Human Service Still Important As In-Flight Innovations Take Off

Human Service Still Important As In-Flight Innovations Take Off

DUBLIN-based low cost carrier Ryanair stole headlines last year when it announced it was replacing some of its cabin crew with inflight vending machines.

While the Ryainair plan, which promised to deliver vended drinks, snacks, ice-cream, condoms and smokeless cigarettes, was an April Fools’ Day hoax, recent developments suggest the prank may have provided some kind of glimpse into future air travel.

Changes are in the air in the aviation world, as low cost and new age carriers strive for a competitive edge and compete for marketshare with established rivals that made their names as full service airlines.

Seemingly, all areas of traditional air travel are under review, from in-sky services to the humble airport check-in process.

Flight Centre Limited executive general manager – marketing Colin Bowman said while recent innovations had delivered great benefits, in some instances the human interactions valued by many customers were being lost or scaled back.

“The airport check-in process is a classic example,” Mr Bowman said.

“The emphasis is now very much on do-it-yourself.

“You check yourself in at a kiosk, tag your own bag, take it to a bag drop area and then find your way to security, immigration and your departure gate

“In some instances, it will now cost you extra if you choose to do what you always did – check-in at the airport.

“This may have decreased queues at airport check-in counters, but at the same time it has created an envirtonment that can be a little confusing for people who don’t travel regularly. Who do you ask for help if you’re unsure where to go or what to do in a packed airport terminal?

“It may also have contributed to the bottlenecks that you now find at other areas, particularly security. If you have travelled through LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) you will know what I mean.

“Clearly, a balance is needed between technological advances and important human elements.”

While Ryanair-style inflight vending machines are unlikely to replace cabin crew in Australia any time soon,  the country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority is reportedly considering relaxing in-flight regulations that relate to crew to passenger ratios on domestic flights.

Under the current legislation, which has been in place for 1960, airlines are generally required to fly with one crew member for every 36 passengers.

Australia’s airlines want a 1-50 ratio, which they say will bring the country into line with other nations’ policies.