Asian flyers will set the standards, says Airbus

Economy February 15, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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Report looks into expectations and common needs between two groups of travellers

Passengers from Asia will make up 45 per cent of global travellers in 2032, making them the dominant flyers of the 21st century shaping the future economy-class experience, according to the latest research report by Airbus.
Airbus published a new research report about the comfort demands of Asian economy-class passengers, “The Future of Comfort: Asia”, conducted by global future consultancy Future Laboratory. 
It reveals new insights into the evolving demands of tomorrow’s increasingly influential Asian air passengers. 
The research reveals two emerging typologies of Asian travellers who, because of the rise of social media and shared global online experiences, have an increased knowledge of flying and will demand an enhanced level of comfort. 
The first group is emerging affluent travellers in the first stage of their careers, aged between 18 and 34, highly knowledgeable and wowed by services and add-ons. 
The other group is high-income frequent travellers. These are more experienced flyers, in the middle of their career and focused on personal time and comfort in the strictest sense, with seat width a key factor in their perception of comfort. 
While their comfort expectations vary slightly, there is a clear commonality on the importance they place that a number of factors including sleep, well-being and relaxation leading to higher productivity. 
Business travellers  
This is of particular relevance to Asia, where emerging markets are opening up business opportunities and 70 per cent of travellers in 
economy class are flying for business in Asia (highest percentage globally).
 Asian passengers believe that the chance to rest during a flight unlocks higher levels of productivity, as opposed to the Western view of seeing this time as a chance to catch up on work. 
A productive flight is seen by Asian flyers as one where they can relax (78 per cent), sleep (58 per cent) and then work (56 per cent) – in that order.
Asians are willing to pay more for more seat space as it symbolises improved comfort and brings more relaxation. 
The majority of Asian consumers (58 per cent) believe that the seat itself is the top factor affecting their sense of comfort when flying. About 60 per cent believe that wider seats are the top requirement for “improved standards of comfort” and 42 per cent would pay more for increased seat width. 
Wider seats improve views of on-board productivity (53 per cent) followed by more legroom (48 per cent), adjustable seating (43 per cent), quiet zones (42 per cent), and increased arm room (37 per cent).
 Service levels motivate Asian economy class passengers to book a flight with a particular airline brand. Better cabin service is the top factor influencing future booking decisions. 
Macro trends 
The report also identified three future macro trends for comfort demanded by the Asian market. They include:
_ Wi-Fi-enabled cabins with telephone and conference calling facilities will be seen as a prerequisite for the large numbers of Asian business passengers travelling to unlock business opportunities in a world of 24/7 access. 
_ Having already made its mark in entertainment and retail, 3D is expected to be offering more immersive film and shopping experience on board. 
Airbus is future-proofing aircraft currently in production with the integration of fourth-generation in-flight entertainment systems, including three-dimensional video. 
_ Asian flyers agree that greater in-flight well-being allows passengers to relax and unwind, which are seen as key to productivity. 
Air quality, cabin quietness, mood lighting and seat space are areas where Airbus says it is working to promote passenger well-being. 
Kevin Keniston, Airbus’ head of passenger comfort, said the voice of the Asian passenger was fast becoming the dominant voice in the aviation industry and would dictate the future of flight. This new research clearly shows that comfort is paramount to satisfying the needs of long haul travel for the Asian population now and in the future. 
“Airbus offers airlines the ability to respond to these market demands now. Our unique aircraft designs deliver comfort without compromise; the ability to offer passengers high levels of comfort while simultaneously delivering the most fuel-efficient economics to airlines,” he said.
Martin Raymond, co-founder of The Future Laboratory, added that the report revealed rich insights into the needs of passengers across eight key Asian markets, and the unique cultural and behavioural drivers around the notion of comfort. 
It is clear that the emerging typologies of Asian travellers place comfort at the heart of their purchase decisions.