Nov 21, 2017 - In the years since Britain and France teamed up together in the Common Market both these unlikely partners appear to have undergone a national character transfer switch, a transposition, writes our travel editor Peter Isaac.
The British have become pushy, brittle and quick tempered while the French have absorbed those once British values of tolerance, stoicism, and good humour.
Nov 20, 2017 - AirAsia is the best low-cost airline in the world and CEO Tony Fernandes wants to shift the airline’s business towards e-commerce launching a payments platform called BigPay. Fernandes also believes the first class cabin is going away within five years. Sixteen years ago, Tony Fernandes, with a small group of intrepid entrepreneurs, took over a failing Malaysian Government-owned airline for $US0.25 and the promise to assume its $US11 million in debt.
Since then, AirAsia has helped bring affordable flying to the masses in South East Asia. In the process, the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-based company has become one of the most disruptive forces in commercial aviation history while making the always affable Fernandes a rockstar in the business world.
What started as a two-plane operation has now expanded to a fleet of more than 150 Airbus A320 jets with another 200 aircraft on order. And for the past nine years, AirAsia has been named the best low-cost airline in the world by Skytrax and its reviewers.
Recently, Fernandes spent a morning with the Business Insider at our headquarters in New York. Our conversation touched upon several topics including the company’s future endeavours in e-commerce, AirAsia’s move towards fintech, where the airline industry is going, and advice from his mentor Sir Richard Branson.
AirAsia is betting big on e-commerceFor the airline’s next great adventure, Fernandes wants to move AirAsia’s revenue model beyond simply selling tickets and into the world of e-commerce. With an ample supply of customer data, AirAsia wants to anchor its new e-commerce operation around the sale of duty-free goods.
“So when you book your ticket (online), we’ll offer you the chance to buy duty-free and you can pick it up on the plane or at the airport,” Fernandes told us. “It gives our customers much more time to browse and potentially we can create a marketplace for shops to put content on our website.”
According to Fernandes, the average passenger has an hour to an hour and a half to shop at the airport. With the online shops, AirAsia passengers can shop 365 days a year with personalised recommendations.
Further, Fernandes wants to use the airline’s fleet to transport goods purchased to destinations throughout Asia, thereby creating a logistics business.
“If you take Amazon, they started with a website and great distribution, now they are buying planes,” Fernandes said. “We’ve got the planes and we’re working backward.”
Of course, AirAsia’s e-commerce revolution won’t get off the ground without retrofitting its fleet with high-speed Wifi, a process that’s currently underway. It’s an element of the passenger experience Fernandes admits had been lacking onboard his flights.
The airline is focused on getting rid of cashThese days, cabin crew on board AirAsia flights wear several hats, among them salesperson. But due to the nature of AirAsia’s network that spans the entirety of Southeast Asia, cash poses a major problem. Which is why Fernandes is excited to jump into the financial technology (fintech) business.
“We’re so excited about the fintech revolution,” Fernandes said. “We hate cash. It’s a pain for our cabin crew. FX is a super pain. It leads to fraud. It tempts my crew to do things they shouldn’t do.”
As a result, AirAsia launched a new payment platform called BigPay that will allow the airline’s customers to buy products through their smartphones. According to Fernandes, the platform is built with group travel in mind. Which means it will allow people to share bills and transfer money to one another.
Initially, BigPay will also be available with a pre-paid card, but Fernandes and his team are working to make it more app-focused using QR codes and near-field-communications.
There will be a currency exchange feature as well.
“We think our customers are being ripped off by banks,” Fernandes said. “If you were travelling to Bali, [Indonesia] from Da Nang, Vietnam and wanted to exchange your Vietnamese Dong to Rupiah, we would facilitate that for you at a much lower rate.”
BigPay currently works with 10 currencies, but Fernandes expects to up that figure to 14.
Ultimately, the AirAsia boss believes BigPay will be able to expand beyond the airline ecosystem and into mainstream retail.
Where AirAsia and the airline industry are headedEven though AirAsia is thriving, the airline won’t be expanding beyond its bread and butter low-cost economy model. When asked if AirAsia is looking to offer a low-cost, long-haul business-class-only product like La Compagnie, Fernandes quickly shot down the idea.
“No, not while I’m at AirAsia,” he told us. “I think focus is key and we’re good at what we do and [long-haul business-class-only] is a different model.”
With that said, Fernandes understands the reasoning behind a dedicated business-class airline and is baffled by why airlines would offer so many different cabins on board a single aircraft.
“Airlines were crazy to have first class, business class, premium economy, and economy on one friggin plane,” Fernandes said. “That’s four business models on one plane.”
“You don’t have Four Seasons hotels with budget rooms and super suites, they basically have one standard, but with bigger rooms,” he added.
Instead, the AirAsia boss believes market segmentation in the future will see airlines specialize in one or two particular products.
“I’ve always said airlines will eventually become low-cost carriers and business class,” he proclaimed.
According to Fernandes, we will see the end of the first class cabin within the next five years. In addition, the economy cabin on full-service airlines could disappear altogether with dedicated low-cost carriers taking over that segment of the market. This means traditional, full-service airlines could be left operating flights with only business and premium-economy cabins.
The best advice Sir Richard Branson told him during the early days of AirAsia During the mid-1980s, Fernandes spent several years as the financial controller for Virgin Communications. Through the years, he’s become known for his close friendship with Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson.
But Fernandes makes it clear that he has no ambitions to become Asia’s Branson.
“Everyone thinks I want to be Richard, but I can confirm to Business Insider that I don’t,” he said. “I have no preconception of going on a balloon at 36,000 feet nor do I have any intention of going to the moon.”
While at Virgin Group during the early days of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Fernandes told Branson that his decision to go into the airline industry was crazy and advised him to sell Virgin Records. It’s something Branson remembered during the early days of AirAsia.
“One of the first people to call me up when I started AirAsia was Richard who said, ‘I thought it was really stupid to start an airline’,” Fernandes said jokingly.
As far as advice goes, it was pretty simple, yet profound.
“He just said have fun and make it a fun place which we’ve tried to do,” the AirAsia Group CEO added. “But we would have done that anyway.”
“Virgin was very informative in my whole cultural experience in that it was a fun place, it was a place where there were no suits, it was informal and ideas and innovation are encouraged,” Fernandes said.”That rubbed off on me.”
According to Fernandes, this open and innovative culture has defined the company’s success. For example, AirAsia encourages its employees to design their own uniform choices and to show off their personality as individuals.
“If they’re comfortable coming to work, they will be happier and more themselves,” he said.
20 Nov 2017 - The first Chinese travellers to officially use the Customs eGates (formerly known as SmartGate) have been welcomed at Auckland International Airport. Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri and representatives from the Chinese government joined staff and key partners to mark the milestone. “Customs is part of a multi-agency group, working collaboratively to make eGates available to more nationalities. China is our second largest visitor market, and has contributed to the strong growth in visitor numbers in recent years. So extending the use of eGate facilities to eligible Chinese passport holders makes sense.” “The expansion of eGates to Chinese passport holders will help enhance the quality of their experience as visitors to New Zealand,” says Ms Whaitiri. Customs Acting Comptroller, Christine Stevenson says expanding eGates to more countries will help to manage the increasing number of travellers arriving and departing New Zealand. “By allowing eligible passengers to complete their Customs and Immigration checks quickly and easily, it also enables Customs officers to focus on travellers who may present a higher risk,” says Ms Stevenson. “More than 24 million people have used Customs’ eGates since they were introduced at New Zealand airports in 2009, and China is the sixth country that we’ve extended the service to. “Our e-Gates are available in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown to eligible ePassport holders aged 12 years and over from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and from today, China. “We expect this number will continue to grow, with plans underway to enable ePassport holders from more countries to have access to eGate technology in the near future.” About eGateIn New Zealand, you’ll find eGates at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown International Airports for both arriving and departing passengers. The eGates were first introduced in New Zealand in 2009, and there are now 51 eGates at our international airports. You are eligible to use an eGate if you are 12 years of age or older, and have an ePassport from:
the United Kingdom
the United States
The eGates use biometrics to match the picture of your face in your ePassport (stored in the chip in your passport) with the image it takes of you at the gate.
16 Nov 2017 - Emirates and Thales have signed a new agreement to equip the airline’s Boeing 777X fleet with the next generation broadband inflight connectivity using Inmarsat GX global network. The partnership will give Emirates customers best in class connectivity with speeds of up to 50Mbps on its Boeing 777X aircraft due for delivery starting in 2020. Emirates and Thales already have an existing multi-million-dollar deal to fit its Boeing 777X fleet with a next generation Thales AVANT inflight entertainment system. The new agreement is part of the Emirates’ and Thales’ plans to develop and enhance the state-of-the-art inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) on the 777X fleet.
Over the years, Emirates has invested over US $200 million to equip its aircraft with connectivity. Demand for Wi-Fi on board has been steadily increasing and today over 800,000 passengers per month connect while inflight, including travellers from New Zealand on Emirates’ daily A380 flights from Auckland and Christchurch.
Emirates offers all its customers 20MB of complimentary Wi-Fi data on board while Emirates Skywards members in First Class and Business Class enjoy unlimited complimentary Wi-Fi and discounted plans in Economy Class.
Emirates, Thales and Inmarsat have invested heavily in the new generation Wi-Fi solution and will work together to meet increasing demand for Wi-Fi on board. Broadband connectivity speeds coupled with Thales’ AVANT innovative and highly customisable IFE system will provide a further boost to Emirates’ award-winning inflight entertainment system, ice.
As well as operating a fleet of 100 A380s, Emirates is the largest operator of the Boeing 777 aircraft, one of the most popular and advanced wide-bodied aircraft in commercial operation today. The airline has 165 Boeing 777s in its fleet, and a further 164 on firm order, including 150 of the next generation Boeing 777X aircraft.
Strollers Discover Tranquility in the Eye of the International Tourist Storm
12 Nov 2017 - In Antibes it was curious to observe that domestic property prices in the town seemed on a par with those in New Zealand’s rural Hawkes Bay and this unpressured ambience permeates the fabled Cote D’Azur,writes our roaming travel editor, Peter Isaac. If anyone was in a rush then they made sure to keep it to themselves, certainly in the Antibes town square, just a leisurely 10 minute walk from the railway station, which itself radiated a rural line, off-peak, level of activity.
Plenty of bench space in the square ringed with its murmuring cafes.
Plenty of towel space too on the inner town’s own mellow beaches, the ones you encounter before hitting the more substantial one on its outskirts toward the Cap d’Antibes.
Sauntering along the Cap d’Antibes, along the storied Chemin des Douaniers, with itinerant international New Zealand yachtsman - lawyer Zac Foot, (pictured extreme right, Baie des Milliardaires) and particularly evident was the easy-going nature of the French at leisure, and they did give the appearance of being almost entirely French.
Their behaviour being in contrast to their English-speaking counterparts who would have been determinedly striding out on the well maintained yet unostentatious and litter-free Cap foot path with their alpine sticks, or hoarsely panting by in running rig.
A cooling plunge en route in the sumptuously-named Bay of Billionaires, ringed by narrow jagged beaches and vaguely reminiscent of Cornwall’s smugglers coves, and hence one senses the Douaniers, the customs enforcers, appellation here.
As it turned out our swim was rewarded by slices of home-cooked pizza from local fellow beachgoers sympathetic to this incongruous, pallid Anglo duo.
Past the Chateau de la Croe, pre-war refuge of the abdicated Edward V111, before Winston Churchill instructed he and his duchess to hurry to the Atlantic coast where a battleship captained by Louis Mountbatten, his cousin, would pick them up before the Germans did.
The Chateau incidentally, now under restoration by its new owner, another oligarch, but of a different stripe -- Roman Abramovich, proprietor as well of the Chelsea Football Club.
Now on to the Cap itself, doubling back via Eden Roc.
On the other side now, the westerly one, on the Cannes side, ambling into Juan Les Pins which is back-to-back with Antibes.
In an international resort compression sense, it is a bit like starting a walk through Paris and stumbling across Rome too.
Latin language buffs beware though of the revealing shibboleth which even on this accepting coastline separates the dolts from the sophisticates.
It is not “Joo-an” Les Pins, as in the opera,
Or even “Wahn”
It is “Shoo-arng” Les Pins
If Antibes is redolent of the stately 1930s then Juan Les Pins presents a 1950s resort aspect, just a soupcon of repressed raffishness.
At the isthmus neck of the Cap d’ Antibes we turned east back to Antibes traversing a shallow saddle hump via the Chemin des Sables walking through leafy and seemingly deserted streets reminiscent of the verdancy and understated prosperity of the nicer suburbs one finds lining the Pacific.civic shore.
Once returned to the Antibes side of the Cap and a further supply of not terribly crowded sandy beach capacity, another immersion to dissipate the now restored received effects of the afternoon ambient heat.
This was intense it being the height of summer and thus the height of the season.
France is the world’s most visited country. The Riviera, it’s most coveted destination.
All additional proof that if you truly want to get away from it all, as the English like to say, then the most tranquil place to be is in the eye of the seasonal international tourist storm.
Emirates has unveiled the first aircraft in its fleet with a new livery dedicated to Expo 2020 Dubai. The decal was installed on A6-EPK, an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, at the Emirates Engineering hangar.
The unique and striking livery is based on the Expo 2020 logo inspired by an ancient gold ring excavated in Dubai and it underlines Emirates’ support for the vision of Expo 2020 Dubai. Emirates is the Official Airline Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai.
Emirates operates daily A380 services from Auckland and Christchurch to Dubai and beyond and the decals will be seen in New Zealand over time as Emirates will dedicate a total of 40 aircraft from its fleet, both Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, to be emblazoned with the dedicated Expo 2020 decals; starting in 2017 through to the end of Expo 2020 Dubai. In addition, all aircraft in Emirates’ fleet will also carry a new Expo 2020 nose decal.
Emirates will be installing three different decal designs to reflect the different themes of Expo 2020 – namely, opportunity, mobility and sustainability. The theme of the first decal installed was ‘mobility’ which also relates to Emirates’ role as a connector of people, places and opportunities, as the airline links over 150 destinations in 84 countries to, from, and via its hub in Dubai. The main theme of Expo 2020 Dubai also revolves around ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, said: “Expo 2020 Dubai will be an important platform facilitating a global exchange of ideas, collaborations and partnerships across a range of industries and domains. Emirates is gearing up for this landmark occasion and championing the vision of ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’ through the new Expo 2020 decals that will be installed on our aircraft.”
The Expo 2020 decal installed by the Emirates Aircraft Appearance Centre is one of the largest decals to be applied on an Emirates Boeing 777 aircraft. It is also the first time that the surface area on top of the aircraft has been covered by a decal. The Expo decal applied on the Boeing 777 covers over 40% of the aircraft fuselage surface area. The design spans over 37.8 metres in length and 12 metres in width. The decal was designed, printed and installed by Emirates’ in-house graphic shop team. It took a team of six staff over 84 hours to complete the decal installation.
The Emirates Aircraft Appearance Centre has installed a number of eye-catching decals on Emirates’ aircraft over the years including the majestic ‘United for Wildlife’ decals and a number of customised decals celebrating Emirates’ football partnerships and a global love for sports.
The Dunedin Regional Lounge is situated on the upper floor of the airport terminal and caters to more than 120 customers. The lounge features Air New Zealand’s signature sleek design with four different seating zones to suit the needs of customers, including a café as well as business, lounge and quiet areas. A self-service food buffet and drinks station are also available. Air New Zealand’s General Manager Customer Experience Anita Hawthorne says it’s fantastic to be able to offer customers flying out of Dunedin a lounge with 50 percent more seating than the previous space. “Dunedin is a key port on Air New Zealand’s domestic network and we look forward to welcoming customers to enjoy this new facility,” says Ms Hawthorne. Dunedin Airport CEO Richard Roberts says the airport is very proud to be involved with Air New Zealand and the amazing upgrade and extension of the lounge. “Our ongoing work with Air New Zealand to drive demand continues to increase people through our airport, so to have this new facility is a wonderful example of working better together,” says Mr Roberts. The new Dunedin lounge is part of Air New Zealand’s four-year $100 million programme to develop its network of lounges and follows the opening of lounges in Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Nadi, Melbourne, Wellington, Queenstown, Hamilton, Invercargill and Palmerston North.
27 Oct: Lets play with heavy machinery. And in Invercagill they are doing just that. The attraction has just opened that will allow you to rip, push and pull to your heart’s content using heavy machinery. Dig This Invercargill is New Zealand’s first heavy equipment playground, and while it doesn’t sound like a typical tourist attraction, it definitely seems like great fun.
Guests are given the opportunity to choose from nine fun options where they get to operate bulldozers, excavators, mini excavators and skid steers in a giant gravel pit. There’s no need to worry if you haven’t driven heavy machinery before, as the experienced team in charge will show you how. You don’t even need to have a driver’s licence, and there are activities for the young, young at heart and groups.
Once you have selected your experience, it is recommended that you book online or contact the team to secure your spot. When you take the controls of Dig This Invercargill’s massive machines, you get a quick overview of the safety procedures you will be required to follow and must pass the breathalyser test before being fitted with a neon yellow vest and hardhat.
The instructors will talk you through every detail you’ll need to know in order to manoeuvre the machines and give you the confidence it takes to manage the machine. Operating them might take a little getting used to, so the company has designed a series of warm-up exercises to help. You will be connected via headset to the instructors at all times, which ensures you’re under their watchful eyes. From here you will be digging, trenching and pushing yourself around the lot in no time.
Once you’re comfortable, the team will guide you through a series of activities to test your skills.
Passengers worldwide are demanding more personal control over their travel writes Peter Needham for eGlobal. In particular, they want a single biometric security token that covers all aspects of travel procedures, according to a large-scale survey commissioned by IATA to find exactly what travellers want.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) based its 2017 Global Passenger Survey (GPS) on 10,675 responses from around the world.
The responses provide insight into what passengers want from their air travel experience. Topping the list were:
Automation of more airport processes;
A single identity token for all travel processes using biometric identification;
Real-time information sent directly to personal devices;
More efficient security – without having to remove or unpack personal items;
More seamless border control.
Ready to go digital
Digital travel processes are the expectation and passengers want more. The GPS found that 82% of travellers would like to be able to use a digital passport on their smartphones for as many travel activities as possible, from booking flights to passing through the airport. Biometric identification systems were the technology of choice with 64% favouring biometric identifiers as their preferred travel token.
“Passengers want to use one single biometric identity token for all their travel transactions from booking flights to passing security and border control and picking up their bags,” commented Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security.
“IATA’s One ID project is rapidly moving travel towards a day when a face, iris, or fingerprint will provide the key to a seamless travel experience. The technology exists. Its use in aviation needs to be accelerated. Governments need to take the lead by working with industry to establish a trusted framework and agreeing the global standards and security protocols needed to use the technology.
“One ID will not only make process more efficient for passengers but allow governments to utilize valuable resources more effectively”
Passenger in control
Passengers want to be able to do more of the airport processes themselves by taking advantage of the latest digital self-service options. Baggage was the top activity that passengers wanted more control over. The GPS found that 68% of those surveyed want to self-tag their bags with electronic bag-tags being the preferred option. In addition 48% of passengers wanted to self-drop their bag.
The survey found that the number of passengers using automated immigration gates and kiosks increased by 6% in 2017, reaching 58% with a satisfaction rate of 90%. Boarding the aircraft was another area in which passengers wanted to have more control with 72% of passengers preferring to self-board, an increase of 2% over 2016.
“Passengers have never been as empowered as they are today. Self-service solutions range from mobile check-in and bag drop, to self-boarding and automated border control. Smartphone- and tablet-toting, passengers want to use these mobile devices to control their travel experience. They expect easy access to the information they want, exactly when they need it in the travel process. Airlines and airports that make the most use of technological innovations will be giving a better travel experience to their customers,” said Pierre Charbonneau, IATA’s director passenger and facilitation.
German's largest airlines, Lufthansa, is investing into an ICO pre-sale and teaming up with a Swiss startup on bookings on Ethereum.
One of Europe's leading airlines, Lufthansa, will be buying into an ICOs and teaming up with a startup on bookings on the blockchain. Winding Tree, a Swiss-based startup, is building a marketplace on the ethereum blockchain to connect businesses and suppliers. The deal between was announced today. Together with Lufthansa Group, the pair is exploring a decentralized booking platform.
The two companies met through Lufthansa's Innovation Hub. Both firms view this collaboration as an overall win-win. Lufthansa hopes to bring on board its expertise in customer experience from the airline industry while benefiting from Winding Trees blockchain development.
CEO of Winding Tree, Maksim Izmaylov shared their intentions to help the German airline build and deploy blockchain- powered travel apps on that align with the industry's standards. Lufthansa will provide Maksim's development team with access to APIs.
Markus Binkert, Senior Vice President Distribution & Revenue Management Lufthansa Group Airlines explained the goal of API integrations via press release:
"By integrating these APIs with Winding Tree's public blockchain, Lufthansa Group enables all innovative partners who develop cutting-edge travel applications to access these offers via a decentralized and intermediate-free travel marketplace."
The largest German airline is exploring customer service applications on the blockchain including bookings, and itinerary travel information. Lufthansa is on the forefront of exploring use cases for the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies for its aviation business. The scalability and efficiency of blockchains are features it can explore both customer service and aircraft maintenance. Last year, the firm launched a Blockchain for Aviation (BC4A) initiative aimed at evaluating innovative technology for flight maintenance.Lufthansa Buys into Pre-Sale ICO
Winding Tree is in the process of launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to fund development. As part of their commitment to this partnership, Lufthansa will finance part of the token sale at the ICO pre-sale stage. Investors will receive native ‘Lif' cryptocurrency in exchange for their contributions.
More startups are turning to ICOs for capital, the latest cryptocurrency crowdfunding craze. Typically, investors make contributions via cryptocurrency and receive issued tokens representing some form of right or utility. But in more recent times, the model has opened up avenues for Hedge funds and private investors to participate at a pre-ICO stage.
Lufthansa's buy-in to Winding Tree's pre-sale is likely to contribute regular currency. Regulatory warnings on ICO funding have picked up over the course of the last few months. It is becoming harder for startups to skirt rules on securities laws.
The LIF crypto token will have utility on the marketplace. Businesses and suppliers will settle payments and transfer of data relating to accommodation, flights, and cruises on the blockchain using Lif.
Dr. Christian Langer, Chief Digital Officer of Lufthansa Group, said: "To us, Winding Tree is a strong candidate to turn today's understanding of distribution upside down."