The Skift Airline Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter on the business of airline innovation. We look closely at the technological, financial, and design trends at airlines and airports.
Brian Sumers writes and curates the newsletter, and we send it on Wednesdays. You can find previous issues of the newsletter here.
Next time you try to stuff that business class blanket or pillow into your carry-on, just know someone’s probably watching.
This is what I learned while reporting a story recently about how customers are increasingly stealing — and yes, it’s theft — bedding from airplanes. It’s a problem, I have discovered, that has increased as more airlines have upgraded their pillows, blankets, and duvet, often in partnership with name brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, The White Company, and Casper.
“People go, ‘Oh my god, this White Company bedding is lovely,’ and they take it off the plane with them, which they’re not really meant to do,” one insider told me. It’s enough of a problem some airlines need to order extra pieces to replace stolen items.
Now for the good news — if you want to call it that. Airlines will send their corporate security teams to investigate passengers who repeatedly flout fare rules, but they’ll almost look the other way if you take their bedding, preferring not to create drama over a $12 duvet.
I’ve been surprised by how many people think the blanket is theirs to take, akin to an amenity kit or a pair of pajamas. Are you? Or did you know people take stuff?
— Brian Sumers, Airline Business Reporter
Stories of the Week
Airline Upgrades Lead to a Purloined Pillow Problem: I explained above why stolen bedding is a problem. And it is. But a few airlines people told me there is a positive. For years, passengers complained about the onboard experience. Now, they like it so much, they’re taking bedding home as a memento. “It makes us happy to see our customers enjoying our onboard amenities so much that they want to keep them when they land,” a United spokesman said.
An Aviation Schmooze Fest Reveals a Passenger’s Wish List for Jet Travel: The world’s biggest airline interiors trade show takes place every April in Germany. You’re probably most familiar with the products on display. They’re cool. But what’s most unusual is the vibe of the event. It’s a little like high school. Everyone wants to talk to the cool kids — those are the world’s biggest airlines — and their employees get invited to all the best parties. Journalists? Not so much.
Southwest Flight Social Feeds Remind Airlines Tragedies Are Public in Real Time Now: The Southwest accident shows how bold passengers have become in using social media. For now, the FAA isn’t taking steps to curb their activities.
United Moving Ahead With Making Business Class More Sleep-Friendly: United’s first quarter earnings call last week was an uneventful affair, and analysts didn’t seem to have any qualms with the airline’s direction. That was a big change from January, when analysts struggled to understand why the airline needed to add capacity. Because the call was so low-key, executives got to talk more about product than usual, including the new Polaris seats. They said United would add one Polaris-equipped plane every 10 days for the foreseeable future.
Alaska Airlines Will Enter Basic Economy Market Later This Year: Alaska Airlines is turning to basic economy fares to help drive additional revenue. But, hey, at least flyers will be assigned a seat when they book one of these fares, easing some of the stress that usually comes with taking the risk of flying for cheap.
JetBlue to Help Sell a Private Jet-Style Experience to the Masses: JetBlue’s move to sell seats on a tiny airline with scheduled service to smaller airports is a really smart idea that may help popularize private aviation.
Embattled United CEO Munoz Forgoes Bonus as Chairman Steps Aside: Last year was one Oscar Munoz would like to soon forget, and the United Continental Holdings CEO is doing his best to wipe the slate clean. By requesting that he not be granted a bonus for 2017, Munoz hopes to create a culture of accountability. But after the passenger dragging incident and a dog’s death in an overhead bin, Munoz will need to make that culture more than a one-off for publicity.
Airports Are Using ‘Smart Glass’ to Get Travelers to Spend More on Food and Drinks: Airports are coming up with many ways to get people to spend more money. One of those ideas, Bloomberg’s Justin Bachman reports, is glass that can be adjusted for sunlight exposure. Why? Well, as he explains, “It turns out that a cooler, darker bar encourages an extra round or two.” At Dallas/Fort Worth’s airport, which tested the glass last year near one gate, alcohol sales increased 80 percent in October, compared with the same period in 2016, at one bar that previously had been “regularly torched by the Texas sun.” The only difference? New electrochromatic glass.
Keep in Touch
Skift Airline Business Reporter Brian Sumers [firstname.lastname@example.org] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.