zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz would do well to consider how the airline industry has achieved this. First, by providing multiple classes, the airline industry is able to encourage almost any passenger to look at the next most expensive experience. Additionally, the airlines make these experiences desirable. The airlines have taken on board new developments in air travel experience. For example, Acumen worked with BA in the mid-1990s on the development of fully flat beds. Since then these have been rolled out to more and more classes over time. Thus an experience that used to be exclusive to first class passengers is now commonly incorporated into business class, driving achievable aspiration for passengers. The challenge for rail operators is to achieve a similar environment: one where there is a genuine reason to upgrade and one that encourages people to take the next step. The next development for rail operators is to provide modular carriage layouts for different classes of travel. For example, there may be a first class layout for high net worth individuals, a business class layout for those that wish to get work done. Because, particularly in school holidays, so many families travel, it makes sense to develop family friendly carriages. The key to this approach is flexibility. Airlines can add additional business class rows in certain aircraft and the rail industry needs to think along the same lines – having the flexibility to change the configuration of a train quickly and easily to suit different times of day and different audiences.
Smart use of space Airlines are incredibly savvy at using space in the most efficient and effective way. They recognise that providing people with more personal space and privacy on a journey has value that can be monetised. Rail operators need to become much more focused on this area. Simple changes, such as clustering two reclining chairs together enable passengers travelling together to enjoy a more private and personal journey. Flexible privacy screens enable passengers to control their intimacy with others when the suites are shared by strangers. By using techniques common in the airline industry it is possible to generate more paying spaces on a train yet also provide more personal space to each passenger.
Creating an experience Airlines recognise that, while their job is to safely transport their passengers from one place to another, a large number of small but important non essentials make up the customer experience – from the quality of the coffee to the ease of booking. Airlines work incredibly hard on these experiences to build brand loyalty. Despite an increasing number of long journeys taken on railways, facilities are still generally quite limited in advance of the journey and on-board. Staples of the airline experience (such as reclining seating, at seat refreshments,
Below: Delta’s Cirrus on the 747 – illustrating how angled layout can provide both inherent privacy for outboard passengers and a social-yet-flexible arrangement across centre seats
dedicated lounges, luggage storage and dining options) are all limited, and more recent developments in air travel such as dedicated check in and complimentary travel to and from departure are non-existent. Rail operators are missing opportunities to engage with their customers and deliver an experience rather than a mundane journey. Even supermarkets are embracing complimentary hot drinks for loyalty programme customers – recognising that anything that makes the experience of shopping more pleasant will drive loyalty and engagement. Rail operators need to be thinking in the same way – is there less value in selling someone a £1.95 cup of coffee rather than giving it away as part of the experience.
Conclusion Rail operators could monetise their space far more effectively by learning the lessons from the airline industry’s cut throat competitive space. Rail operators need to give passengers more choice – from family friendly carriages to luxurious first class suites, through business lounges and beyond. Designing carriages so that they can quickly transform from one need to another is critical here. Details matter: from the complimentary newspaper or coffee to fully reclining seats, the airline industry knows the importance of the experiential journey. Finally never forget the critical non essentials: whilst an airline knows that success constitutes everyone arriving in one piece, it never forgets the importance of the experience in the sky. zz
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