Air Transport World

BA, KLM, Lufthansa improve inflight services with help from De Ster.

BA, KLM, Lufthansa improve inflight services with help from De Ster London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt--The battle for market share among Western European airlines center mainly on the full-fare passenger, that is, the frequent-flying traveler, usually a business person, who generally flies in first or business class. Still largely spared the agonies of the unrestricted fare wars that plaque the deregulated U.S. skies, the European carriers fight the battle mainly on the service front--special check-in and lounge facilities, limousine or helicopter transportation to and from the airport, and, of course, upgraded cabin services.

On a recent trip to England and the Continent, ATW interviewed the chiefs of inflight services of three of the leading international airlines--British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa--to determine how they use cabin services to gain a competitive edge. We also interviewed a leading designer and manufacturer of cabin tableware, the De Ster company, to learn the role the supplier can play in the battle.

Each of the three airlines operates an extensive intercontinental network, as well as a European network which serves largely as a feed system for the intercontinental routes. The feed is extremely important--in the case of KLM, for example, 50% of the short/medium-haul passengers who arrive at Amsterdam transfer to KLM's international flights. The situation is complicated for the carriers by the fact that European business travelers have so many choices of departure points for flights to North and South America and the Pacific Basin. In addition to Amsterdam, there are London, Frankfurt, Copenhagan, Paris, Zurich, Brussels, Rome and other international hubs.

Each airline's objective is not only to get the business passenger onto its European feeder flights but to retain him for the more-lucrative long-haul flights. Inasmuch as their structures are somewhat different, their approach to cabin service also differs to some extent. On one thing they agree, however: Business class is increasingly important, and improvements in the service offered to this class has pushed it to the point where it often matches the quality that used to be offered in first class.

British Airways

John B. Taylorson is BA's head of catering operations. In Taylorson's view the old BOAC was probably without peer in the excellence of its service, but that preeminence was lost after the merger of BOAC and BEA to form British Airways. With the proliferation of different types of equipment it was difficult to project a unified image of the airline and maintain a consistent level of service. Taylor aims to regain the former preeminence, at least insofar as inflight service is concerned.

BA's program to present a "total image" began with the design a couple of years ago of a new corporate logo, which soon began appearing on the exterior of the aircraft, at ticket offices, on office stationery, in advertising. Personnel uniforms were redesigned, as were the aircraft interiors. A unifying theme was developed for meal service items, with the help of De Ster, proclaiming a single identity for the different types of aircraft in the fleet and the different passenger classes, and design-related to the interior decor.

On the food side, Taylorson espouses "creative food planning" that meets the passenger's needs and expectations. The product of this approach he says, is "attractively presented food appropriate to the length of the journey and reflecting trends seen in the better restaurants." One of the trends is lighter, more healthful foods desired by the growing number of diet-conscious passengers; for instance, nouvelle cuisine, salads, high-fiber breads. This does not mean elimination of old English standby's like steak and kidney pie, but a judicious ixing of the old and new. Furthermore, since space is restricted, the food should be relatively easy to eat. …

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