Friday, September 23, 2011

They're at it again

It was something I hadn't seen in awhile, but toward the middle of this week, a major travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet decided to poll followers of its Twitter account about their experiences with airline meals. 

"Let us know the worst meal you've experiences (sp) on an airplane," it asked. The tweets were still rolling in as the weekend approached. 

I tweeted that it was unfortunate the Lonely Planet didn't get to visit last week's events in Seattle. They would have had a chance to see talented chefs at work on the trade floor of the International Flight Services Association Conference and Exhibition and some of the innovations at companies like Zodiac Aerospace and B/E Aerospace at the Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas, located next door. But if entertainment was more their preference, this year's Airline Passenger Experience Association had a dazzling array of new developments. The IFE segment of the industry is undergoing a fit of development  and the variety of new products now vying for the airline's attention was impressive this time around. 

IFSA's new president, David Loft, was even so bold as to tell us that food and beverage service could be playing an important role of differentiation in years to come. To that, we say: Why Not?

Our friends at Lonely Planet print great travel guides. But they should look around a little if they want to get a complete picture of airline food service. Just last week, we ran across this story about the developments at Asia's Boutique Airline, Bangkok Airways. For the next six months, the airline will be serving up great looking food developed by The Pavillions Phuket (home of the 2007 IFSA Asia-Pacific Conference). 

Combine the talent of chefs anxious to set their creations before an airline passenger, with new galley products that can prepare food in ways that were not imagined 20 years ago, and the development of amazing aircraft like the A380 and 787, and food service could take its place with seating and IFE as the part of the flight a passenger will remember most about their most recent travel experience. Let's hope they don't forget to tweet about it.


On the subject of innovations, I was surprised to learn this past week that the possibility of Airbus's SPICE Galley System finding its way into airline service is anything but certain. I queried Airbus' Vice President of MarketingBob Lange on the subject last week in Seattle.  He made it clear that getting the industry to work with the airframer on moving ahead with SPICE was "proving to be a point of difficulty."

The next six to nine months will be a critical period for the future of SPICE, said Lange. If things don't pan out, he said SPICE may be put "on ice" until Airbus develops another aircraft.

-Rick Lundstrom

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