At an Altitude of 10,000 Meters: Conferences about Flying

FlyingLab is the conference format Lufthansa uses to inform its passengers—at an altitude of 10,000 meters—about current topics relating to flying. The topics range from the airline’s new design and improving onboard service through to data glasses for flight attendants.

Whether in the classic way in a hall with chairs, stage and lectern, or whether by telephone or video from various places around the world: even in this age of increasing digitization, conferences are an indispensable instrument for the personal exchange of ideas. Lufthansa knows this too. Its FlyingLab invites interested passengers who happen to be on board to take part in occasional exclusive conferences above the clouds. The topics in themselves are not surprising: it’s all about flying, especially in the future.

“With its experimental character, the FlyingLab is a kind of basic research tool for us,” says Alexander Schlaubitz. He is Head of Marketing at the airline with the crane logo. “As a brand, we bring people together, connect them and make new experiences possible. With FlyingLab we introduce new services, products or topics to our guests directly on board and receive immediate feedback from them.”

And it doesn’t always have to be about visionary future topics: when a Boeing 747-8 was recently the first Lufthansa aircraft in the new design to take off from Frankfurt for a flight over the North Atlantic to New York, Schlaubitz was one of six experts who spoke to the passengers about the importance of re-design for his company. He explained how important humility is in the further development of a strong brand, how the new design conveys the airline’s understanding of the premium concept, and where the color yellow will be used in the future.

But the marketing director did not do this in the classic standing position with microphone in hand only for the first few rows in the aircraft, but in a small TV studio that technicians had set up a few minutes after take-off on two-and-a-half square meters of aisle between First and Business Class. Passengers who wanted to take part in this form of conference at an altitude of 10,000 meters logged in via a second WLAN network installed on board using their smartphone, notebook or tablet. And these were not just a scattered few of the 357 passengers who were on board this flight: in the end, two thirds of the passengers took part in the two-hour FlyingLab. The two-man directing team made sure that the audience was not bored: recorded pictures and videos broke up the 15-minute presentation blocks, and participants’ questions were recorded interactively and answered by the speakers.

Two examples presented to passengers for the first time in Lufthansa’s FlyingLab: the cabin crew can now read passengers’ wishes in front of their eyes with the LYRA web application and data goggles.

Wishes Will Be Read from the Eyes in the Future

FlyingLab is also open to presentations from Lufthansa partners. And so the finalists in the “Telekom Fashion Fusion & Lufthansa FlyingLab” fashion and technology competition could hardly have chosen a better venue than an aircraft: passengers on board an A380 on the flight from Frankfurt to Houston were introduced to several new developments designed to make flying smarter and more comfortable in the future.

The visionary Smart Chair concept study focuses on the passenger’s private space in Economy and Business travel classes. Every passenger should be offered a completely individual experience in the aircraft seat of tomorrow, even in this small space, especially regarding the entertainment program. This is made possible by a kind of visor that is unfolded in front of the seat and folded around the passenger’s face. Instead of the usual small flat screen in the backrest of the seat in front, a large curved display provides wireless image transmission. The new seat is designed to provide considerably more privacy with its shielding and can warm, cool and massage its user at the same time, if desired.

In the Smart Chair concept study,
passengers’ private space is a priority.

The idea of a temperature-regulating blanket for passengers is aimed at the fashion sector: it’s like a cape worn in front of the body instead of behind it. Sewn-on sleeves allow passengers greater freedom of movement when seated. Recesses for the seat belt ensure that it can be seen to be fastened during the cabin crew checks and that the passenger need not be woken for checks before landing or during turbulence.

Another prototype presented on board is the LYRA Connect web application. This is designed to significantly improve communication between passengers and the cabin crew, and thus the individual service on board. In future, passengers’ wishes will literally be right in front of the eyes (of the flight attendant). Passengers use their own mobile devices to send requests for drinks or connecting flights to the cabin crew. The nearest flight attendant receives the request directly in front of his/her eyes via their Smart Glasses and immediately knows who ordered or asked what and when. It also allows preset information to be called up – for example, the passenger’s native language or their favorite foods.

Even though Lufthansa has already carried out several successful events of this kind on board, it is not yet routine: “We are still learning something new. The format is evolving and we are evolving with it,” says Richard Trtanj, who is in charge of FlyingLab exclusively for Lufthansa.

The next FlyingLab dates:
Text by Behrend Oldenburg
Photos: Lufthansa FlyingLab, Deutsche Telekom