The Mille Club: Learning from a Luxury Airline
By Adam and Larry Mogelonsky
Monday, 24th June 2024

Can hotels learn from an airline? Immediately, we suspect you may have said to yourself: unequivocally, no! And frankly, until a recent trip on Emirates Air, the two of us would have also been in the same camp.

A recent trip changed that. For one of us (Larry), this was a trip to South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique over this past holiday season on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which included return business class airfare to Cape Town.

While many guests elect to select their airline of preference, he (Larry) allowed the cruise line to handle the details. To his pleasant surprise, they selected Emirates via Dubai.

Long admired from afar and now finally having a chance to experience ostensibly the best airline in the world, the first leg of the trip with business class seating was superior to everything we (Larry and his wife) had experienced both domestically and on par with international carrier standards. The second leg on Emirates first class (thanks to an unexpected and complimentary upgrade) was in a league of its own.

Just for perspective, a round trip in Emirates first class from Dubai to Toronto, where we call home, is roughly the price of a new Toyota Corolla. What do you get for this price? And what are the lessons learned for our Mille Club hoteliers?

As a reminder, ‘mille’ is Italian for thousand, and we use it in the context of those hotels that are already charging or aspiring to charge over $1,000 per night. At this four-digit price threshold, guest expectations jump disproportionally to single-digit price moves.

With Emirates charging what amounts to a Mille Club room night per hour for their first-class experience, undoubtedly with the psyche of luxury travelers there are comparisons taking place between hotels and airlines in terms of what services and amenities are offered.

So, what can hotels learn?

1/ Service that exceeds your highest expectations. There are 16 first-class ‘cabins’, and to call them seats is disrespectful. They are serviced by four ‘personal assistants’; again, to call them flight attendants would be simply too pedestrian. We were told that they could speak seven languages. Our attendant was able to describe the differences between the Chivas Royal Salute 21-year-old and the Johnny Walker Blue Label offerings, suggesting that the Blue was a better option for the start of the journey due to its hazelnut finish. This level of knowledge is on par with an expert mixologist. Service is the key to luxury. Too often, we think little of physical enhancements to our room stock or common areas, while coincidentally working to reduce labor costs, often due simply to where it’s presented on an income statement or P&L (opex versus capex). Yet, it is that labor pool that differentiates the premium product category. It is your people and the quintessential ‘service with a smile’ that guests will remember when all is said and done.

2/ Consider upgrades to your bathroom amenities. Emirates supplies their first-class passengers with a substantial amenity kit. We might add that the trip also includes an onboard shower. The products selected are recognized brands, rather than a private label of unknown quality. As a Mille Club member, consider differentiated bathroom amenities for your premium room categories. As your rates move up, so too should every aspect of your guest journey. These amenities are often inexpensive relative to the proportional increase in room rates that they can reinforce, while also providing an intimate, caring sensibility to this private space by insinuating that you have the guest’s hygiene and cosmetic needs covered.

3/ Providing gourmet wine options. The wines on the Emirates flight were mind-blowingly impressive. Suffice it to say that all the wines offered were Grand Cru Burgundies and Second or Third Growth Bordeaux. The port was a 40-year-old tawny. The champagne was 2013 Dom Perignon. Without getting into the details of how altitude and cabin pressure affect the palate, these offers nevertheless add a tasting element to the experience and leave an indelible mark on the memory via sensory activation. Almost every hotel cannot afford to offer wines of this nature on a complimentary basis. However, Mille Club hotels should consider adding Coravin-dispensed BTG wines to give your dining guests expanded options without having them front the bill for an entire bottle. Not to say they cannot afford the entire bottle, but that drinking less overall is de rigueur (and great for one’s health), which makes sampling the way of the future.

4/ Are there pajamas in your future? With a 14-hour flight, Emirates supplied pyjamas. These were distributed once the personal assistant was able to determine an appropriate size. We still have ours and they have now survived a few washings in pretty good condition. Sometimes, as a hotelier, you must add something that differentiates your property, rising above your comp set. This could be that item, both as a souvenir and possibly create that matching pyjama social media moment.

The bottom line is that luxury hoteliers no longer just sell rooms, spa treatments or dining occasions. You sell holistic experiences. As multi-million-mile air travelers, this is the first air experience that was worthy of reporting to our hotelier-focused audience.

The challenge we present to our Mille Club readers is: what can you do to make your guests talk about their experience with you?

Furthermore, what can you do to enrich your experiences in a meaningful way that allows you to command higher room rates without turning guests off?

Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. - Hotel Strategist, Industry Pundit, Veteran Marketer, and Public Speaker. Adam Mogelonsky, is the chief technologist of the company, Adam has a broad understanding of the complexities of the hotel tech stack as well as the vendors who are paving the way for increased labor efficiencies and new revenue growth opportunities.

Leveraging over 40 years working in hospitality, Hotel Mogel Consulting helps both hotel owners maximize property performance and technology vendors navigate the industry's entry barriers to realize financial success. Visit our contact page to start the conversation.


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