China Eastern

China Eastern trials ‘intelligent personal assistant’ for in-flight service

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By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines

As airlines around the world are currently in the process of developing an digital inflight infrastructure (e.g, Internet connectivity, aircraft intranet, inflight portal) and the latest generation of in-seat IFE systems has adopted the Android platform, the next phase for airlines is to develop innovative applications that differentiaite to the passenger experience.

For example, on the IFE system of its new B787 Dreamliners, Air New Zealand and Panasonic have created a ‘digital crew call button’ app that lets passengers message the crew, as well as a dedicated digital button to order a glass of water and have it brought to their seat.

Similar functionality has now also been rolled out by China Eastern – China’s second largest carrier by passenger numbers. The airline is not using the seat back IFE system, though, but has partnered with Microsoft to develop an airline-specific version of Microsoft’s ‘XiaoIce’ (東航小冰) intelligent personal assistant.

Intelligent Personal Assistants
‘XiaoIce’ – which translated a ‘Little Ice’ – is an intelligent personal assistant (IPA) launched by Microsoft in 2014. IPAs are software programs that can complete tasks assigned by the user or provide answers to users’ questions.

Currently, the most widely known IPA is Apple’s Siri, which uses voice recognition to send messages, make calls and obtain answers to simple questions, such as those related to the weather and historical facts, on behalf of users.

Microsoft also has developed its own IPAs, respectively called Cortana and XiaoIce. While Cortana provides functions similar to that of Siri and can only be accessed through Windows-based devices, XiaoIce has been developed to be used on social media sites such as Sina Weibo, can be used virtually anywhere. XiaoIce learns from not only past conversations with the user but also those from all around China. With these resources, it can engage in very life-like conversations and has a bit of a funny character of its own. Read full article »

China Eastern to feature ‘online mall’ and ‘duty free showcase’ on new B777-300ER

China Eastern_onboard retail 777_680x305

By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines

As ancillary revenues have become a major revenue source for airlines – if not the lifeline for many – airlines are thinking of more ways to derive revenue from all phases of the customer journey. For example, airlines are looking to harness the power of retailing through their in-seat IFEC systems, be it that things are still in a very early stage.

For example, very few airlines today allow passengers to order duty free onboard via the inseat or wireless IFE system. Virgin America and Japan Airlines are among the exceptions, while passengers on Lufthansa’s A321s can now order duty free items inflight via the wireless IFE portal for delivery to their address of choice.

China Eastern
Meanwhile, Shanghai-based China Eastern – China’s second-largest carrier by passenger numbers – is stepping up its efforts to become a global player. The Skyteam-member has just launched a new brand image and livery and will receive its first B777-300 (77W) this month which will be the airline’s new flagship aircraft. For a full report on China Eastern’s new B777-300 see this article on >talkairlines.

Yet, the innovative bits of China Eastern’s new B77W are not the seats (video of the cabin interior here). The airline has come up with some interesting interesting concepts in an effort to increase inflight duty free sales.

In-flight mall
Realizing that the existing print duty free catalogues can no longer satisfy traveller’s purchasing needs, China Eastern decided to create a more diverse, abundant and straightforward shopping system, dubbed the new in-flight mall.

As China Eastern will offer Wi-Fi on its new B77W, the airline collaborated with credit card company China UnionPay and Chinese third-party payment processor Yeepay to come up with an ‘Air-Ground Wireless Transaction Platform’ which allows for real-time processing of onboard payments and solves the transaction risks associated with in-flight duty free. Read full article »