AVB: Etihad recently unveiled the availability of Economy Space seating. Can you briefly highlight some details on the option and its benefit for passengers?
Jamal Ahmed Al Awadhi: In response to the popularity and demand for extra legroom seats, we are retrofitting our Airbus A380’s, Boeing 777s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners with Economy Space seats to provide our guests more choice on longer flights. While many airlines have been squeezing more seats into economy, we are increasing the total number of extra legroom seats, with an increased seat pitch of up to 36 inches, by 560%.
AVB: What are some other improvements that Etihad has introduced in the cabin (across the various classes) that have impacted the experience of passengers?
JAA: This April, Etihad Airways launched a new Emirati designed loungewear collection, offered to the airline’s guests on all First Class flights and those staying in The Residence on board the Airbus A380 fleet. The loungewear collection was designed by a local brand, A Friend of Mine by Xpoze, to be comfortable, functional, and to follow the same attention to detail and design principles held by Etihad Airways.
For economy passengers, we offer a range of enhanced services, including pay-for lounge access and chauffeur transfers at a number of airports on the airline’s global network, neighbour-free seats and now, Economy Space. Also, in addition to our complimentary inflight service and recently launched menu of Buy on Board comfort items, we also introduced additional food and beverage items available for purchase to provide more choice for guests in economy and further enhance their travel experience.
AVB: Were there any notable partnerships secured with high-profile luxury brands over the last year for inflight amenities? Are there any in the pipeline that you may be able to share details on?
JAA: For all premium guests, this summer, we launched a major new partnership with the Italian fragrance brand, ACQUA DI PARMA, introducing a range of exclusive amenity bags and toiletries for its customers travelling in The Residence, and on long-haul First and Business services and the airline’s flagship First Class Lounge & Spa in Abu Dhabi. We are the first airline to have partnered with the multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.
AVB: Have there been any improvements to your IFE systems over the last year? Is the carrier exploring other alternative entertainment technologies, such as VR & AR, content streaming on mobile devices, etc?
JAA: We have recently introduced innovative IFE screens with Bluetooth and camera functionality in Economy on the latest aircraft to enter our fleet. Guests can pair their personal headsets to the IFE via Bluetooth and enjoy the audio without the limitation of wires. As an airline interested in innovation, we have trialled VR entertainment in our Abu Dhabi lounges and are exploring Wireless IFE, frictionless payment, personalisation and wellness technologies for our future fleet. In Q1 2019, we will be launching 3D seat maps to enable passengers to experience their exact seat on the aircraft, walk through the cabin and even select an alternative seating option all within a 3D immersive environment.
AVB: Are there any notable trends in terms of passenger demands while in flight that you’ve noticed and that the carrier is positioning itself to address?
JAA: After a successful trial of a ‘Deal Fare’ launched late last year for selected markets, purchasing behaviour demonstrated guests appreciate having more choice and like to be able to select the travel option that best meets their needs. Our guests like to personalise every aspect of their travel and we believe the power of choice lies with them.
So, we’re creating options for people to choose how they fly and how they travel through a range of newly introduced products and services from neighbour-free seats to new technologies such as our new upgrade programme bidding system which allows real-time notifications of a guest’s bid to enhancements on their screen. The new dynamic live auction gives guests the chance to select a premium offering at a price they are willing to pay by putting them in control of the experience.
AVB: Is there anything you can share now in terms of how your inflight experience will continue to change over the next couple of years?
JAA: Airlines must adapt to consumer and technological changes and we are currently in the process of transforming our product and service offering to ensure we are delivering the right offer to the right customer. In partnership with Retail inMotion, our new onboard retail partner, expect to see enhancements in our complimentary food and beverage offering and new onboard technology in 2019.