Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Checking In With Air New Zealand

Recently I wrote about some great ideas circulating the airline industry. Topping the list was Air New Zealand, which continues its relentless leadership in innovation and customer service. The last time I last covered the company’s virtues in some depth was 2007, so a recap is overdue.

In 2008 Air New Zealand’s paperless check-in kiosks completely eliminated the check-in counter in key centers in New Zealand. No lines, just technology that works and friendly staff ready to help if you need it.

In 2009 the airline introduced ‘The Bare Essentials of Safety’, a cheeky pre-takeoff safety briefing. Body painted baggage handlers, pilots and flight attendants made passengers switch back on to the instructions on what to do in an emergency.

I’ve touched on ‘cuddle class’, a groundbreaking economy seating design Air New Zealand introduced in 2010. What makes this truly innovative is not just the fact that nobody’s done it before, but that so many other airlines are fixated on generating premiums by only improving the first class and business class experiences. Focusing on economy shows that Air New Zealand cares about all of its passengers and adding value to every part of its business.

Other recent innovations include being the world’s first airline to introduce induction ovens on flights, allowing it to serve fresh pizza, burgers, toast and eggs the way you like them; offering mobile connectivity on its new Boeing 777 Dreamliners; and involving passengers in the development of inflight snack options, and entertainment through a new website developed in collaboration with YouTube. Degustation, communication, participation. What a menu.

Air New Zealand’s recent cornerstone investment in Virgin Blue to give it more exposure to the Australian market in challenging times is yet another example of the company’s positive, outward-focused mindset.

Wherever you find it, this kind of consistency is the hallmark of a truly great company. Everybody wins. Take a bow, Air New Zealand.

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