Flying with Emotional Support Animal

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Pets are comforting companions for kids and adults alike. There is no denying that pets keep us healthy and relieve stress. They play with us and show us unconditional love.

Lately keeping a pet as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)– an untrained companion of any species that provides solace to someone with a disability, such as anxiety or depression is becoming , should I say “fashionable’ for lack of a better word.

And an increasing number of pet owners have of late been taking their pets  into public spaces including travelling in airplanes , more so in the cabins -rather than the holds—simply by claiming that the creatures are  their licensed companion animals and are necessary to their mental well-being.

The list of weird and wondrous beasts that have accompanied their owners on scheduled flights in the US includes a turkey, a kangaroo, and a duck by the name of Mr. Stinkerbutt and a miniature Appaloosa horse.

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There was also a peacock, who was turned away by United for not meeting its guidelines of weight and size, despite of the owner who offered to buy a separate ticket, and Hobey the pot-bellied pig took a pre-takeoff dump in the aisle of an American Airlines flight and both pig and owner were ushered off – proof that peacocks and pigs really can’t fly.

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Luckily the good citizens of the US of A have the law on their side. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

As noble as it is intended, the purpose of the law is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, including equal rights of employment, housing and also the same rights to transportation aboard public entities such as airlines.

If a disabled person requires the assistance of a service animal the airline must accommodate the service animal, but there’s more to it than that. The key difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog is whether the animal has been trained to perform a specific task or job directly related to the person’s disability. For example, service dogs are trained to alert a hearing-impaired person to an alarm or to guide a visually impaired person around an obstacle.

So when pet owners insist on taking along an animal for want of emotional support all they need is an exemption- a letter from a certified healthcare provider, stating that the animal provides emotional support that eases one or more of the symptoms or effects of the disability, to substantiate their claims and Bingo! – They are legally entitled to take their friend along when they fly.

The United States – Air Carrier Access Act entitles passengers to fly with their E.S.A. at no extra charge, although airlines typically require the animal to stay on the lap or under the seat.

But Airlines are now fighting back. Between 2016 and 2018 the number of passengers taking their ESA on a flight in the US has increased from 561,000 to more than 1 million. And with that, the number of incidents involving ESAs pooing, peeing or biting other passengers and cabin crew have also increased.

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Many airlines have changed their policies when it comes to flying with an emotional support animal. Which is why most carriers are now either banning ESAs from flights over eight hours or putting in stipulated conditions for flying with ESA’s such as-

  • Banning specific animals from the cabin, including amphibians, ferrets, goats, hedgehogs, insects, reptiles, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders and any animal with tusks, horns or hooves.
  • The animals must be able to fit at the passengers’ feet, under the seat and are small enough to “fit fully on the passengers’ lap without touching any part of the seat or adjacent customers.
  • The animal cannot be seated in an exit row, block aisles, occupy seats or eat from tray tables.
  • The animals will have to remain leashed throughout the flight.

Airline employees are now able to exclude animals they consider to be a safety risk. While airlines might have thousands of trained service animals flying in a month, they may need to accommodate much more as untrained support animals in the already constrained cabin. Untrained animals have not only attacked trained service dogs, but also bitten flight attendants and other passengers. Not to mention, pets could also be the reason for spreading certain allergens.

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Whether one truly and genuinely needs a support animal travelling with them needs to have strict and proper guidelines/rules to ensure access to service animal assistance for people with disabilities , while maintaining the safety, health and security of all other passengers and crew onboard planes.

 

 

 

 

PC:The Sun;CNBC;United Airlines;CBS News;LoyaltyLobby

Biometrics :The Checkpoint of the future.

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If you have recently travelled from any airport in the world, you would have noticed an obvious change in the entire security and boarding process. I’m talking about Biometrics here.

During the past few months, it has become clearer than ever before that biometrics technology will be at the heart of the airport of tomorrow.

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A number of international airports, including the likes of Changi Airport, SingaporeKempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru and Hong Kong International Airport, have emerged as front-runners in Asia, with all three committing to major biometrics-related projects that will play a crucial role in shaping the passenger experience.

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And not just for the travellers, biometric solutions have begun revolutionizing the airport experience for all its stakeholders involved – airlines, airport operations, vendors, government, and law enforcement agencies.

Up until about five years ago, biometrics was what we used in our mobile devices. Remember using your fingerprints to unlock your phones?

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Well today biometrics and facial recognition is bent on creating a seamless digital transformation in the aviation environment. This will enable a paperless, biometric-enabled passenger journey from registration to boarding. Facial recognition technology will identify passengers as they move through the different airport touch points, removing the need to present boarding passes, travel documents or passports at every stage.

And the focus on making travellers safer and the customer experience more convenient throughout the aviation journey – everything from check-in, bag-checks and security to airport shopping is taking shape.

Security is, of course, of the utmost importance, and rightly so – given the times we live in today.

Airport Security Groups along with Customs and Border Protection personnel are working daily (and nightly) to keep our skies safe, which is why biometrics is so important to the security process.

Having the ability to instantly verify that documents are valid and to match the identity and confirmed reservation of the traveller ensures that only genuine passengers move towards the boarding gates on the other side of the security line.

Biometric security enhancements are more accurate at screening individuals as well as quicker to get the lines moving faster through security.

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With the ability to predict wait times, passengers are able to spend more time doing what they choose, from relaxing in the lounge, to visiting duty-free shops.

Big change cannot be driven solely by the technology alone. More collaboration among industry stakeholders is critical to the success of the digital revolution in commercial aviation, for a better customer experience, improved commerce, cost and time-savings, optimized security and smoother airport operations.

Next time you’re at the airport, think about how biometrics could be improving airport operations, and making your life more secure.

 

 

 

 

 

OS:NEC Today; FTE
PC:Changi Airport; CondeNestTraveller; ABC News; CNA; APEA; CNN

Qantas ‘Project Sunrise’

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There is a palpable excitement in the air. The clock is ticking on, following the announcement that Qantas has put out on for testing an extremely long haul flight from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.

Both Boeing and Airbus are working on providing an aircraft with ultra-long-range capabilities. The chosen plane needs to be capable of flying 10,573 miles nonstop, a journey which is pegged to take in the range of 21 hours in total.

Qantas will select the aircraft by end of this year. Till then the global attention is on the airline and speculation about its choice of aircraft is mounting.

‘Project Sunrise’ is Qantas’ goal to operate long haul research flights to gather data about both passenger and crew health on flying such a long journey. Three flights will be conducted in October, November and December and the data gathered will be used to track the health and well-being of passengers and crew members on board the approximately 19-hour long flight.

The Australian airline will carry 40 passengers and crew on two flights from New York to Sydney and another from London to Sydney.

The test passengers on the flights will mainly be Qantas employees, as well as scientists. Passengers and crew will be fitted with wearable technology devices to monitor sleep patterns and food and drink consumption, and to see how lighting, physical movement and in-flight entertainment impact their health.

For passengers the key will be in minimizing jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight.

For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximize rest during these flights.

Long-haul travel takes its toll on the body. Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots that can form particularly in the legs, is one peril. Nausea, Jet Lag and back pain from sitting for too long are another.   Airlines like Qantas will have to consider allowing more space for passengers to move if it goes ahead with its ambitious plan of across the world non- stop flight..

If all goes well, Qantas aims to operate regular, non-stop flights to London and New York from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as soon as 2022/23.

Frankly for business travellers this could be a time saver but I have my doubts whether any family with kids would be keen on taking this flight. It would be an absolute nightmare keeping the kids cooped up in such a long flight. The lack of space, boredom and sheer monotony of air travel would be such a bother even with business class seats –read flat beds.

What about you? Would you be sold to the idea of flying non- stop from Sydney to New York for 21 hours straight? Please share your views in the comments.

 

 

 

OS:SimpleFlying; AustralianAviation; Business Insider
PC: Qantas

 

 

HOW TO? Travel Tips and tricks

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How to get more comfortable airline seats:

  1. Typically “low cost” carriers have some seats with extra legroom. Book those if you want some space.
  2. Look for the good seats in economy. The exit row and bulkhead seats typically have more room than a standard seat, if you can afford them. The worst seats are the ones in the rear of the aircraft, which don’t recline.
  3. “Premium” seats cost extra, however sometimes you can get an upgrade at the gate if you are lucky.

airline seat

How to find quiet when you travel:

  1. Book where there’s less noise. The front of the aircraft is less noisy and tends to have a quieter kind of passenger (read: business travellers). On a train, look for the quiet cars. 2. Block it. Noise cancelling headsets or ear plugs are a good idea to filter out unwanted noise.
  2. Timing is everything. Don’t expect to get much quiet if you’re in New Orleans around Mardi Gras or in London during the summer break, when every attraction has serpentine queues of students and adults alike.

 What you need to know about minimum connection times:

  1. Minimum connection times are initially set by a group of airlines or by an airport operating committee. The times are built into the airline reservation systems, and are specific to airports or flights.
  2. Times can change if a terminal is under construction or an airport train closes for repairs. It’s always a good idea to check your airline’s airport-specific page for any changes.
  3. They are not a guarantee that your connecting flight won’t leave without you. They are only guidelines that are meant to get you to your destination as quickly as possible

How to write an airline consumer complaint:

  1. Be precise. Include details such as your confirmation code, flight number and travel date.
  2. Explain precisely what you want. Don’t leave the airline guessing. Are you asking them to refund your checked bag fee? Or claiming a delayed baggage allowance?

 Three things airlines won’t tell you about vouchers:

  1. Most carriers will not offer cash for a delayed /cancelled flight. Instead it will try to offer to rebook the flight or give you a voucher.
  2. You may be unable to redeem the voucher on the blackout dates. Read the fine print on the voucher before you agree to it. If you don’t like the terms, ask for a better deal, or a refund.

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How to book a hotel the smart way:

  1. Start with a thorough search. Check an Online travel agency like Expedia or Booking.com or call your travel agent. Check the rate against the price your preferred hotel would charge if you book direct.
  2. Review the restrictions. Hotels can impose restrictions for booking through their site, like making their rooms non-refundable, so read the conditions closely before deciding where to go. You might be better off working with a big agency that has negotiated better terms.
  3. Check the incentives. Ask yourself if you really need the points or the upgrade.

 How to spot a fake review:

  1. Check the reviewer’s record. Fake reviews are often posted by accounts with little or no additional review history.
  2. Do check out the photos of the property either through the hotel itself or through people who have stayed on the property.
  3. If you see a one-star or a five-star rating or a lot of superlatives in the description, chances are you’re looking at a fake.

 What you need to know about an apartment hotel:

  1. Amenities. Most apartment hotels have kitchenettes, but they may not have an oven, in-room laundry facilities or separate living room area. Check the property descriptions carefully.
  2. Services. While some of them offer room service, many clean their rooms only weekly.
  3. Policies. Most properties generally don’t charge mandatory “resort” fees. But it’s important to pay attention to their cancellation policies, which can vary.

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How to get a hotel room upgrade:

  1. A special event. Honeymoons rank high on the list. Hotels will try to make your special occasion more memorable if you ask.
  2. A special circumstance. If you’re thinking of coming back to the hotel and bringing a big group with you, mention it. If you’re planning to return again in a month or a year, say something. Anything that sets you apart as a more valued customer can sway a hotel to upgrade you.
  3. A special need. Some of the larger rooms are more disability-friendly. If you need extra room to accommodate a wheelchair, or walker, the only room that might fit you is a suite. Don’t be shy about asking.

car rental

Tips for getting a vehicle when they run out of rental cars:

  1. Confirm your reservation: Contact your car rental agency a day before you arrive. Always bring your reservation confirmation to show the rate you paid. Make a printout, just in case the battery on your phone dies.
  2. Arrive on time: Check in as close as possible to the time indicated on your reservation.

How to get a refund from a travel company:

  1. Patience. Give the company at least a week to respond to your refund request and two credit card billing cycles to pay you.
  2. Persistence. Don’t let months pass by without letting the company know that your money is still missing. If necessary, set a calendar reminder so that you don’t forget.
  3. Politeness. Angry demands for a refund and threats to take a company to court almost always backfire. The company may refer your case to its legal department, where it could linger for weeks or months. Be nice!

 How to select the right travel app for your next trip:

  1. Download from a trusted source. That would be iTunes or Google Play. 2. Read the stars – and the reviews. The best travel apps should have at least four stars. Pay attention to the reviews, more so if you need the app for a specific purpose, like translating a particular language.
  2. Test for any flaws, such as consumption of too much data or battery life or even if is accessible anywhere in the world, before you take it on the road.

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How to pack select the right kind of clothes:

  1. Does it match your trip? You definitely won’t need that jacket for your beach vacation, but you surely could use a light windcheater in case it rains. Bug repellents, sunscreens, lip balms, should be the staples if you’re going on an African safari. Simplify your choices of clothes, carrying the essentials rather than over packing the suitcase.

 How to avoid getting robbed on vacation:

  1. Don’t leave your valuables, passports, laptops, ipads, cameras, cash etc in your hotel room open to view. Lock them up in the safe or the suitcase in case you are not using them.
  2. Don’t flash your jewelry, cash etc

How to not look like a tourist (even if you are one):

  1. No maps! Don’t walk around with a giant map in your hands. Instead, keep the map on your phone – and stay cool.
  2. Slow down. Tourists try to do everything in a day. If you stop running, you won’t stand out.

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PC:Getty images;Shutterstock

 

 

Elite Economy class

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The landscape of air travel in the country has changed and evolved over the past few years with a lot more people opting to fly rather than use the train especially in the domestic Indian sectors.

Even though there are concerns around the overall slump in the aviation sector, there has been a growth in the number of flyers. With more routes becoming available, and as economy class fares become more passenger-friendly, airlines have invested a lot into improving their product. This is the reason why the demand for a premium seat is becoming increasingly popular.

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The trend started in the early 1990s when Taiwanese EVA Air introduced an extra class above economy, followed by Virgin Atlantic in 1992. The class made its real debut around 2007 when airlines like Qantas and Air New Zealand started offering it. The success has lead to a handful of Asian carriers launching the product like JAL, ANA, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

Airlines saw Premium Economy also known as the elite Economy Class ,as an opportunity to target travellers who don’t want to pay the price for a business class seat, but don’t mind forking out a wee bit more for a few extra ‘luxuries’ when flying.

Typically long haul Business Class products offer fully flat beds, and a guaranteed aisle access.  This leaves a space on the plane for Premium Economy.

Most premium economy seats have a deeper recline that gives you more comfort in-flight and a better sleep.

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Along with that in Premium Economy you’ll be able to take advantage of Business Class perks, such as priority check-ins, and access to airport lounges. Passengers are willing to splurge and at the same time enjoy the worth of every penny invested in air travel.

Some facts

  1. A Premium Economy fare is generally 65% less expensive than a business class fare. You will not have the same level of service or comfort but you will be assured a more comfortable and relaxing journey.
  2. A typical Premium Economy fare includes around 5-7 inches of extra legroom, wider seats, and more space to recline.
  3. You may also have a separate food menu and enhanced entertainment.

The winners of the the Skytrax World Airline Awards for the best Premium Economy airline seats for 2019 are

  1. Virgin Atlantic
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. Qantas Airways
  4. China Airlines
  5. Singapore Airlines
  6. Japan Airlines
  7. Aeroflot
  8. Lufthansa
  9. Azerbaijan Airlines
  10. Air France

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Generally speaking, airlines price tickets based on supply and demand, so there’s no set formula to determine what price you can expect to pay for a Premium Economy class seat. Sometimes it could also be double the cost of an economy ticket

That being said, premium economy can be of good value when flying compared to economy, the question is, how much are you willing to pay for that privilege? It also depends on your personal situation. If you’re a tall person, that extra legroom could make a huge difference in your comfort. Now, if you’re traveling for business, it might be company policy that business class is not allowed, so premium economy would make an excellent alternative.

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Most airlines will try their best to get people to pay for the premium seats before they offer them up for free. However, it’s quite common for premium economy seats to be offered at a discount when you’re at the gate. In this case, it would be on a first come, first serve basis.

With a marginal price increase over the cost of an economy class seat and for a fraction of the cost of a business-class ticket, premium economy seat offer a significant upgrade for travellers.

Have you ever travelled Premium economy? Do share your experience via the comments. Thank you .

 

 

PC: Skyscanner;Traveller AU;China Airlines;Singapore Airlines;Phillipine Airlines;Always Mag;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in a name ?

SpiceJet

Regular flyers might remember the type of aircraft they flew in; whether it was an Airbus A-320 or a Boeing 787.

But few will be able to tell if they flew on a Pretty Woman, Queen of the Skies , a Rosemary or a Turmeric?

Giving names to aircrafts is a practice that started with Viking’s ships, but the tradition is still being carried out today. Naming an aircraft is not just fun. There is history and reason to it too. Each aircraft has a name that embodies the brand value of the airline. It’s just the aspiration of flying around the world in a fun and glamorous way.

Airlines have different reasons for naming their aircraft. While some showcase aspects of the home country, others use it to highlight the places the airline flies to. Yet others want the names to be an extension of the airline’s image.

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Lufthansa names its planes after German cities,  Aer Lingus after Irish saints and KLM after a mix of birds, famous women and destinations. But perhaps the biggest enthusiast is Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic who has, as always made naming part of the brand strategy and the image of fun he projects for Virgin.  They call their aircraft ‘flying ladies’  with names of movies such as ‘Barbarella’ or ‘Pretty Woman’, or songs like ‘Jersey Girl’, ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘Mustang Sally’ or fairy tales like ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

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When Air India got the Boeing 747, it decided to name the aircraft after Indian emperors or Indian states while the smaller aircraft were named after rivers.

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It’s a very interesting story as to how the aircrafts of SpiceJet got their names.

Sitting at a luncheon at Imperial hotel in Delhi, the CEO and the promoter were going through some intense brain storming sessions on various aspects of setting up the airline in India.

Amongst the other things agreed upon, some of those that stand out are the fact that the airline must have an  ‘Indianness’  to its name. It was so ironic that they were seated at an Indian restaurant ‘Spice Route’.

And so SpiceJet was born.

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Keeping in tune with the bold characteristic of the airline and its “Red” livery, the management appropriately decided to christen each aircraft with a unique name of the Indian spices.

The airline today has aircraft called coriander, chilly, turmeric, red chilli, mustard, pepper and heeng.

Although the English names were there from the start of the airlines, but when they got the smaller Bombardiers for regional flights they decided to use the Indian names for spices such as Heeng, Dhania and Elaichi. In all 75 names of spices have been christened so far.

So the next time you fly SpiceJet, as you get down from the bus on the tarmac and wait to climb the steps, do remember to take a look at the front of the plane and see a name painted near the nose just under the cockpit.

In fact it’s not unusual to see the millennial flyers taking to social media, to share SpiceJet’s  quirky aircraft names on the social media platform to show which aircraft they have flown on.

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Incidentally even the in-flight magazine of SpiceJet is called Spice Route.

 

 

Fun quiz

Identify this spice & Leave your reply in the comments.

This spice was a  precious commodity traded between Arabs and Venetians during the Middle Ages. Imparting an invaluable flavour in cooking and the preparation of drinks, it also has a strong symbolic value and even appears on the National flag of a country. There is one recipe whose secret has never been revealed: that of Coca-Cola. Well, this spice is supposed to be one of its mysterious ingredients…

 

 

PC: Air India;KLM;Virgin Atlantic; SpiceJet

Chasing the sun!

SWITZERLAND-TECHNOLOGY-AEROSPACE-ENVIRONMENT-SOLARIMPULSE

Using ‘Solar Power’ is increasing in popularity because it is versatile with many benefits to people and the environment. Every day, the sun gives off more than enough energy to meet the whole world’s energy needs. And since it is a clean source of energy there are no greenhouse gas emissions that are released into the atmosphere. Hence the environmental impact of solar power is significantly smaller than other power generation methods.

Addressing the issue of sustainable travel, Solar energy systems are increasingly being installed on the roofs of airport terminals and parking garages, as well as on the land surrounding tarmacs to harness the power of solar energy.

cochin airport
Cochin International Airport

In 2015, Cochin International Airport in Kerala set an example for the rest of the world by contributing towards the environment, and being the first ever fully solar powered airport. Handling more than 10.2 million passengers in 2018-19 the airport was selected in 2018 for the coveted Champion of the Earth award, the highest environmental honour instituted by the United Nations.

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The airport has reduced the carbon footprint by over 3 lakh metric tonnes, which is equivalent to planting 3 million trees. Moreover, the airport is going one step ahead by generating electricity with eight small hydroelectric power projects and organic farms in the vicinity. Over the past few years, it has grown around 80 tonnes of organic vegetable in a year.

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Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport

In the US, an airport in Tennessee is now generating enough renewable energy to meet all its energy needs—a model that is soon replicated by other airports. The airport of the future, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, has become the first airport in the country to generate all the power it needs through a solar farm.

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Terminal 2 Dubai

The trend in airports incorporating solar panels into their energy systems is taking off. –Athens International’s photovoltaic park produces more than 13 thousand MWh of emission-free electricity annually, corresponding to approximately 25% of the airport’s own electricity needs. This results in an average annual CO2 emissions reduction of 11,500 tonnes

A solar energy system made up of 15,000 solar panels was recently installed at Terminal 2 of Dubai International Airport.

A 183-acre farm at Indianapolis International Airport, which houses 87,478 solar panels, provides 22.2 megawatts of renewable energy for the region’s electric grid.

Denver International Airport has an impressive facility of a 56-acre, 10-megawatt solar farm with 42,614 solar panels.

Solar panels installed at Brisbane Airport produce an estimated 125 MWh/year of green energy, thereby saving 118 tonnes of CO2 per year

Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia has the 19 megawatt plant which will help save the airport $750,000 in electricity costs and some 18,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Today more than 100 airports worldwide have solar plants.

And speaking of airports, I wonder how soon it will be when we see commercial aircrafts using this renewable source of energy to fly.  Although quite a few manned and unmanned solar powered aircraft have been developed and flown in the last 30 years.

When the Wright brothers made their first maiden flight in a powered aircraft on a wind- swept beach in 1903, it was a short hop, skip and jump into the record books.

More than 70 years later the 1st  solar powered aircraft, The “Sunrise 1”, an unmanned vehicle -designed by Ray Buchard, on the 4th of November 1974 made their 1st maiden flight and flew 20 minutes at an altitude of around 100 m.

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In July 2016 with a journey that took a very long time—505 days to fly 26,000 miles (42,000 km) at an average speed of about 45 mph (70 kph) pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg successfully landed the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft in Abu Dhabi ,after flying around the world using only the power of the Sun.

Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is pulled out of its base for tests by pilot Bertrand Piccard in PayerneSelfie picture shows Swiss pioneer Bertrand Piccard during the last leg of the round the world trip with Solar Impulse 2 over the Arab peninsula
A selfie shows Swiss pioneer Bertrand Piccard during the last leg of the round the world trip with Solar Impulse 2 over the Arabian Peninsula on July 25, 2016

Although many of the solar powered aircrafts have wingspans as wide as the 737 passenger jets, but the similarities between them ends here.

Solar-powered planes present some “engineering challenges.” They are able to capture about 10 or 20 percent of the energy from the sun. That equates to a speed of only 50 miles per hour, whereas commercial passenger jets, travel at about 600 miles per hour.

So for now solar-powered aircraft are probably better suited for things like loitering over one area, collecting data for climate research, or conducting surveillance with cameras, than for moving people around.  But with technology evolving everyday it won’t be too far into the future when we see a “small seater solar powered commercial flight” taking off on its voyage. But for now that remains a dream!

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PC- CIAL;GatewayMagazine;Gulf News;HistoryChannel;TheAtlantic

 

 

Show them you care.

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After spending years training newbie entrants in Automated Ticketing, Tourism and Soft skills in the field of Aviation, Travel and Tourism, I can’t help but notice the customer service delivered to me everywhere I go, whether I am shopping, dining, or even travelling. I guess the trainer in me still has that ‘Hawk Eye’ when it comes to service.

Great customer service is the holy grail of any business. Competition in the marketplace has made it crucial for businesses to spruce up on not only their hardware but more importantly their software – aka employees.

Having said that, customer service training is and should always be the top priority in organizations having multiple customer touch-points.

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In fact service approach needs to be in the DNA of the organisation. Only if product, policies and strategies are designed keeping customer’s wellbeing in mind that a good service experience can truly be delivered by customer interfacing teams.

Today travellers are more demanding than ever. They have more power than they used to. They are smarter and have higher expectations than ever before. They are more up-to-date and better informed today, as technology has made it easier for them to do their homework.

Smart travellers – empowered travellers – know what options they want hence airlines, travel companies and hotels must be equipped to meet customers on their terms, when, where and how they want.

In the Aviation industry good customer experiences are of great significance. Customer demand is about meeting and exceeding expectations and making the customer feel special with a more personalized experience.

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For example; Emirates, provides the so called ‘Knowledge-driven Inflight Service’, which enables cabin crew to operate with greater efficiency and provide a more heightened level of service to the airline’s customers. This technology enables the crew to know the customer’s preferences and issues that might have occurred during their previous travels thereby enabling the carrier to offer personalized service, unrivalled within the industry and for which the airline prides itself upon.

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Closer home, SpiceJet provides a host of offers like ‘Hot Meals’ on board which is a paradigm shift for Low Cost Airlines. It is a great delight to customers, and a differentiator for the airline. ‘SpiceBiz’ the new Business Class offering at affordable fares, and a premium product called SpiceMax which has spacious seats with extra leg space, complimentary meal, Priority Check In, Bags out first, etc. – all at a nominal charge.

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Eventually the best way to retain your customer is knowing what they need. Courteous staff, ease at checkin /boarding, inflight service, are just few of the ways you can keep your customers happy. Airline Loyalty programs and club memberships offer exclusive benefits such as a complimentary pick up service to the airport and also at the final destination, or a Lounge access card at departing airports to its First or Business class passengers.

Unfortunately, complaining passengers are on the rise. They have complaints, sometimes frivolous, about their journey. A delayed flight for instance has the twitterati in a twist. Passengers start abusing and condemning the airline not realising the reason could be genuine for such delays.

Aircrafts are not supposed to be standing on the tarmac forever. They are supposed to ferry passengers in the air. Most airlines have a tight turnaround time and if the aircraft is delayed from the originating airport for some reason such as inclement weather or offloading the baggage of a gate-no-show passenger, this cartwheels into delays at further sectors.

But people have no clue about the intricacies such as time slots, availability of runways, crew rest coming into effect, and many other factors involved. Passenger safety is of utmost importance to any carrier. And delays are as much a part of air travel as on time performance.

In the past, when customers had a complaint, they’d speak to a gate agent or call the airline. Today, they’re more likely to post about their problem on social media, including Twitter and Facebook — which means the world is watching to see how the airlines react.

social media

Furthermore today the impact of social media trolls influences the passenger’s choice a great deal. It has therefore become crucially important to have a knowledgeable team at the helm of all Social media platforms, to capture the Voice of the Customer and provide quick, helpful, understanding and encouraging response and support, in a timely manner.

Airlines always keep trying their best to keep their customers happy. For instance, incase of a delayed flight of more than 12 hours, most airlines would offer a hotel stay until the next flight becomes available or rebook/transfer passengers to another airline, space permitting.

Air travel can be a confusing experience for a first time traveler. The customer service team must be able to convey timely and useful information to the passengers through their Apps, emails, WhatsApp, SMS, and other social media channels.

Keeping all customers happy at all times is as elusive as finding a unicorn. Providing flawless service, however, is not always easy.No matter how many customer service surveys are conducted, much of the customer psyche will forever remain of ‘yeh dil mange more’ !.

All said and done, in today’s world of competitiveness, service industry must invoke technology to couple training and fine-tuned SoP’s to deliver top notch, proactive and personalised customer service to keep their customers loyal.

 

Madhavi

 

 

 

PC: Twitter;Bloomberg;SmartCitiesWorld;Emirates;Spicejet;Future Travel Experience;AfroMum

 

Aviation Cyber Security

aircraft

Security has always been the number one priority for all airlines.

Today with enhanced technology, airlines can improve the connectivity of their flight operations and air traffic systems to achieve optimal financial and operational performance. Improved technology also helps airlines to better understand and target their customers.

Things in the aviation industry are changing faster than ever before. Consumer demand for live in flight entertainment choices, and on board WIFI connectivity for mobile devices used for streaming, is increasing and major carriers are bowing to the pressure as companies need to follow the trend to stay competitive.

Cyber security risk is a major concern for the airline industry. Given the highly sensitive nature of flight systems and passenger data, it’s no wonder that airlines are very concerned with how to deal with cyber threats.

And as all this data is stored in cyber space, it gives cyber criminals and hackers more sophisticated technology to perpetrate attacks that can lead to loss of valuable data and cause chaos and distress.

Today most airlines are using Radio (VHF) and SATCOM to connect pilots with ground crews and with airport and Air Traffic Control, leading to greater efficiency, but at the same time it is also leaving a huge gap where they create greater opportunities for cyber attackers and hackers.

While airline security procedures have been effective so far, there are changes in the industry that are creating more access points for hackers including:-

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1)The widespread use of tablet-based electronic flight bags (EFBs); EFBs are particularly popular with pilots as they have taken the place of heavy binders that pilots used to carry onboard.

2) The expansion of in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi connectivity systems.

3) The modernization of air traffic control, which uses NextGen to improve network efficiency by using GPS (global positioning system) that is software based and connected to the Internet.

4) e-Enabled ground and onboard systems.

5) Cargo handling and shipping.

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These threats need to be managed in a well planned and holistic manner with airlines closely cooperating with other carriers, hardware and software providers, along with airports, aircraft manufacturer’s and other industry stakeholders, as also their back-office IT, maintenance, operations, and consumer facing systems because failure in one area can affect others.

While an airline’s first goal is to prevent incidents, it is evident that threats in today’s environment cannot be entirely prevented.

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Overall, security procedures to date have been highly effective and airlines are trying to stop attacks from occurring both on the ground and in the air.

But without any uniform industry standards in place, each responsible airline has to consider how to reduce the risk of a cyber attack and how to deal with one when it happens.

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OS: PwC 2016 special report series: Cyber security and the airline industry.
PC: Shutter Stock; Aviation today; TTG Asia ;CTO Vision; Daily mail

 

Baby on Board !

kid2

I love kids. The quiet, cute and cuddly kinds.

They make me all mooony when I see them throw an unintended smile at me. I wish I could lip-bite into their chubby cheeks or just tickle them on their tummy.

However travelling with them ….well that’s a completely different story!!

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I did travel a lot with my young ones. And although travelling with 2 little boys was quite a handful, I was mostly lucky when they would sleep through most of the flight. But you can’t be lucky always now can you?

There were always instances when everything would go topsy turvy, with either one of them being absolutely crabby, and then I would be spending most of the flight carrying them around the aisle so that the rogue would keep quiet!

Seriously, I would be a reck myself hoping that the fellow passengers do not throw me off the plane as well!!! And back in those days we didn’t have the luxury of travelling with mini screens full of entertainment to keep the tots occupied till they got tired and fell asleep.

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Travelling with a ‘hangry’ cry baby can be a nerve racking experience especially on a long haul flight. After all, tots can be messy, tantrum throwing, and easily bored little creatures when confined to a cramped aircraft seat.

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Some of the tips that I am about to share have helped me survive on what otherwise would have been every flyers worst nightmare!

  • Carry their favourite toy or their ‘security blankie’ always. It keeps them secure and comfy.
  • Monitor their eating even on a plane. If it means having to carry some of their favourite snacks, it will be well worth the trouble. Remember if they are fed they will be less cranky. Keep an empty bottle handy which you can refill with water every now and then to keep them hydrated.
  • Carry their activity books, some Flash cards or sticker books or you can even use that in-flight magazine to play I Spy, or even let the child interact with other flyers as long as they are both enjoying it.
  • Pack a few items which are multiple purposes. Baby wipes, for example, can be used to clean messy hands or tray tables or get food off of clothes. A fleece jacket can also be doubled up as a blanket, pillow or even help you cover up if you are a nursing mother.
  • In this digital age don’t be too strict with ‘screen time’ while travelling with kids. Download their favourite content before you set out. That way they will be quiet and comfortable, and so will you.

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Plan your trip the best you can — and then just roll with it. Booking red-eye flights, for example, or flights that coincide with nap times, can help reduce the need for a lot of in-flight entertainment.

While you plan hotel accommodations, don’t forget to stay somewhere with space to explore. Kids hate being cooped up in small spaces. So to avoid meltdowns, try to stay near places that they can run around and explore.

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TOP TIP: Put empty water bottles in hand luggage and refill them after security.

TOP TIP: Psychologists say young, nervous flyers like to feel in control of their situation and that toy planes they can pretend to fly may help

TOP TIP: Be ready with distractions if your children don’t like seat belts and have sweets at take-off and landing to avoid blocked ears.

TOP TIP: Cabin crew say one toddler is sick on almost every long flight, which is why children need top-to-toe changes of clothes and parents need spare T-shirts. It’s why wet-wipes and plastic bags for smelly clothes are ‘must-carry’ items.

TOP TIP: Try to catch a few winks when your baby is asleep. It will renew your energy too.

TOP TIP: It’s a good idea to let the child roam around and stretch their legs at airports in between inter connecting flights.

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To be clear, these tips aren’t meant for everyone. Every kid — not to mention every trip — is going to be different. What you plan to do and where you plan to go may mean that some of these suggestions just aren’t feasible. And that’s completely OK.

And lastly keep your composure. There’s not much you can do to tone down that passenger who complains the moment your child sneezes or giggles. Here’s what you need to remember: As long as you’re trying (and what parent isn’t?), you’ve got almost everyone on your side.

 

Safe travels

Madhavi