Can You Reimagine The In-Flight Airline Experience? #TEDActiveFly

Can You Reimagine The In-Flight Airline Experience? #TEDActiveFly

TEDActiveFly wants to know how you would improve the in-flight experience.

Timothy Ryan, PSFK Labs
  • 24 february 2011

The team at idea-sharing conference TED have been asking for folks to get involved with TEDActive Projects. The TEDActive Sustainability Project will look at best practices in community organizing, and explore radical solutions to push the sustainability movement forward. PSFK actively engaged our expert network, the PurpleList, to provide stimulus for the attendees working on this project.

The TEDActive Travel Project will examine customer experience on board the plane and beyond the terminal. TED will look at the challenges and opportunities, for both individual travelers and the airline industry, and produce a set of recommendations to enhance air travel.

How would you rethink the human-centered airline experience?

Justin Wilden is an expert in the marketing and advertising industry and is located in Melbourne.

My primary idea for improving and making airline travel more human-centered: is about creating and implementing a ‘personal space’ for travelers while onboard and particularly while seated. Instead of First and Business classes I want Personal Class.

— Personal Class: deliver personalised experiences onboard the plane to provide travelers with a feeling of familiarity. Push the concept as far as possible so that customers are willing to pay for a Personal Class fare, and maybe even share their personal taste data with the airline. —

An example of the Personal Class concept would be the capability to update a music/media playlist online before I fly and that will be accessible on the plane where ever I’m seated. This will make the experience of travelling with that airline ten-fold more compelling than all other airlines.

In fact extending this into being able to discover what other people have in their playlist in the form of a shared inflight ‘radio channel’ could be a perfect way to spend time on long-haul flights. This could also be augmented via in-flight e-commerce, so instead of spending ‘no’ money on in-flight shopping, I may pick up $10 worth of new music (commission to the airline).

Tony Carne is an expert in the leisure, travel and tourism industry and is located in Melbourne.

Following on from Justin’s train of thought I’d like to suggest a space on the plane for the opposite of the personal space, the social space.
When flying I usually want to do one of 3 things:


Relax with in flight entertainment/read/sleep;

Chat with my neighbor for the purpose of getting information about my destination.

It would be great if the seating allocation was clever enough to put me in a spot that worked with one of the above preferences so that when I’m in the mood to chat I don’t land next to someone who is looking to work or relax and vice versa.

If the airline could access the social graph and put me next to someone of similar age/interests even better.

A virtual network within all the passengers would also be great to ask specific questions (ala Quora) that everyone could choose to view such as: Does anyone want to split a cab from the airport to the city (ala ? Where is the best pizza place where we are going? Does anyone know where I can get tickets for XYZ? Questions could pop up at the end of movie viewings, whilst music is playing etc on the in-flight screens.

Andre Redelinghuys is an expert in the marketing and advertising industry and is located in Johannesburg.

Just a one off idea:

Recently (as many time before) I was left waiting at baggage claim staring at the flaps on a hole in the wall… for my bag.. it never came.

The though of making the wall between the passengers and the baggage handling facility see-through occurred to me. Making the divider out of perspex or the like would be a much more honest way of dealing with people and their luggage. You could see the progress, ie where are our flights bags, the handlers wouldn’t smash the bags and so on.

Peter Lewis is an expert in the information technology and services industry and is located in Melbourne.

I think we also need to think about the expectations and of the different classes of travellers which has been briefly touched on here. Not just Business vs coach but also the classes within those classes, eg first time newbies, elderly, vacationers etc.

Some of the most frustrating times spent by these classes when travelling actually what occurs before or after the actual plan journey. Queues to check in bags, delays in getting baggage, organising cellphones that won’t cost an arm and a leg in the country you are visiting (global roaming costs $$ and some cellphones don’t work in other countries), car storage when on a long trip, transport/taxis at the other end, language issues, insurance, vaccinations etc

I therefore believe that the airlines need to look at at the holistic travel experience for their customers to support them at all stages of their journey.

eg perhaps airlines can offer mobile phone rentals where the customer gets the phone on the plane (with pre-advised number so they can let their relatives know in advance they can alert customers to the vaccinations they might need and provide names of chemists near to the customer’s home to get the shots etc etc.

Trudee Lewis is an expert in the marketing and advertising industry and is located in Los Angeles.

As Peter Lewis mentioned, airline customers are very diversified with different needs. Perhaps airlines should create different airplane configurations and flights based upon travel types: business, leisure (family vs. couples), singles, etc. This kind of experience could be an extension of travel/tourism management, where the journey itself is also considered the destination.

We travel to experience life more, see more, do more, so these inherent challenges can also teach us to be more resourceful, develop greater communication skills, and overcome difficult situations with humor and sensitivity. That’s actually very human-centered!

So long as safety remains priority #1 as it should, a comfortable check-in and on board flight experience can be reassessed and the airlines who manage this best will likely fare better with the most passenger revenues.

Share your answers at the link below, or by using the #TEDActiveFly hash tag on Twitter.

The Purple List: How Would You Rethink the Human-Centered Airline Experience?

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