Jeremy's World: FTE Asia EXPO forever
PAX International Asia Correspondent Jeremy Clark reports on the FTE Asia EXPO from Singapore.
Singapore saw the return of the Future Travel Experience (FTE) Asia EXPO this month, in tandem with the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) which has acquired FTE. While there are a few FTE’s hosted internationally, Asia EXPO is the only one to feature hospitality in its portfolio – and this, I believe and hope, is a trend that will grow.
Readers of PAX International and indeed all of us in the business know full well that the onboard experience is a significant factor in the decision-making processes for many passengers. As airlines and pricing models homogenize, increasingly service expectations are re-emerging as more important.
The addition of the APEX angle was a little difficult to identify from last year’s set up – until it was awards time and there were two sets. The FTE Awards were hosted on Monday atop the Marina Bay Sands with plenty of entertainment and very good opportunities for networking. On Tuesday, APEX handed out regional recognitions, so practically no one went home empty handed.
The unique aspect of FTE Asia EXPO is the inclusion of the Onboard Hospitality Forum Asia with its Street Food Festival. It brings together a jolly bunch, with representation from APOT and global and regional companies, all involved in the business of making the onboard experience better altogether.
Chief among these was SATS working with Monty’s Bakehouse. Singapore is SATS home turf, and they put on a great show with a sizeable stand and a team of chefs dishing out food samples for lunch. This included a tasty Chinese-inspired coffee pork dish on white rice with traditional Bae Hoon (super thin rice glass noodles, stir fried with mushrooms and sauces). We were also treated to meat-free products with Impossible Burgers. They look, feel and taste like beef. The jury is still out as to the true environmental impact of producing these, however, the samples on offer from SATS were extremely authentic.
Do Food was at the show with David Lau and his son Frank who have been supplying base products to the industry for 30 years. I sampled a very tasty pumpkin soup and looked at some innovative freeze-dried meals. Beemster, master cheesemaker from Holland, was there with colleagues from Tubes, a new wine-in-a-tube innovation for easy and lightweight onboard storage. Co-sponsors APOT were present with a local Malaysian dessert of Pandan crepes will with coconut palm sugar.
Other companies present include Sola Netherlands, displaying its new innovative ultra-light weight steel cutlery, FORMIA with some fabulous new designs for amenities, and Orvec Ltd. and Zibo Rainbow with onboard sleeping products. Dubai’s Skinny Genie was also at the show, with a range of gluten free bakery products. Headset-famous company Linstol was present, with new products for the environmentally conscious plastic-free battle, and, with the same theme, was Global-C, displaying a well-thought-out range of initiatives for waste reduction.
The conference is very much focused to airport operations and airline management of data, speeding up processes, maximizing revenue and looking at technological advances. There are increasing references to hospitality and the importance of such, and this was demonstrated in a presentation I made as part of the event. Catering legend George Banks spoke with Onboard Hospitality Editor Julie Baxter on the specific challenges and values of Asian hot food for inflight products.
There were a ton of awards, but the most notable to mention are the FTE Asia winners for the best airline passenger experience initiatives. Japan Airlines received a gold award for its impressive new cabin interiors that recently debuted on its A350-900 aircraft. The comfort level extends across all classes of travel, from the luxurious First Class offering to the 3-3-3-configured economy class where passenger comfort has been prioritized. A number of other unique touches help Japan Airlines’ offering stand out from the crowd – Japanese-themed mood lighting and patterned interior textiles reminiscent of traditional Japanese Kimonos.
And, no real surprises here: The Gold award for best airport went to Changi Airport – the airport of choice for almost anyone these days. Changi won for the development and opening of the stunning Jewel Changi Airport. A JV with CapitaLand is a world-class mixed-use facility with gardens, unique attractions, retail, dining, a hotel and more to support Changi Airport’s operations. Jewel is already entertaining as many as 300,000 visitors a day, including stopover travellers who can experience a taste of Singapore during a two-and-a-half hour walking tour. Thirty-five airlines now offer early check-in at Jewel, while a seamless transfer service is also offered for fly-cruise and fly-ferry passengers.
FTE was well attended and the food and hospitality addition made this event much more pleasurable for all. Long may it continue.