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Inflight expectations

Will passengers accept the limitations of inflight bandwidth and speed as their PEDs become increasingly hungry for data? Paul E. Eden investigates

High quality inflight entertainment and, increasingly, communications, have become central to the longhaul passenger experience. Here passengers find anything but the latest technology a disappointment, surpassed only by a system that doesn’t work at all. A Panasonic spokesperson reports that, from a recent company study, the IFEC specialist found: “The number one thing passengers talk about today is the quality of the IFE system on their flight. They like being entertained, especially on longer flights. Nothing is more frustrating to a passenger than the IFE system not working or them having a dark flight; so reliability is paramount in everything we do.”


Of the airlines recently equipping a new aircraft type and looking to offer state-of-the-art IFEC, SWISS installed Panasonic’s eXcite2 and AeroMobile systems in its new 777-300ER cabins. It exploited the latest technologies to encompass the full extent of passenger expectation, delivering wifi and mobile connectivity, audio/video on demand (AVOD), games and a sophisticated airshow.


Yet however good the content or expansive the connection possibilities, without an interface that is accessible to passengers young and old, tech-savvy or technophobe, the cabin IFE fails, as Panasonic readily acknowledges. It also needs to deliver without encroaching on other aspects of the passenger experience. “We believe that industrial design is critical to passengers. The IFE system needs to look like it was purpose built for the cabin. We also need to find ways to give back maximum real estate to passengers, by removing seat boxes from the living space and enabling even slimmer seat designs,” the Panasonic spokesperson adds.


Airline requirements

From the operator perspective, IFEC has a prominent role to play in customer loyalty, since it is a key factor in determining how passengers remember the flight experience. There are also burgeoning opportunities for promotion and ancillary revenue generation, as such airlines must consider the various possibilities when considering their IFE system, deciding which are the most important.


“It depends on the airline,” says Panasonic. “Each customer has a different brand personality. Some want to have a premium entertainment experience, others want to improve their operational efficiency or drive increased revenues. We’ve helped customers engage passengers, increase their net promoter scores and increase revenues – all from the power of the IFE system.”


I’m on the plane!

Our insatiable 21st century urge to communicate, no matter where we are, is driving constant demand for airborne connectivity at broadband speeds. Email, text and web browsing have become must-have add-ons to the IFE experience. Passengers expect to access services through their personal electronic devices (PEDs) just as they do on the ground. Every PED adds a second or even third screen to their seat, an extra display that is potentially available, for supplementary entertainment streamed from onboard servers, or perhaps additional airline services.


Panasonic has a clear view on connectivity and how, with careful management, the PED and seatback screen can complement each other to the benefit of airline and passenger alike. “When used in the wrong scenario, mobile devices, such as tablets, can actually detach the passenger from the airline’s brand. Having passengers onboard an aircraft without immersing them into your world and your brand is a missed opportunity to increase passenger loyalty.


“That said, there are instances where passenger electronic devices make absolute sense. These include short flights or those on older aircraft, where retrofitting any type of system is not feasible.


“There are also instances where a combination of embedded systems and mobile devices makes the most sense; for example, providing the ability to offer passengers live television on the seatback, in addition to email, text, and other services on a tablet or other device.


“But there are also times, on longer flights for example, when a fully-embedded home theatre experience is an absolute must,” the company spokesman adds. >>

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