As the fever pitch of aircraft interiors arms race reaches the European leisure carrier market, the venerable travel institution since 1841, Thomas Cook, proves that it’s up-to-date with the latest trends by giving passengers more legroom and in-flight entertainment.
New aircraft interiors aren’t the exclusive obsession of the large traditional commercial airlines alone. The competitive nature of the holiday travel market in Europe has prompted EU Leisure carriers (competing with both the big guys and the low-cost carriers for holiday bookings) to step up their cabin game.
Thomas Cook will invest £90 Million to outfit its A321 and A330-200 aircraft with flashy new interiors: featuring streamlined Recaro, Germany, seating on the A321s, and light-weight Acro, UK, seats in Economy and Zim, Germany, arm-chair seats in Royal Class on the A330s. To ensure added comfort, all 212 passengers on the A321s get an extra 4 cm (1.57-inches) of legroom.
“Unsurprisingly,” says Communications Director for Thomas Cook Scandinavia, Torben Andersen. “[The extra legroom] has created more calm in the cabin. The ‘tallest’ guests do not need to stand up to stretch their legs. The new chairs were so comfortable that one guest described them as ‘better than at home in my own sofa.’”
Whether this claim speaks to the quality of the seats selected, or to the minimalist design of some Scandinavian living room furnishings, the notion that extra legroom leads to a calmer cabin is something all carriers should consider.
European leisure travellers have something of a reputation for rowdiness. This has recently prompted one of Thomas Cook’s competitors, charter airline Monarch, to restrict how much alcohol passengers can consume on board; even enlisting help from Gatwick airport and local authorities to keep passengers from exceeding their limit before boarding.
Rowdy French leisure travellers onboard a Ryanair flight earlier this year tore the aircraft interiors apart after a prolonged flight delay caused by weather and a medical emergency. These galled Gauls rifled through the drinks, snacks, and duty-free carts—helping themselves to the contents, including perfumes and cigarettes, while the Ryanair crew had to leave the aircraft. Any feature which can ensure passengers are happy and well rested is key to this traveller demographic.
Thomas Cook has picked up the same soothing colour scheme of silver and gold for its cabins as it debuted on its new livery, including its heart of gold logo on the headrests. In addition to new seats, the galleys have been upgraded to complete the package. In case the passengers really do need to be distracted, Thomas Cook has hedged its bets by adding a new Rockwell Collins overhead in-flight entertainment (IFE) system on its A321 aircraft, and embedded Zodiac In-flight Innovations IFE on the A330s, to distract those eager holiday-goers.
For its part, Monarch has also picked up on the maintain-order-in-the-cabin benefits of IFE. When the charter carrier opted for a refresh of its cabins, featuring ergonomic “pre-reclined” seats from Pitch Aircraft Seating, UK, it included a slot for passengers’ tablets mounted on the seat back; effectively installing a Bring-Your-Own-Device entertainment option onboard.
The airline has just announced that it will stream entertainment to passengers’ devices using AeroFi hardware to support its new MPlayer app (available for iOS and Android devices). MPlayer will stream pre-loaded free and purchase on-demand entertainment, with unlimited access to premium content for £3.99. Neither Monarch nor Thomas Cook are offering in-flight connectivity at this time, but that could change based on popular demand in future.
By springing for full seat-back IFE with larger screens, Thomas Cook takes the cabin comfort lead on this one, but both leisure carriers are setting trends which their competitors (leisures or LCCs) will want to watch closely. It couldn’t hurt some of the larger carriers to pay attention either, as many still have tightly pitched seats on their competing routes, with no IFE offers available.