In recent years, airlines have raced to outdo each other with over-the-top and exclusive lounges, filled with unlimited snacks, innovative cuisine, top-shelf booze, game rooms with billiards tables, meditation studios, salons, and more. Among the best of the best is The Pier at Hong Kong International, where Cathay Pacific business class passengers can enjoy yoga classes, wonton noodle soup, and both a teahouse and a cocktail bar. Yet despite all the perks, passengers still wanted more, said Simon Cuthbert, entertainment, platforms, and connectivity manager, customer experience design at Cathay Pacific.
“So we decided to source a digital option for newspapers and magazines after hearing that customer feedback,” Cuthbert said. Today, Cathay’s passengers can access more than 7,000 newspaper and magazine publications as much as seven days before departure, Cuthbert said, through the airline’s innovative partnership with PressReader, a digital platform that hosts content in more than 60 languages from thousands of titles from more than 120 countries around the world.
“PressReader is like Netflix for news,” said CEO Alex Kroogman. “With our solution, partners are able to offer really special, personalized content to everybody, no matter where they’re from or what they’re interested in.”
Just how much content those Cathay Pacific passengers get access to depends on their engagement with the airline, Cuthbert said. “We offer an improved offer based on a passenger’s loyalty tier of up to seven days free access,” he said. All passengers get access up to 24 hours ahead of departure; those in Cathay’s silver and gold tiers can log on 72 hours ahead of time, while diamond members get access seven days out.
Deepening Loyalty with Content
Through this partnership, Cathay is on the front lines of an evolution in the idea of loyalty: It’s no longer enough for travel brands to simply award frequent guests with points and call it a day. Today’s traveler “wants faster gratification and deeper engagement from their loyalty program,” as Skift reported in January.
“They want diverse ways to redeem points, deepen engagement, get quicker gratification, as well as more flexibility and relevance, and an easier processes,” said Tad Fordyce, senior vice president of loyalty at Epsilon, in an article for Skift. “Today’s travelers are more empowered and in control than ever before.”
Meanwhile, a few innovative hospitality companies are using access to premium content as a legit perk that improves a stay or rewards frequent fliers without the need to cash in huge numbers of points. For example, at Scandic hotels across Europe, guests have access to the full range of more than 7,000 PressReader titles, said Robert Wilhelmsson, Scandic’s director of product and concept development. “Our guests like the wide offering, including both news from their hometowns and from the area they’re visiting,” he said. “That’s something we’ve gotten very positive feedback on, particularly from our younger guests,” he said.
For Air Canada, another PressReader client, “the content is another avenue to provide entertainment and engagement with our customers,” said Andrew MacFarlane, airport product design manager for the carrier. “It allows us the opportunity to connect with our customers prior to their flight with ease and provide them value long after they have reached their destination.” The airline makes digital titles available “in our Maple Leaf Lounges and in our Signature Suite, our five-star pre-flight dining facility,” MacFarlane said. “This allows our Altitude members and business class customers the option to download as many publications as they would like to onto their device.” (Users also have choices when it comes to the format: PressReader offers a mobile-friendly text view of most of its newspapers, including titles like The Globe & Mail and The Washington Post, in addition to flat PDFs.)
Flexibility was a key consideration for Turkish Airlines, which recently partnered with PressReader. “We’re able to take the newspaper and magazine experience to a whole new dimension,” an airline spokeswoman said. “We give free access to native-language newspapers and magazines 24 hours before and after the flight. In this sense, PressReader helps Turkish Airlines extend the passenger-airline relationship beyond the flight. It creates a connection both before and after, contributing to brand satisfaction and loyalty.”
Travel companies are also using the PressReader platform to glean key consumer insights, said Kroogman.
“More often than not our partners are really surprised at the diversity of content that their travelers consume,” he said. “There are plenty of people traveling for business in economy class, reading a mix of business and leisure content. There are lots of people catching up on international news rather than celebrity gossip by the pool. People consume a lot of content that’s quite niche and interest-based, and it would’ve been impossible to provide for that in a pre-digital era.”
Giving Guests What They Want, When They Want It
Content is also a way to keep demanding consumers happy — even if travel brands face some especially challenging hurdles when it comes to delivering content, like being out in the middle of the ocean with limited internet bandwidth. The luxury cruise line Seabourn, like Cathay Pacific, found a solve for this puzzle with PressReader. “Our guests like to have options, which is why we provide more than 7,000 digital magazine and newspaper titles on their own devices or through loaner tablets,” said Chris Jurasas, senior manager, cruise programming. “Since Seabourn attracts an international clientele, with 30 to 50 different nationalities or more onboard at any time, PressReader’s collection of newspapers from around the world helps our diverse client base stay in touch with what is happening back home.”
Seabourn has managed to keep guests informed despite the fact that its five-ship fleet is constantly moving around the world, at times crossing oceans and venturing to remote ports like Luanda, Angola or Tabuaeran, Kiribati. “The content lives on each ship’s server, and the guests can download it directly on their devices without having to go online — and once downloaded, they can take it with them,” Jurasas said. “Guests have responded very positively to the wide selection of content available and they like getting it in one place.”
For airlines, cruise companies, and hotels alike, choosing what content to share and how to make it available becomes another branding opportunity. “Curating interesting magazines for people to pick up and flip through or delivering live content that gives guests a one-off experience are both a hundred times more beneficial than a neighborhood restaurant guide in your bad in-house magazine,” said Nate Storey, travel editor of Surface Media. In other words, hospitality brands can deepen consumer engagement and boost perception of the overall stay or experience by delivering the right mix of content.
That reality holds airlines, cruise brands, and hotels alike, said Kroogman. “Every little touch point of a traveler’s journey has an impact on their perception of your brand. The more you can surprise and delight them, and offer them a personalized experience, the better,” he said. “At the same time, enriching the digital experience also allows partners to help learn more about their travelers’ personalities and interests, drive engagement with their own digital products, and in some cases reward loyal customers or incentivize direct booking.”
That’s particularly true in today’s always-on, digitally connected world, said Mina Vardar, global director of rooms at Langham Hospitality Group. “Our guests want to be connected to the outside world at all times, and PressReader offers real time access to a diverse range of media — including their hometown newspapers,” she said. The ambition to give guests a feeling of familiar comfort was echoed by Air Canada, too: “We’re able to give passengers a sense of home by providing content from their home regions, in their home languages,” said MacFarlane. “Our goal is to create a seamless end-to-end experience for our customers — and PressReader is one of the avenues through which we’re able to do that.”