Having tabled a feature for Airline Business about the ever-evolving passenger experience, I’m remindedagain of the staggering amount of work that went into developing one of the most passenger-centric long-haul products on the market – Air New Zealand’s new Boeing 777-300ER offering.
But didyou know that the popular cartoon The Simpsons played a role in the product’s development?
In2007, when Air New Zealand started to review a project for introducing the 777-300ER and 787 into its fleet – at thatstage planned for 2010 – the carrier knew it wanted to take the 3.5-year leadtime to totally reinvent the long-haul travel experience.
“There was no text book on how to [reinvent long-haul] butwe realized there was a need for it,” says Air New Zealandmanager of aircraft programmes Kerry Reeves.
Theairline tapped design firm IDEO to help them gather insights into theirpassengers. Through observation, surveys and research, Air New Zealand was ableto break-down its passengers into different personas, ending up with fivedifferent character types that if found could be best illustrated by usingcharacters from The Simpsons.
“Wehad a bunch of people on board the aircraft that were classic Mr. Burnscharacters, frequent travellers that were very demanding. Then we had thebartender types, who are very laid back; the Marge Simpson-type infrequent travellerwho wants to engage in the experience; the Bart Simpson character who is alwayssocial and can’t entertainment himself; and the Lisa Simpson type, who is verysort of semi-social, but is very well informed and knows everything abouttravel,” says Air New Zealand’s Reeves.
Working with Panasonic, Air New Zealand was able to offer anin-flight entertainment (IFE)system on its 777-300ERs that allows these different types of passengers todefine the experience they want on board. “IFE allows you to create lots of differentways for people to interact. An IFE graphical user interface that is simple andeasy to find basic movies is all that some people want, but having thetechnology to support a more geeky interaction was important, and thatwidespread opportunity exists with the IFE,” says Reeves.
The same thinking went into designing Air New Zealand’sacclaimed seats.
“Designing seats to allow people to choose whether they interact or not waschallenging but we designed a lot of seat positions. We offer different seatexperiences in different classes, which give people choice in where they cansit. Our premium economy Spaceseat is quite different. It gives you the choice ofa seat that allows you to interact with the person you’re travelling with so ifyou’re travelling with your wife or partner, they are angled slightly away fromeach other, but are shaped to turn towards each other and using the centre console they can dine together,” says Reeves.
“We have six abreast in the 777 and we’ll have six abreast inthe 787. So apart from the window seat, everyone has aisle access which is ahuge bonus. Business class is very much like a first class product. It has verygood fully-flat seat position. Our business class seat was originally designedby Virgin Atlantic and we have taken it to another level now and improved thesleep proposition considerably. So the seat flips over upside down so you’renot sleeping on a sleep surface that is undulating, you’re sleeping on acompletely flat mattress, and then on top of that mattress again we have memoryfoam underlay that is just under two inches thick, so it is a very soft surfacemuch like own bed at home.”
Air New Zealand is also gearing up to offerin-flight connectivity on its long-haul aircraft. At present, a concierge onboard the 777-300ER can use a satellite phone or the ACARS system to check onflight times and bookings, and to change bookings should a passenger requiresuch service.
Read about Air New Zealand’sconnectivity plans here.