Singapore Airlines stays ahead of the game by investing in technology and research and development while celebrating the skillset of its workforce.
Singapore Airlines prides itself on being a pioneer in inflight product innovation. The airline foresaw the importance of personalisation in inflight entertainment, becoming the first airline to roll out myKrisWorld that allows customers to customise settings on the inflight entertainment (IFE) system, such as curate a watchlist of films and TV shows and even resume a movie on their next flight – making each trip in the sky feel like home.
While the past few years have presented myriad challenges, Singapore Airlines (SIA) did not let the Covid-19 pandemic stifle its innovative spirit. The airline continued to develop ideas at its KrisLab Digital Innovation Lab, set up to drive the innovation culture of the airline through experiential programmes to enhance the capabilities of its employees and collaborate with start-ups and SMEs in the open innovation communities to solve concrete business challenges.
Employees are encouraged to apply digital skillsets learnt, tap into their creativity and pitch ideas to senior management on Demo Days, while the annual AppChallenge hackathon, now into its eighth edition, engages over 2,000 start-up teams worldwide to work on the Singapore Airlines group companies’ business challenges and opportunities.
Since the launch of KrisLab in 2018, nearly 340 prototypes and 40 proof-of-concepts have been completed, with 15 live implementations, including the world’s first live inflight e-shopping experience. Available on selected A350s, the technology connects SIA’s KrisShop directly to the aircraft IFE system, enabling live updates on product availability and credit card authorisations.
Virtual Reality training for aircraft marshalling at the KrisLab Digital Innovation Lab
This feature is one of several designed to push the carrier’s IFE system Krisworld beyond the realms of entertainment and bring lifestyles features to its customers. In addition to e-shopping, Singapore Airlines’ customers can look forward to accessing the inflight dining menus on the seatback screen.
Additional lifestyle features include Makan+, a feature within the airline’s lifestyle Kris+ app, which gives passengers the ability to reserve tables at restaurants and earn miles per fulfilled reservation. Additionally, those wanting a more interactive experience can access games from the comfort of their seat via their personal device.
Innovation extends to the inflight dining offerings, with sustainability incorporated into the service. Economy customers can enjoy local Singaporean favourites such as congee, laksa and meesiam, served in boxes made from Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC) paper, which are leakproof and retain better heat than the former casserole serving dish. Such sustainability measures have helped SIA reduce single-use plastics by 80 per cent and fuel burn/carbon footprint.
The entrance to the SIA-NUS Digital Aviation Corp Lab at the National University of Singapore
Singapore Airlines has partnered with the National University of Singapore from October 2020 for a five-year period to push its innovation trajectory forward through ground-breaking research and development. The S$45 million SIA-NUS Digital Aviation Corporate Lab focuses on developing digital solutions to enhance the customer experience.
Among the lab’s state-of-the-art equipment and facilities is a cabin simulator that reproduces the temperature, humidity, oxygen levels, lighting and aircraft cabin sound at 35,000 feet. Outfitted with aircraft seats, the simulator serves as a testbed for research to enable the team to collect data to improve passenger comfort, sleep and wellness onboard using a science and data-based approach.
Examples include adjusting the humidity to determine if there are benefits to a humidifier system and tweaking the cabin lighting to align to passengers’ circadian rhythm. Aside from seat comfort, the team is also developing a system to detect and inform crew of the best moment to wake a passenger.
A cabin simulator featuring a former business class seat product
These innovations tie in with and further elevate a holistic wellness experience for customers. Given the increasing focus on health and wellness, SIA has spared no effort and collaborated with world-renowned health and wellness partners, such as Golden Door and COMO Shambhala to build a strong wellness programme that begins from the moment travellers book a flight. Passengers can download a variety of wellness articles from the Singapore Airlines mobile app’s e-Library 48 hours before the flight. Once onboard, they can enjoy healthy meals and wellness content on IFE that helps improve nutrition, sleep, relaxation and energy levels while flying.
Noting that customers have been invited to participate in the studies undertaken by the lab, Senior Vice President Customer Experience Yeoh Phee Teik comments: “Singapore Airlines has always been mindful to keep our customers and their needs at the heart of our product and service innovation approach. This engagement with customers, together with the use of a data-based and science-backed development, is in line with how we’ve managed our other product innovation projects including the development of the next generation Boeing 777-9 seat and cabin products that will set a new industry benchmark.”
SIA Senior Vice President Customer Experience Yeoh Phee Teik
Singapore Airlines is set to receive its first Boeing 777-9 aircraft in a few years’ time. While the airline is keeping details of the forthcoming cabins under wraps, the team promises that the new products will showcase the carrier’s strength in customer-centric innovation and further elevate the SIA Customer Experience. If its research labs and top-class staff are anything to go by, the future looks promising.