Lufthansa has trialed a series of innovations aboard an Airbus A380 FlyingLab flight from Frankfurt to Houston following a futuristic travel experience competition—aimed at young developers—which was jointly run by Lufthansa and Deutsche Telekom.

“The challenge helps us expand our pool of ideas and gain valuable outside impetus: We can find out what our passengers really want on board. It brings us even closer to the flight experience of tomorrow,” Lufthansa head of Frankfurt cabin crew Kai Duve said.

One team designed a chatbot, which receives passenger requests via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. “The chatbot is capable of classifying passenger needs, arranging them by priority and coordinating the appropriate service activities,” Lufthansa said. The same team designed a cape-like blanket (inset photo), with an integrated neck pillow that can be set to a gently vibrate to wake passengers up.

Another team came up with a seating concept, which adjusts to the passenger’s comfort and entertainment preferences. The third of the finalists used smart glasses to improve communication between passengers and cabin crew, with uses including drinks orders and flight-connection information.

“For the flight attendants, LYRA Connect minimizes routing and optimizes service activities. Passengers can use their own mobile devices to send requests easily to the flight crew,” Lufthansa said. “The flight attendants can also call up additional information about passengers. To do so, they have to stand on a signal field, which is installed in the floor in front of each seat. LYRA then displays the corresponding information discretely on the flight attendant's smart glasses.”

Over the last few months, digitization and aviation experts, as well as partner companies, have helped bring the concepts to the demo phase. The concepts will be presented in Las Vegas, alongside the Consumer Electronics Show.

Lufthansa plans to pilot a larger number of the blankets during the next FlyingLab and Deutsche Telekom is in talks to further develop the web application for the smart glasses.

On the flight, passengers were able to connect via Wi-Fi to a live conference about the innovations. They were also able to pose questions through the system.

Inset: Team feel.flight wants to provide smart textiles such as temperature regulating blankets for the passengers on the airplane. Telekom Fashion Fusion

Victoria Moores