The aviation industry is constantly evolving, and the latest report
from IdeaWorks Company delves into the "coolest" airline products and
services that are revolutionising the sector. Among the eight airlines
recognised for their innovative initiatives are AirAsia, Jetstar, and
The report – Airline Revenue Innovations, a Global Sample of the
Coolest Products and Services – is authored by Jay Sorensen, an expert
on airline ancillary revenues, and sponsored by Car Trawler, the B2B
technology provider of car rental and mobility services.
Capital A for effort
The report also takes a close look at Capital A, the new name of
AirAsia Group, which is “undertaking a significant change by becoming an
on AirAsia Super App’s wide variety of retail and media activities,
Sorensen says this initiative is definitely a work-in-progress in which
the company has bet its future on the ambition "to be the top online
travel agent in ASEAN", according to Tan Mai Yin, CCO, AirAsia Super
A wants to go beyond a loose-knit affiliation of companies in finance,
logistics, air travel, catering, airport operations, online grocery, and
venture capital, to a customer-facing powerhouse,” the report notes,
calling it “a huge goal”.
Sorensen says Capital A represents a level of innovation on a scale the airline industry rarely sees.
“There may be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow and the
company will likely need the luck of an Irish leprechaun to reach it,”
Cathay gambles “all its chips”
Cathay launched an “experiential retail space” in Hong Kong’s Cityplaza in December 2022.
Cathay’s opening of an “experiential retail space” in December 2022
can be viewed as a physical manifestation of the airline’s mission to
become a premium lifestyle carrier, IdeaWorks suggests.
The store is located in Hong Kong’s Cityplaza and features
merchandise to “showcase the very best of the premium travel lifestyle
that Cathay represents”.
Shopping is enabled by Cathay’s app which allows consumers to scan
items to an in-app shopping cart and pay by credit card or a mix of
money and miles.
”It’s a lot for consumers to digest and for the company to deliver,"
notes Sorensen. “Cathay is certainly on a mission to redefine itself and
is betting 'all its chips' to be Hong Kong’s hometown airline, and much
“In an industry which is moving to serve price-conscious consumers,
Cathay hopes the focus on upscale travellers will allow it to maintain
their unique competitive advantage,” Sorensen says.
The ‘Cathay’ brand also refers to the airline within the Hong Kong
market, whereas Cathay Pacific will continue as the airline brand
Sorensen adds, “This is a unique approach for airline marketing, and
it has the feel of being an ongoing experiment as Cathay Pacific Group
flies a path out of the pandemic, which includes determining Hong Kong’s
future role in Asia.”
United’s ‘grab-and-go’ concept
United found 54% of its airline club and lounge visitors wanted to
take food or drinks to go. That prompted the airline to create the Club
Fly grab-and-go concept which was introduced at Denver International
Airport in November 2022.
The IdeaWorks report says Club Fly has a smaller footprint than a
traditional lounge and does not encourage travellers to linger (only 16
seats) – “perfect for Denver’s many connecting passengers”.
Emirates offers ‘retail escapism’
Emirates World retail store in Dubai offers VR A380 tours, Premium Economy experiences, and aims to provide a personalised touchpoint.
Emirates World offers 280sqm of lounge-like retail space which combines physical and virtual reality displays.
Premium economy seats are on display with first class suites and the
onboard lounge of the Airbus 380 aircraft rendered in a life-size
presentation using virtual reality technology.
Cross-trained representatives provide one-stop service for airline
services, loyalty programme, and vacation planning. Branded merchandise
is also available for purchase from the Emirates Official Store and
Costa Coffee baristas provide coffee, tea and other refreshments.
The airline plans to introduce more Emirates World locations throughout its network during the next three years.
Sorensen predicts, “Look for more airlines to adopt a style of retail
escapism by offering immersive experiences that make travel planning
enjoyable and entertaining, coupled with skilled and personalised
Delta and Starbucks brew partnership
Sorensen says the best partnerships are those in which both partners generate benefits and are excited by the opportunity.
“The Delta SkyMiles programme now has contact with billions more
transactions and customers. Starbucks is now associated with a travel
reward programme and the universal allure of rewards which are more
exciting than a cup of coffee,” Sorensen says.
Every dollar spent at a Starbucks accrues one mile from Delta
SkyMiles. When the Starbucks Rewards member travels on Delta, double
Stars are accrued for Starbucks purchases.
Eurowings’ take on premium seating
Eurowings Premium Economy Class offers wider seats, up to 50% more legroom than Economy Class, and includes two pieces of baggage.
While offering an empty middle seat is not an innovation, the
Ideaworks report commends Eurowings for automating the process in its
“Blocking the middle seat is an expedient method for LCCs to create a
premium seating zone to attract business travellers. It mimics the
'business class' seating provided by sister carrier Lufthansa on short-
and medium- haul flights in Europe,” Sorensen says.
Jetstar entices FareCredit spend
IdeaWorks finds Jetstar notable for selling Flex and Max bundles
which allow fee-free changes and cancellation of bookings. The base
Starter fare and Plus bundle are not refundable (limited exceptions
apply under law) and impose fees for reservation changes.
Just prior to making payment in the booking path, Jetstar offers the
FareCredit option to consumers who have selected these restricted fares.
This provides credit for the fare and a la carte options when they
cancel a booking for any reason.
FareCredit is fulfilled as a travel voucher and does not provide a
cash refund. “It’s an effective way to encourage additional spending
from consumers before they close the transaction,” Sorensen notes.
The traveller is required to cancel the reservation before their
flight opens for airport check-in, typically three hours before
The airline issues the voucher within 24 hours via email. Voucher
validity is three years for original bookings made on Jetstar Airways
(Jetstar Japan: 6 months, Jetstar Asia: 18 months).
EasyJet ’s lounge for low-cost flyers
EasyJet is rare among low cost carriers (LCCs) for offering airport lounge benefits.
EasyJet’s Gateway fee-based lounge at its London Gatwick hub opened
October 2021 and offers complimentary hot and cold food, freshly
prepared and served to guest tables, alongside a range of self-serve
side dishes and hot and cold drinks.