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Bring it on

Wifi-based IFE is seeing incredible growth rates as passengers amuse themselves using their own devices. Ian Harbison reports
 

The latest annual Passenger IT Trends survey from SITA reveals that passengers are enjoying their inflight entertainment experience but are more likely to connect through the increasing number of devices they have brought with them. Of those passengers watching a movie inflight, 46% used their own device while 44% stayed with the IFE monitor. However, there is a growing trend for use of a second screen, with 10% of respondents switching between their own devices and seatback screens in flight.

 

Unsurprisingly, the survey also revealed that the move to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) accompanies a rise in the number of passengers travelling with smartphones. Of those polled, 86% said they take at least one on board, a rise of more than a third in 12 months. Looking to the future, 65% of passengers would prefer to access entertainment via their own devices.

 

SITA suggests that BYOD is providing a real opportunity for airlines to increase connectivity with passengers via their preferred medium of communication. It also increases the potential for better inflight connectivity and a more tailored passenger experience. Passengers can interact directly with an airline social media team and information can be passed to cabin crew, who can then respond accordingly, whether by offering a service or solving a problem. This joined-up thinking also carries over to building brand loyalty through tailored offers made to passengers based on their online behaviour. Passenger safety can also be improved with turbulence reports sent straight to personal devices.

 

This understanding of what will be relevant to a specific passenger at a specific time, will ultimately deliver a more relaxing and enjoyable experience during the flight and build brand loyalty. BYOD is a key enabler of this.

 

A good example of this is the companion app developed for Singapore Airlines by MTT in conjunction with Panasonic Avionics. Having installed the app on both iOS and Android, passengers can review the KrisWorld IFE video and audio content that will be available on their flight, allowing them to create preselected favourites lists before departure.

 

Once on board, they can enter a code to access the aircraft’s wifi network and link their device to the IFE system. Content can then be launched on the seat monitor, directly from their list of favourites or from the entire media library. Linking the app to the IFE system also enables the personal device to be used as a remote control, to pause, play, or skip through media content or to browse through the KrisWorld index of content while watching a movie on the seat monitor. Customers can even access real-time information on the flight progress and flight path without interrupting their movie viewing.

 

David Lavorel, Chief Executive Officer of SITAONAIR, cites another example; free wifi in Saudia business class, with a voucher sent to the passenger 30 minutes before departure.

 

Saudia has also become launch customer for KID-Systeme’s SKYfi Club wifi IFE, with plans to fit it on 20 Airbus A330 and 30 A320 aircraft, all to be branded SAUDIA SKYfi. The technology is based on the ALNA (Airline Network Architecture) connectivity platform, which already flies on more than 650 Airbus aircraft. The system provides a scalable and modular architecture adaptable to customer need.

 

It has just entered service on the first A330-300 Regional, which is optimised for missions up to 2,700nm (5-hour flight) covering short to medium
haul routes.

 

Lavorel says this is an interesting time for the connectivity industry. It is no longer uncharted territory as there is a good installed base flying around the world and there are a number of new developments due to enter service shortly. Conversations with airlines are now much more sophisticated, with clear signs that they want to see a return on their investment. In addition, they are looking to generate different levels of ancillary revenue from different parts of the cabin. Lavorel also sees connectivity extending to cabin and flight crew. This is confirmed by the survey – 75% of airlines are now planning to invest in inflight wifi services for passengers and 70% are investing in wireless services for their crew.

 

One of the challenges of introducing new passenger amenities is making them available to as many passengers as possible within the shortest time – not being sure if the aircraft will have the new product can be a deterrent, especially as passengers are increasingly likely to swap to an airline that does offer a good wifi service (see box story). 

 

Fortunately, wifi systems are increasingly easy to install. Spanish company Immfly notes that installation used to take between three and five days on the production line or during other maintenance, whereas it recently installed its wifi IFE system in an Airbus A319 of Spanish low cost carrier Volotea in eight hours during an overnight stop.  >>


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