‘New approaches for a new world’ – 3 key learnings from FTE Global 2021 in Las Vegas  

At the end of last year, I was fortunate to attend in-person at the annual Future Travel Experience (FTE) Global 2021 conference in Las Vegas. After a disrupted 2020 version, all the attendees were eager to network, meet up with old friends and pitch new ideas. 

The 3-day event was packed with talks, panels and workshops.  The theme for this year’s event was ‘New approaches for a new world’, with streams around future airports, digital innovation and ancillary products. In its 15th year, FTE Global was superbly run, inspiring, and gave me a good glimpse into how much innovation and great ideas are needed to solve the complex challenges in the aviation sector. 

In aviation, tangerine is famed for developing the very first fully lie-flat bed in business class for British Airways back in 1998.  Since then, we have worked with many prestigious international carriers. However, my personal knowledge in the sector is fledgling, having joined tangerine’s London studio in 2020. FTE Global was a brilliant opportunity for me to upskill and immerse myself in the industry. 

Three key learnings that I took away from the experience were: 


Delight, not just satisfy 

Panellists tackled the theme of ‘New approaches for a New World’ in different ways, but one reoccurring consensus was that the industry must aim to ‘delight, not just satisfy’. Ole Orver, CCO at Finnair sent this message home saying, “we have a physical experience enabled by a digital experience’ – a refreshing reminder not to overemphasise digital experience at the expense of physical touchpoints. Digital’s role is to facilitate and make customer experiences seamless, but rarely does it delight passengers in and of its self. 

At tangerine, our design team seeks to make travel journeys memorable, and for the right reasons! To elevate experiences, make signature moments and delight passengers. It’s a fine balance, no passenger wants to be bombarded by a succession of planned moments that feel like novelties instead of novel. You can easily overdesign a passenger journey if you’re not careful. So, it’s important to set a baseline for the experience that works seamlessly and then identify the key moments of the journey to delight. 

Ole Orver, CCO at Finnair speaking at FTE Global 2022

Creating an end-to-end customer experience across your entire business 

 One of the best presentations was from a charismatic team at Virgin, who shared their approach to creating an end-to-end customer experience across their entire business. We were shown Virgin Groups’ view on the future of travel by representatives from Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Voyages and Virgin Hyperloop.  

It was certainly seamless. Glueing together modes of transport under a single Virgin branded experience. Mariana Fonseca Medina, VP of eCommerce at Virgin Voyages summed up their attitude wonderfully – and it’s a great mindset to have when trying to take a creative leap – saying “Screw it, let’s do it” in response to a question about what motivated Virgin to take on such massive design challenges. This is a mantra that many businesses could learn from to enable design to have a more revolutionary effect on success. Moving beyond incremental innovation often requires some risk-taking!  Creative leaps are certainly something that we are tangerine are used to taking, time and again. 

Virgin Group's team presenting an end-to-end customer experience across their entire business

Breaking down paradigms to truly innovate  

One of FTE’s strengths is to include inspiration from adjacent industries in its programme. Brian Loo, Senior Director of Operations Development at Meow Wolf shared an inspiring perspective on breaking down paradigms and how to truly innovate in a sector. Meow Wolf build amazing immersive art experiences, questioning what it means to visit a gallery and interact with an exhibit.  

The aviation industry needs to question where great innovation comes from and what can spark truly revolutionary innovation. I’ve observed the sentiment “That’s the way it has always been done” used too often in the aviation sector. I see our role as design consultants being to help clients to really push themselves to investigate what future travel experiences mean for their customers.  We champion taking inspiration and insights from adjacent industries to break the mould, not letting perfection get in the way of progress, and creating truly innovative experiences that forge meaningful change. Being inspired by these less traditional approaches enables us to make ‘creative leaps’, truly innovate, and re-think the role of the ‘customer’ in passenger experiences. 

Brian Loo, Senior Director of Operations Development at Meow Wolf

Thank you to all the team at FTE for organising a really exciting few days. 


Geraint Edwards, Chief Growth Officer at tangerine