Asian passengers shaping long-haul economy, says Airbus

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Airbus has released a new research report about the comfort demands of Asian economy-class passengers. Research for ‘The Future of Comfort: Asia’ report was conducted by global future consultancy Future Laboratory, to discover new insights into the evolving demands of tomorrow’s increasingly influential Asian air passengers. Airbus forecasts that by 2032 the Asia region will account for 45% of global passengers; this will make them the dominant flyers of the 21st century, shaping the future economy-class experience.

Airbus says the research reveals two emerging typologies of Asian travellers who, due to 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 is that new emerging affluent travellers are first time careers, aged between 18 and 34, highly knowledgeable and wowed by services and add-ons.

The second typology is that high-income frequent travellers are generally more experienced, in the middle of their career, and focus on personal time and comfort in the strictest sense, with seat width playing a key factor in their perception of comfort.

Whilst their comfort expectations vary slightly, Airbus says there is a clear commonality on the importance they place on a number of factors:

• Sleep, well-being and relaxation lead to higher productivity. This is of particular relevance in Asia, where emerging markets are opening up business opportunities and 70% of travellers in economy class are flying for business in Asia (the highest percentage globally). Asian passengers believe that the chance to rest on 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 the Asian flyer as one where they can relax (78%), sleep (58%) and then work (56%) – in that order.

• Asians would pay more money for more seat space as it symbolises improved comfort and brings more relaxation. The majority of Asian consumers (58%) believe that the seat itself is the top factor that affects their sense of comfort when flying. 60% believe that wider seats are the top requirement for ‘improved standards of comfort’ and 42% would pay more for increased seat width. Wider seats improve views of on-board productivity (53%) followed by more legroom (48%), adjustable seating (43%), quiet zones (42%), and increased arm room (37%).

• Service levels motivate Asian economy passengers to book a flight with a particular airline brand. Better cabin service is the top factor influencing future booking decisions.

The report also identified three future macro trends for comfort demanded by the Asian market:

• The ‘Always on Cabin’: Wi-fi enabled cabins with telephone and conference calling facilities will be seen as a pre-requisite to the large volumes of Asian business passengers travelling, in order to unlock business opportunities in a world of 24/7 access.

• 3D technology: 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 IFE systems, including 3D TV.

• The ‘Energising Cabin: Asian flyers agree that greater in-flight wellbeing allows passengers to relax and unwind, which are seen as key to productivity. Air quality, cabin quietness, mood lighting and seat space are areas Airbus is working on to promote heightened passenger wellbeing.

Kevin Keniston, Airbus’ head of passenger comfort commented: “The voice of the Asian passenger is fast becoming the dominant voice in the aviation industry and will 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 whilst simultaneously delivering the most fuel efficient economics to airlines.”

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Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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