Meet Poppi, the airline that wants to fix everything awful about air travel

You’re starting on page 2 of this, click here to start at the beginning.

No luggage, please

Poppi

Poppi has a simple carry-on policy: no luggage. In the cabin, traditional overhead bins are replaced with “fedora bins,” which have just enough room for personal items, like laptop bags and jackets. Plus, it creates an open feeling throughout the cabin.

The policy solves a few problems. Since nearly all airlines charge a baggage fee, many passengers have been carrying them on instead. This slows down the boarding process, and, if overhead compartments are full and the airline has to check them for free, it angers those who paid. Smaller bins even the playing field, and it helps with on-time departures and quicker de-boarding of planes.

“You’ll hear industry insiders claim with total confidence that passengers want their carry-ons onboard,” Liddell says. “But when you listen to passengers, that’s not what they want. What they want is transparency and assurance that their bag is where it’s supposed to be, and they want a way to get their bag back in a way that’s better than a spinning carousel. And, they don’t want to pay a bag fee – which is really just a fine for doing business with an airline – and that’s why they bring their bags onboard.”

RFID baggage tags

Poppi

If everyone is required to check his or her luggage, Poppi needs to ensure bags end up in passengers’ hands upon arrival. Poppi uses RFID tags to track where bags are at all times, and Poppi’s mobile app notifies you when it’s ready for pick-up.

“A lot of the tech within Poppi is not futuristic at all,” Liddell says. “The fact that RFID and NFC bag tags are not more widespread is a bit crazy considering that the technology is entirely available. Qantas has had an awesome reusable RFID bag tags (created by Apple design consultant, the renowned Marc Newson) in service since 2010. And yet, airlines continue to spend literally millions of dollars a year on thermal paper.

A middle seat you’ll fight for

Poppi

As if flying coach isn’t already grueling, getting stuck in a middle seat is like grinding salt in the wound. Poppi’s middle seats are actually valuable: Partnering with prized brands, passengers in these seats get something extra. Passengers won’t only want to book these seats, they may even pay more for them.

Flexibility

While airlines are creating cabin fares with rigid policies, Poppi has taken a page from tech companies like StubHub. You may not be able to get a refund, but what if you could list your flight on a marketplace and resell it? Or trade your prized middle seat with someone who has a window seat, so you can get some sleep? Poppi’s approach demonstrates that you can still run a lean and very profitable business model without entrapping your passengers.

“In our research phase, we noted that six of the ten largest sports leagues in the world operate their own ticket resale platforms,” Liddell says. “And the big reason they built and operate these platforms is that it generates additional revenue and serves fans better. So this is an obvious direction for airlines.”

Loyalty program that actually rewards

Poppi

Membership programs like Starbucks Rewards and Amazon Prime have shown that companies can keep customers coming back simply by offering discounts and freebies to those who spend more, while adding significant profit. Current frequent-flier programs make it difficult to attain elite status, and the rewards they offer get slimmer every year. Poppi’s approach makes everyone an important member of a community (similar to what JetBlue and Virgin America do), allowing loyal fliers to pre-pay for flights and services similar to Starbucks Rewards, while rewarding them with tangible incentives – not miles that you can never redeem.

“Starbucks makes 8 percent of its annual profit on interest income, which is mostly thanks to the billions of dollars consumers pre-load onto its payment platforms, essentially pre-paying for coffee,” Liddell says, adding Amazon members spend more than 50 percent than non-members. “And then when you think about Uber and Airbnb, they are also models to borrow from, especially in regards to how they create a sense of belonging and community, which definitely does not exist for most modern airlines.”

Real-time info

Poppi

Instead of waiting for gate agents to announce status or boarding, Poppi relies on a system that delivers real-time information to displays and mobile devices. When it’s your time to board, your smartphone or smartwatch pings you, so you don’t have to wait around the gate to hear if your row is boarding. With clear info on exactly who can board, Poppi also eliminates “gate lurking” – slyly boarding with a group that you don’t belong in. There’s also a social networking aspect to Poppi’s app: You may see notes from fellow passengers who are requesting to trade seats.

“Some of the functionality that we’re proposing with mobile apps will require airlines to be much more contextually aware of where passengers are within the travel experience, and for them to tailor interactions according to specific moments,” Liddell says. “That’s not happening today to the extent it will need to happen, but none of that is science fiction.”

First, business, or coach? Neither

Poppi

Rather than dividing a plane based on price and elitism, Poppi’s classes are based on what passengers’ interests. For example, partnering with film studios, a “cinema class” would show exclusive movies, TV shows, or other content to those paying passengers.

Brand recognition

Poppi

A hip and successful branding can do wonders for an airline (see JetBlue, Virgin). Poppi’s check-in counters, gate areas, mobile app, stationery, plates, and even merchandise are well designed, so much so that you’ll want to steal some to use at home. Its planes are also painted all-black, so there’s no misidentifying who you’re flying. We think Air New Zealand’s all-black planes are stunning, and it works here.

New business class

For its larger Boeing 777 planes, Poppi has reinvented business travel with the “click class.” Here, travelers would be able to bring on a custom-designed luggage that clicks into the seat. The idea here is that the business traveler needs to be on the move quickly, so she doesn’t need to wait for luggage, and can be easily stowed while onboard. Another added-value service Poppi offers is luggage delivery for its premium passengers.

“In the future, bags need to go to lots of places – specifically, straight to hotels and transit stations and homes and even Amazon lockers. But the last place they need to go is in (overhead compartments).”

Ongoing exercise

Poppi

“We wanted to make Poppi a platform for ongoing explorations into everything from new business models to new technologies,” Liddell says. “There’s a lot of work to do there. And we’re up for it.”

Cars

Karma Automotive unveils two head-turning concept cars, quicker 2020 Revero GT

Karma Automotive brought three new cars to the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, including a long overdue redesigned version of its Revero plug-in hybrid, an all-electric concept car, and a concept coupe designed in concert with legendary Italian…
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Samsung Galaxy Fold woes, zombie pigs, and more

Today's topics: Samsung Galaxy Fold, Facebook A.I. voice assistants, YouTube comes to Fire TV, facial recognition on airline flights, the SpaceX DART program, Yale's zombie pigs, and much more!
Cars

From rugged wagons to hot sports cars, the 2019 NY Auto Show brought it all

From city cars to supercars, anything goes at the New York Auto Show. Automakers from all over the globe traveled to the 2019 show to unveil their newest concept cars and production models.
Business

Buying airline tickets too early is no longer a costly mistake, study suggests

When you book can play a big role in the cost of airline tickets -- so when is the best time to book flights? Earlier than you'd think, a new study suggests. Data from CheapAir.com suggests the window of time to buy at the best prices is…
Emerging Tech

Scientists manage to 3D print an actual heart using human cells

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have achieved a world-first by 3D printing a small-scale heart, complete with blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers. Here's why that's so exciting.
Emerging Tech

Drown out noisy neighbors and rest easy with these white noise machines

Some people are more sensitive to sound during sleep than others. Luckily, there are a number of white noise machines on the market to mask the noise. Here are our five of our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and others that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.
Emerging Tech

New gunfire-detection system alerts police of shooters in seconds, not minutes

The Safe Zone Gunfire Detector is a fast gunfire-detection system that could help avert potential tragedies in public places like schools, malls, or anywhere a mass shooting might occur.
Emerging Tech

NASA chooses a special spot for its next crewed moon landing

Following the U.S. government's announcement last month of a desire to see American astronauts set foot on the moon again in the next five years, NASA has revealed a location on the lunar surface where it would most like to land.
Emerging Tech

Adidas has created a running shoe that’s made to be remade

Adidas has unveiled the Futurecraft Loop running shoe that it claims is the first performance footwear to be 100% recyclable. The shoe is the latest green initiative by the sportswear company and will go on sale in 2021.
Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Emerging Tech

Yale scientists restore cellular activity in a pig’s brain hours after its death

In what some may view as a porcine version of Frankenstein, Yale University scientists have restored circulation and cellular activity in a pig’s brain four hours after its death. The study is likely to be used to study brain function
2 of 2