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Posts from the ‘Economy Class’ Category

Hawaiian re-engineers the general passenger experience!

March 1st, 2013

Kinny Cheng

The APEX Editor’s Blog’s Lori Ranson talks about Hawaiian Airlines’ efforts to re-vamp their economy class offering:

The airline during late 2012 carried out a significant revamp of its onboard service in the economy cabin on its transpacific flights to North America, which is rare as the vast majority of passenger experience upgrades are geared towards higher-yielding premium customers.

Most airline executives are only concerned about the revenue generation from the premium classes, where additional revenue is generated, and therefore would only focus efforts on improving the product in those respective areas.

What this same group of managers are also forgetting is the quantity-versus-quality variable when dealing with cattle-class passenger experience — while they may not be spending as much money, they are also very human and behave relatively similarly come an expectation of product-and-service offering.

The service is centred around offering complimentary meals and cocktails in the coach cabin during regular meal times, which is unheard of in the US domestic market. But as a means to keep costs in check the meals are not offered on red-eye flights “when people just want to sleep”, said Mannis. On morning flights to the continental US Hawaiian offers a complimentary breakfast box and a snack service just before landing that includes a bag of Maui potato chips and a cocktail featuring Koloa rum from the island of Kauai.

Complimentary meals on Hawaiian’s afternoon service to and from the US include an entree, [dessert], snack and a complimentary glass of red or white wine. Mannis explained that Hawaiian deliberately opted for a more elaborate meal on those flights “because this is when people are returning home for the most part. This is their last impression of Hawaiian Airlines and we wanted to leave them with a really ‘wow’ impression”.

Let me start off here by saying that the US-based airlines, especially the legacy ones, are not the only ones in existence in the whole wide world — and their belief of being the standard or trend-setter for airline passenger experience is a rotting and very-much eroded idealism.

To me, this “revamp”, as Hawaiian Airlines has called it, is more about re-aligning the economy class offering to be in-line with what most rest-of-the-world (premium) airlines have been practicing for as long as I can remember. But there are various aspects of the Hawaiian changes that makes for interesting discussion.

The (re-)introduction of complimentary meals and drinks (or cocktails) is a major revelation for a US-based, non-LCC, airline. But the decision to restrict this on red-eye flights is, in my opinion, a very smart decision that manages to maintain the positive nature of the airline’s efforts while (generally) not upsetting its customers.

What’s even smarter is how the airline decided to use a variety of different meal settings depending on the time and the flight: breakfast set box for morning flights to the continental US; and “more elaborate” meal choices for flights for flights out of Hawaii for the purpose of giving passengers a lasting impression of the island (a good play on emotive factors can be a huge plus — but can go the other way if otherwise).

Some other measures that Hawaiian Airlines have undertaken include…

Another more subtle way Hawaiian is improving the host-guest interaction is its approach to maneuvering service carts. Instead using the usual method of flight attendants travelling up and down the aisles with separate food and beverage carts, Hawaiian uses six carts evenly spaced on the two aisles of its widebody jets that contain both food and beverages. Each cart and flight attendant is assigned a specific zone of the cabin, serves the meal to guests, and once the crew member reaches the end of the zone, he or she returns to the beginning to start offering refills or clear trays.

Again, this isn’t at all surprising to learn when you have travelled on a major carrier outside of the US — being typically the exact same practice by airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

But offering complimentary meals in the economy cabin did come at a cost, which meant Hawaiian needed to find ways to offset the expense. “We’re spending more on our dinner service now than we did before but we’re spending a little bit less on the rest of the service,” explained Mannis. The result is less spend on red-eye flights where Hawaiian only offers meals for purchase and the removal of pillows and blankets on day flights. Now pillows and blankets are offered for sale on daylight services, and have been designed as “something the passenger wants to take off the plane and use later”.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with ways to reevaluate their priorities. But to apply a previously-untested-but-already-demonstrated methodology to an airline’s existing ways can be slightly difficult, but nowhere near impossible.

Unlike American Airlines and Delta, which are only interested in doing the absolute bare minimum to enrich the passenger experience in the premium cabins, Hawaiian — by comparison — is making a major move towards bettering the bottom-line passenger experience. Economy may not provide passage to those willing to pay extra for a premium experience, but it can most certainly generate a great deal of conversation that’s both positive and respectable.

No amount of money or convincing can ever buy you positive word-of-mouth — and that’s a fact.

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