounds as it introduced 21st century air travel
which promised travelers a 'lounge in the sky' - a completely
new design which included a fully flat bed. Their Business
Class seats could even be turned to face each other for mid-flight
meetings. The airline has plans for smart cards that programme
your seat position preference and seats that read your shape.
BA is not an isolated case. Many airlines are providing Business
Class facilities to their First Class passengers.
China Airlines, with its fleet of new Airbus A340s, has brought
to the skies a 'new level of comfort, convenience and security'.
The airlines' all new First Class luxury space has been meticulously
arranged to cater to practically every need of the traveller.
With just 14 seats, one is rest assured of more room. Besides
which everyone has a personal coat hook, beverage table, book
bag and shoe cubby.
Delta is offering its passengers a new sleeper-seat design
which includes fully electronic controls for recline, lumbar
support, leg rest extension for full leg and thigh support,
a six-way adjustable headrest, and one-touch controls for
'sleep' and 'land' positions in all their Business Elite Class.
Pacific's brand new extra-large pillows are a treat. Besides
which they give you cotton slippers and eye-shades, English
wool blankets, adjustable head- and back-rests, reading light
and a computer controlled personal TV.
Work As You Fly
The objective of many of the features provided by airlines
is to give passengers greater ability to control their travel
experience. The all new China Airlines 747-400 is a case study.
Its First Class Comfort Console-Chair provides travellers
with seven considerations:
A 180 degree fully reclinable electronically operated chair
with a spacious 83 inches (210 cm) stretch area
extra-large headrest which can be adjusted in any direction
Back reading light which can be tilted to any angle
Computer controlled personal television equipped with a
six inch touch screen monitor allowing one to touch-select
different games and air show information
Hi-8 high-density personal video that offers a selection
of 20-30 of the hottest movies and programmes
An electronically adjustable back support and leg rests
that allows optimal personalised comfort.
The idea is to bridge the gap between work and travel for
businessmen who prefer to be on top of their work while travelling.
airlines provide all the vital requirements towards this end.
For example, Singapore Airlines has a specially designed rich,
burgundy writing kit comprising postcards, envelopes and a
writing pad that is available on request. When flying on their
new SkySuites, these writing materials, along with an elegantly
designed pen, are presented in the personal stationery drawer
of one's seat. Postage and handling, if required, is also
The 'Well Being' Factor
For almost 50 years travellers have been taking commercial
flights for both business and pleasure. Though air travel
has been acknowledged to be one of the safest means of travel,
we still hear of flight-related illnesses, long-haul stress,
jet lag. But awareness of setting in and a lot more thinking
is going into fitness considerations inside a flight.
For example, in Thai Airways, flight attendants are trained
to make sure passengers have enough water throughout the flight
to prevent dehydration. Passengers are made aware that it
is important to avoid pre-flight stress and obtain adequate
amount of sleep prior to flying.
Emirates has introduced a number of 'healthy flying' initiatives
to its regular in-flight service. MedLink provides an Emergency
Telemedicine Centre service from a hospital in Phoenix, USA.
During medical emergencies, the Emirates crew can phone the
MedLink emergency centre from anywhere in the world via satellite
can also procure Aircraft Medical Kit that include a selection
of common use drugs, intravenous fluids, resuscitation equipment,
first aid items, suture equipment, bandages, and even equipment
to handle on-board deliveries of babies. Every aircraft is
also equipped with a Defibrillator with fully trained senior
The fitness factor sunk into the industry after the appearance
of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), an ailment associated with
To counter this, Emirates has introduced the Airogym - a medically
proven inflatable cushion to provide exercise safely for passengers
without their having to leave their seat. It makes their leg
muscles work harder. A series of four varied exercises has
been devised to help pump blood to the heart, helping to alleviate
blood clotting and swelling.
service is available for a small charge on all long haul flights.
Aircraft are getting bigger and we can expect a corresponding
rise in magnitude of in-flight services. With technology advancing,
no airlines can afford to be behind the times.
Business travellers set a high premium on such amenities and
it dictates the choice of which airline to take. Shekar Bajaj,
chairman and MD of Bajaj Electricals Limited says, "I
rate Singapore Airlines very high because they are able to
provide passengers all the convenience needed to turn their
flight into an office in the sky. Another airline that matches
my expectations, even though I do not fly it frequently, is
Emirates. The airline offers a host of modern benefits."
It is needless to elaborate on how important
connectivity is for the business traveller. A business
trip often means intense preparation followed by a hectic
series of meetings. Nothing can be left to chance. It
is imperative that the business traveller remains connected
during the flight. The most requirements are telephone
and e-mail connections. SWISS offers its business travellers
electrical power outlets for laptops that can be installed.
But for this one would require a special airplane adapter
cable compatible with a 15 volt DC Hypertronic socket.
One can also buy a Targus PA350E Universal Connector
Cable or even loan a cable. For shorter notes, the airline
offers the e-messaging system that enables travellers
to send short text messages to any e-mail, mobile phone
or fax worldwide.
Delta offers its Business Elite passengers a battery-saving
EmPower system for laptop computers, a data port for
online access and a personal telephone to keep connected
wherever you may be.
Ashank Desai, chairman and MD, Mastek Ltd says, "Time
for me is a decisive factor. Thus, various mediums,
which facilitate travel have to prove gainful with respect
Businessmen rarely have time for entertainment
in their daily life. A long-haul flight is the perfect
place and time for him to indulge his senses. One can
catch up with the latest movies, serials or music. In-flight
entertainment (IFE) is therefore a good hooker to build
loyalty. Airlines know this.
Cathay Pacific has launched StudioCX built around three
basic elements: entertainment, communication, and information.
What they offer include the introduction of noise canceling
headsets allowing passengers to enjoy many new music
channels, television shows and movies with crystal clear
audio. AVOD - Audio and Video On Demand - is yet another
installation allowing passengers to select the movie
they want to watch whenever they want to watch it. AVOD
provides superior digital picture and sound quality.
Or there is the video monitor and high fidelity CD sound
system. Or you can choose from a selection of eight
So also, all of China Airlines' aircraft except its
B737s is equipped with in-flight audio-visual entertainment
systems that offer a comprehensive selection of the
latest music videos, news and short features and even
in-flight yoga instruction.
of the story: the customer is an elusive species, only the
best will do for him, otherwise he will fly to a different