APEX Exclusive:
Q&A With BAE Systems’ Starwind Airlines


Inspired by the fake airline trend, we reached out to APEX member BAE Systems to learn more about IntelliCabin’s fictitious airline, Starwind. Find out what inspired the airline and how Starwind defines the passenger experience.

Q: What inspiration was behind Starwind?

A: In the process of developing the user experience for IntelliCabin’s wireless, tablet-based in-flight entertainment system, we created “journeys” for passengers, cabin crew, and our potential airline customers. We gave names to our passengers, Alim and Betty, an attendant (Jenny), and the airline, of course.

We wanted something exotic and not related to a particular region or country. The team came up with Starwind and the rest is history.

Q: If Starwind had a slogan, what would it be?

A: Things are looking up

Q: Who would be your celebrity of choice to endorse Starwind?

A: Archie Panjabi

Q: Tell us about the menu offerings on-board Starwind flights.

A: We would serve dishes created by celebrity chefs, like Kevin Gillespie’s collard-stuffed chicken with bacon jam, April Bloomfield’s lamb burger, and Mike Solomonov’s double roasted eggplant with middle eastern spices and halloumi cheese.

Q: What is BAE Systems’ favorite item from the amenity kit?

A: A really rich lemongrass lip balm and sandalwood hand lotion set

APEX Survey Insights:
What Passengers Get Up to at 35,000 Feet

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.39.59 PM

2014 marked the launch of the APEX State of the Air Passenger Experience Program, an initiative which periodically surveys flyers to gain valuable insights into passenger wants, preferences and behaviors. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reporting on the survey’s key findings. In this edition of APEX Survey Insights we take a closer look at how passengers are spending their time in-flight.

APEX Asks: Whatcha doin (in-flight)?

When passengers board their flight, whether it be short-haul or long-haul, they often have an idea of how they plan to spend their time on-board. Airlines offer several options to keep passengers entertained including movies, music, in-flight magazines, games and now, with the increasing availability of in-flight Wi-Fi, passengers have the option to do even more with their personal electronic devices.

But just how much time do passengers dedicate to the specific in-flight activities that airlines are heavily investing in? These types of questions are important to monitor so that the money invested in costly IFE initiatives measures up to passengers’ expectations. In our Passenger Survey, APEX asked “How do airline passengers spend their time?” and the results (outlined in the infographic below) are both promising for IFE initiatives and informative.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 1.20.20 PM

Although “Sleeping” was the activity surveyed passengers spent the majority of their time doing (16 percent), “Watching In-flight Provided Movies or Television” came in at a close second, with passengers spending 15 percent of their time with the airline embedded IFE system and 7 percent with the in-flight magazine. Even newer IFE options such as airline-provided gaming options scored a surprising 4 percent.  “Despite the distractions found in the cabin, a huge element of the in-flight experience is that of waiting, so there’s plenty of room for interactive games at cruising altitude,” said Jordan Yerman in his article “Time to Play” in October’s Journey issue. In fact, 57% of all airline passengers said they engaged in in-flight gaming in the last three months.

These metrics did vary according to passenger age however, with older passengers spending more time reading, conversing with other passengers, and reading the in-flight magazine compared to younger passengers.

inflight activities_by age

The Power of the In-flight Magazine

When we think of IFE options in-flight, movies, music, and games often come to mind but the APEX Passenger Survey reveals that the in-flight magazine is an IFE platform that should not be overlooked!

In fact, four out of five respondents said that they not only read the in-flight magazine on flights in the last three months, but when they did they spent an average of 13.7 minutes doing so, making it one of the most effective ways to reach airline passengers.

inflight mag

Lessons Learned

There is no question that the future of IFE is changing with the increasing availability of in-flight Wi-Fi. Many predict that most IFE platforms won’t stand the test of time, but as long as we’re asking the right questions, airlines and service providers will have the opportunity to adapt to customer expectations and provide passengers with the IFE options they want and are using most.

For more information on the Passenger Survey, click here for member access to the results. For media inquiries, please contact Chris Peterson, APEX Communications Specialist.

Spotlight on India:
Growth in an Emerging Market

Photo: Airbus
Photo: Airbus

IndiGo announced last Wednesday their plans to buy 250 Airbus A320neo aircraft. The deal with IndiGo is a huge boost for Airbus, given that just last month, they were lagging behind Boeing in sales with 791 net orders versus Boeing’s 1,000 heading into Q4. The deal will go down in history as the largest-ever single order for narrow-body aircraft and the low-cost airline has just secured rights to purchase an additional 100 of the single-aisle jets.

Growth on the Horizon

But the large aircraft order by the country’s biggest airline  is not surprising if we take a closer look at the country’s plan for air travel expansion.  Earlier this year, the Indian government revealed their plans to develop 200 airports in targeted areas across the country where the population can afford to fly. The development project is supported by data from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) which predicts India will experience one of the highest growth rates across the aviation industry within the next 20 years. Similarly, Airbus forecasts India’s Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) at 9.9 percent between now and 2031, surpassing Domestic China, Europe and the US.

Chart source: Quartz

Increasing Competition

No one doubts India’s air market expansion prospects. With the recent investment by Etihad in Jet Airways, the expansion to new routes by Air Asia India, and ‘new kid on the air market block’ Vistara (partly owned by Singapore Airlines), it’s clear that the growth in India’s air travel sector is bullish despite the challenge the market has posed for many domestic airlines (including the once profitable but now defunct Kingfisher Airlines).

“IndiGo is the only airline in India which has been consistently profitable for each of the last four consecutive years,”

CAPA said in its latest India Aviation Outlook

But although IndiGo currently owns more than 32 percent of domestic marketshare, it’s recent investment with Airbus only serves to underline that much of the India market remains untapped, and it won’t be long before external competition closes in.


APEX Exclusive:
Q&A With Mallard Air

Following our round-up last week on the best of faux airlines, including BLAH Airlines and Mallard Air, we received this feedback via Twitter:

The APEX association’s core values are built on community, education and innovation, and as such our goal is to support and uplift all of the companies within our industry – both big and small. Mallard Air, while not officially an APEX member (yet!), represents what they like to call “Little Airplane,” so we thought it was important to give this “faux” airline a platform to allow the world to learn a little bit more about who they are. They may be a teeny, tiny, so-small-they’re-almost-invisible company, but they certainly don’t have a little voice.

In every edition of APEX Experience Magazine we feature profiles of APEX members, the individuals who are at the heart of our business. Following in the spirit of this popular Q&A series, we were thrilled when the Mallard Air “higher ups” green-lit our interview with Doug, the airline’s social media, PR and marketing representative, so that we might gain some rare insights into the mystery and success behind Mallard Air.

mallard logo
Doug Quin
Public Relations, Mallard Air

Doug used to work at Buzzfeed and now he works at Mallard! He loves the aviation industry and has always wanted to be a pilot. In the meantime, he’s really passionate about PR for Mallard Air.

Fast Facts
Frequent Flight: MSP to LAX
Now Reading:  Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Hero: All teachers
Years in Industry: 1
Best airline industry acronym: Let’s just say I’m a “CAT” person
The future of flight will be: iPads

How would you define the Mallard Air passenger experience?
That’s a really good question! I’d say the MA experience is all about getting from Point A to Point B with as little turbulence (literal and figurative) as possible.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the airline industry today?
I’d say for a little airline like us, it’s competing with what we like to call “Big Airplane.” We don’t have all the money from advertising so we have to be creative. And when we start to make a dent in their pocket books they come at us with slanderous campaigns. Sometimes they hack our site and make it so the buttons don’t click. And they also spread rumors like that we’re fake so that potential airplane ticket buyers get scared and go back to “Big Airplane.” They need to wake up and realize that there’s enough cake for everyone.

What can other airline marketing teams learn from Mallard Air? And vice versa, what have you learned most from other airline marketing strategies?
Well I’d say that one marketing team has already learned from us (you know which one I’m talking about), but if you ask me they’re not learning enough! When MA hired me away from Buzzfeed, they said, “Do things your way! We don’t have money to buy newspaper ads like traditional airlines, so we’re putting it on you to make a splash!” And that’s what I did! I came up with Mallard Miles which was a big hit with Mallard Heads. We have contests! We post pictures of the planes and we even help out local Minneapolis businesses with partnerships and team ups.

What’s your favorite travel-related hashtag?
Why it’s #FlyMallard of course! Although the #DoILookPlane selfie contest was a good one too! :D

Describe the experience of creating Mallard Air’s in-flight safety video with Chromeo.
We had very little to do with the actual production of the video, but we were so happy when we saw the final product, we had no idea how professional it would look! Our old video was very meat and potatoes, very boring. I’ve literally seen people dance in their seats to our in-flight video! I’m not talking about toe tapping, I’m talking about real life dancing! I think the nice thing too was to have something cool of our own like how Southwest and Virgin has, where people talk about it. It felt like we were one of the big players when it first came out and our phones were ringing off the hook!

If you had the APEX Editorial team over for dinner, what would you make us?
My signature spaghetti and meatballs! If you’re vegan it’ll just have to be the noodles though because I actually put beef stock in my sauce as well, sorry.

EXPO in Media: Connectivity & APEX Passenger Survey Dominate Headlines


In the weeks since our latest annual APEX/IFSA EXPO, held this year in sunny Anaheim, CA, we’ve been keeping our eye on some of the news around the event.

Here’s some nuggets of insight from key media around the world:

The LA Times was impressed with innovations in how compromises are being made between embedded seat-back systems and the demand for BYOD compatibility. After noting this dichotomy at the APEX/IFSA EXPO, writer Hugo Martin honed in on the SmartTray as a means to bridge the gap:

Pajic’s invention, the SmartTray, has built-in clamps and grooves to clasp the devices, making it easier for passengers to use them to read, play games and watch movies and television shows. The SmartTray is already in use on Asia Atlantic Airlines, and Pajic expects to get major U.S. airlines interested in his invention.

The tray table can even hold a tablet or smartphone when the table is in the upright position.

Photo: Los Angeles Times
Photo: Los Angeles Times

Following the release our first Passenger Survey at EXPO this year, Quartz reported on the survey’s findings, with a focus on gender and cultural differences:

In terms of improvements that travelers would like to see, the biggest demand overall relates to seat comfort and connectivity. But here, too, APEX observed variations in responses by gender and nationality. Women, for example, were more likely to advocate for improvements to airplane bathrooms, while men were more interested in seeing an option for a quiet cabin.

Photo: 2014  APEX Passenger Survey
Photo: 2014 APEX Passenger Survey

The Daily Mail elaborated on the travel anxieties experienced among men and women:

A study from the Airline Passenger Experience Foundation (APEX) analysed the things that passengers worry about the most while travelling and it revealed that men and women have conflicting priorities or fears before a flight.

Travel Daily News Network observed a key trend at EXPO where airlines who have made an investment in onboard connectivity were the clear winners among global passengers:

“It is obvious that the Internet and mobile phones are an integral part of everyday life and will become increasingly so. Naturally, the best airlines need to provide inflight connectivity,” said Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir. “Inflight connectivity has superseded the traditional model of inflight entertainment and must be integrated into airline’s entertainment strategy to meet the demands of today’s passengers.”

Australian Business Traveler looked to Airbus and their new pivoting overhead storage bins, first announced at the EXPO, as the way of the future for passengers and their plethora of carry-ons:

While the new Airbus bins bring only a 10% increase in volume over the current A320 lockers, their shape and design allows for up to 60% more luggage space in practice – providing ample room to load bags in on their side, rather than loading them flat and having ‘wasted space’ above.

Photo: Airbus

Photo: Airbus

Author Chris Chamberlin also noted that “… carry-on baggage [is] a potential cause of flight delays, normally resulting from inadequate room in the cabin to store every bag on full flights.”

The team over at Sparksheet was on-site at EXPO talking with industry leaders from Gogo, JetBlue Airways, Paramount and more.

“Everybody is trying to come out with some sort of wireless in-flight entertainment offering. Clearly everyone is seeing it as an ante now. So whether or not it’s going to replace embedded or whether it’s going to be an extension, it’s going to be almost mandatory for every airline,”

said Ash Eldifrawi, CCO of Gogo during his EXPO podcast session with Sparksheet. The podcasts were a hit among attendees: