British Airways Dreamliner: The Wellness Plane

By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Jon Driscoll with Mass Relevance, Virginia Miracle with  Spredfast and Matt Curtis with HomeAway.

Jon Driscoll with Mass Relevance, Virginia Miracle with Spredfast and Matt Curtis with HomeAway.

The British Airways direct flight that just started its inaugural journeys back and forth from London to Austin isn’t your average plane ride. It has been calibrated to reduce jetlag. For example, the lighting is different from other planes. The air pressure was set for 6,000 feet rather than 8,000 feet which is supposed to reduce dryness and other stressors on the body. And the windows are much larger to connect passengers to the flying experience. Instead of passengers pulling down blinds, they can adjust the amount of light coming in electronically.

The point, said Glenn Morgan, head of service transformation for British Airways, is to “create a whole wellness experience, getting passengers there in the best shape they can be.”

Open Platform

And they’re only beginning.

“We’ve opened up the platform for APIs,” said Morgan. “A lot of companies are doing great things in the travel space, hotel finders, transportation, putting that information together. We work a lot in the valley, and we were talking to a company very much like Capital Factory and they said I bet you have no single business problem that a startup isn’t working on right now. And he’s right.”

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s body is made of carbon fibers rather than metal, wrapped and then baked in an autoclave until it is a very hard substance. It goes in the oven looking like a cone made of roofing asphalt and emerges shiny. The lighter substance allows for 20 percent reduction in fuel costs, 20 percent reduction in maintenance costs and a 60 percent reduction in noise.

The Dreamliner is part of a transformation British Airways is aiming for in the flying experience which includes keeping track of how regular passengers like to travel and accommodating their preferences, putting passengers with connecting flights at the front so they don’t miss their connections and texting passengers when bags missed a connection, so they don’t have to stand forever at the carousel.

Representatives from British Airways and Boeing spoke at Capital Factory Wednesday before the British Airways Inaugural Kickoff party where flight simulators and photo booths with captains outfits were available.

Move Your Company to Europe

Following the presentation on the plane, serial entrepreneur and Capital Factory partner Fred Schmidt interviewed Matt Curtis, director of government relations for HomeAway, Virginia Miracle, chief customer officer of Spredfast and Jon Driscoll, Chief revenue officer of Mass Relevance about their experiences expanding their companies into London.

It’s crucial, all three said, to understand the culture before you either try to hire someone or move someone abroad. Driscoll talked about finding it suspect when his London employee said he really needed an office, because Mass Relevance was started in a coffee shop.

“But just try to find a place to work in downtown London that’s quiet, has internet access and a bathroom you can use,” Driscoll said.

Also, things tend to take more time. English employment law doesn’t include employment at will—in which, without cause, either the employee or employer can terminate. And while in Austin someone can be hired on Wednesday and working the following Monday “as long as we get their Mac on time,” Miracle said. In London you go through the whole process of hiring and the new employee says “Great! And I can start in three months!” Driscoll reported.

And the order of operations, who to hire when is another challenge, Miracle said.

Having someone in the position who is a really adept communicator is huge. All three said it is important to hire local people. Even if you augment your staff with Americans, locals know the culture and can steer you away from big mistakes. For example, Mass Relevance puts social media on TV. But publicly owned TV is a far cry from the private stations in the U.S.

Also, Driscoll said, they launched in London with a sales focus. He wishes they’d started with a customer service focus.

Curtis said HomeAway retains a number of employees in the countries where it operates, partly because it has grown by acquiring other companies and it just creates goodwill to keep those people on.

The big question often is, when is time to go? All three responded that when you can’t serve your international customers from home any more, it’s time to take the plunge.

Speak Your Mind

*