AIX and WTCE Virtual opens: Day 1 recap

Event Aircraft Interiors Expo 2021
Organiser Reed Exhibitions
Event Date 14.09.2021
Press Release Date 15.09.2021

Aviation and rail professionals from across the global cabin interiors and onboard services community came together online today to mark the start of the first Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) and World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) Virtual events.

Taking advantage of invaluable sourcing, networking and learning opportunities across the three days, attendees have the opportunity to learn from 100+ speakers across three conference streams with 30 sessions and meet with over 150 suppliers of the latest passenger experience products showcasing over 670 products.

Latest product launches take the spotlight
AIX Virtual replicated the hotbed of innovation the physical shows are renowned for with exhibitors highlighting a wide range of products spanning the in-flight entertainment, lighting and LED, galley equipment and seating sectors – to name a few.

Among the products on display, MGR Foamtex presented its MGRSoftWall® NextGen quick release, vertically mounted, lightweight panel system. Featuring its new ZOTEK®F OSU XR foam, Nextgen is 50% lighter than MGRSoftWall® and suitable for a wide range of aircraft interior applications from seat structures, suite walls, bulkheads, partitions, monuments, side walls and ceiling panels.

Fellow exhibitor Intelsat demonstrated how it is transforming inflight connectivity. Here, its software-defined network is combined with an equally robust in-cabin network to continually optimise an ever-growing range of airline services and operations. Access technology through its 2Ku system provides the bandwidth needed to provide an optimal experience for the crew and passengers while smart software solutions ensure bandwidth is distributed optimally across the in-cabin network.

Suppliers from the onboard hospitality industry at WTCE Virtual revealed the latest food and drink products and innovative retail solutions. Among the highlights, Foodcase International demonstrated its concept solution for buy on board and pre-order. This included a selection of Western and Asian style ready meals based on authentic and local favour profiles created by local chefs. Gourmet snack manufacturer, NibNibs, also revealed its newly launched Telstar Heavenly Cookies. The Indulgent mini star cookie makes a perfect accompaniment to coffee or tea on board, and with 30% less sugar and no artificial sweeteners, colours, or preservatives.

Australian Aviation Footwear brand Sky Soles joins WTCE Virtual to demonstrate how it has used the past 18 months to focus on innovation, sourcing high performance breathable vegan leathers for its product offering. Embracing sustainability and the need to do better by the planet, the company has also undertaken a full packaging redesign, with the goal of using entirely recycled and recyclable packaging.

Industry experts join packed seminar schedule
With a line-up of speakers including airlines, suppliers, analysts, and consultants, attendees had the opportunity to hear from a diverse range of industry voices as the virtual events returned to provide participants with unmatched learning opportunities.

Launching the Passenger Experience Conference, Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent at The Independent and a regular guest speaker on Sky News, BBC Breakfast and CNN, led a panel on putting people at the heart of each journey in the digital age. Joined by representatives from Seymourpowell, Accor Hotels and ANA, it explored how the industry can safely bring the human touch back into flying and create new personal and people-centric experiences.

The session was followed by a packed line-up of representatives from Avensis Aviation, Airbus, Mormedi, Alstom, JetBlue Airways and flypop in new cabins, new routes – the show goes on. Here the panel explored how underlying passenger experience business models are evolving to create robust businesses for the future. In the final session of the day: D is for dignity: democratising air travel for passengers with disabilities, experts from Flying Disabled, Avionics, Heathrow Airport, FACC and Nico Langmann, participant at the Paralympics Tokyo 2020 came together to recognise how the aviation community can collaborate to take a harmonised and human-centric approach to accessibility.

Bringing together senior airline leaders
Kicking off the first day of AIX Sessions, John Strickland, Director, JLS Consulting welcomed senior airline leaders including Tom Stevens, Director of Brand & Customer Experience, British Airways; Birgir Jónsson, CEO, Play; and Tonje Wikstrøm Frislid, CEO, Flyr to explore how airlines have adapted to new passenger needs and what the future holds for new airlines starting from a blank slate. The airlines: the leadership discussion revealed how the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for innovation and in the case of Flyr and Play, created all new opportunities for the emergence of new players in the industry.

Among the shared themes covered in the panel, the increasing need for a frictionless travel experience was embraced by all, with Tonje Wikstrøm Frislid, CEO, Flyr revealing that the airline’s ultimate goal was to deliver ‘a friction-free and friendly journey – from booking tickets online to checking in and arriving at the destination.” She also revealed that the data-driven approach being undertaken by the airline meant it could “personalise it communication across multiple customer channels and journeys.”

Looking to the future, all of the panellists agreed technology would play an increasingly important role, representing one of the most fundamental aspects of how airlines and the wider aviation sector has transformed as a result of the pandemic.

Sustainability: a defining issue
Sustainability has become a defining issue for airlines. Pre-pandemic change was already gathering pace, with businesses renewing their fleets, investigating sustainable fuels, and identifying new ways to bring efficiencies onboard. Although COVID-19 has pushed the conversation back a little, it has accelerated the pace at which airlines are looking to change, for the better.

At AIX Sessions Lukas Kaestner, Co-Founder, Sustainable Aero Lab; was joined by Dr. Achim Leder, Co-Founder and CEO, Jetlite GmbH; Nico Buchholz, Founder, Flightlevel 500; and Omer Bar-Yohay, Founder, Eviation Aircraft to discuss encouraging the start-up scene in aviation: How they can help achieve sustainability goals. While panellists speaking at today’s Taste of Travel also highlighted the latest thinking when it comes to sustainability trends. Led by Sarah Klatt-Walsh, founder and owner of Sarah Klatt Consulting, leaders from the aviation sector discussed how airlines and suppliers should collaborate to reduce waste and improve the customer’s onboard experience in the why hospitality Is key to rebuilding passenger confidence session.

Melanie Berry, Director of Customer Experience at Iberia, kicked off proceedings, reviewing how the airline had been making progress in reducing plastic use. She said that “customer experience has to be as sustainable as it can be” and that all new innovations should be reviewed to see how “truly sustainable” they really are.

Matt Crane, the founder of The Aviation Sustainability Forum, went on to explain that collaboration is key to make the sector more sustainable. He said that it was vital businesses “come together to develop solutions that are sustainable at source and optimised for waste management”, adding that the industry needed “to do better and find ways to break down barriers”, particularly when it comes to the way waste is managed.

Also during the session, sustainability champion Anne De Heuw, the founder of IN Air Travel Experience, discussed the waste hierarchy, explaining why it is important to move waste higher up to avoid it being incinerated or put in landfill sights. She said that “a move to a circular economy is essential” where products are reused and those that can’t be made “to last longer.” Founder of NowNewNext, Ariane van Mancius also explored the topic of veganism and how the trend was growing globally, adding that airlines needed to introduce true ticket pricing, where the cost reflects how sustainable the journey was.

Day 2: more networking and learning opportunities
AIX and WTCE Virtual returns tomorrow for another day filled with sourcing, networking, and learning opportunities. Attendees can join exhibitors to explore the latest solutions for the global cabin interiors and onboard services industries, while a busy day of conference sessions will shine the light on the most prevalent trends and challenges facing the industry.

At the Passenger Experience Conference, attendees can join live sessions on the following:

  • How airlines can offer their passengers more value with digitization and outstanding customer experience (10.00 – 10.45 CEST)
  • Innovative materials and methodologies underpinning recovery (11.00 – 12.00 CEST)
  • The sense & non-sense of sustainable food packaging onboard (12.15 – 13.00 CEST)
  • Reducing the cabin’s environmental footprint (14.00 – 15.00 CEST)
  • Strategies for a digital revolution in the cabin (16.30 – 17.30 CEST)

Attendees can also catch up on missed sessions and explore new content, including a Commercial Aviation and Interiors Market Outlook at AIX Sessions. The Taste of Travel programme will also return to explore Food Allergies and Managing Wellness Onboard, while a session on A Career in Onboard Hospitality will address how we bring the onboard hospitality industry to the forefront as an exciting and enticing choice for those new to the industry or those about to embark on their careers.

Winning innovation at The Crystal Cabin Awards
Day two of AIX Virtual will also see the return of The Crystal Cabin Award Winners, at 15.15 (CEST) when winning entrants will be presented in two special categories: Clean and Safe Air Travel, and the Judges Choice Award. Recognised as the only international award for excellence in aircraft interior innovations, a high-calibre jury made up of renowned academics, engineers, specialist journalists and airline and aircraft manufacturer representatives will honour extraordinary cabin concepts and products.

For more information and to register to attend, click here for AIX and click here for WTCE.

AIX and WTCE Virtual replace the live editions, which will not take place in 2021 due to the ongoing challenges and global restrictions on international travel. AIX and WTCE will return to Hamburg from 14-16 June 2022 at the Hamburg Messe.


Reed Exhibitions
Gateway House
28 The Quadrant
United Kingdom
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