IFE & CONNECTIVITY
By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience
19 July 2016 | In-flight entertainment (IFE) has long been an integral part of the air travel experience. A wide array of content delivered on a high-spec screen can help to make a long flight a far more enjoyable experience. On the other hand, spending hours on end with no access to entertainment can make for a laborious journey.
Increasingly, airlines that have avoided offering IFE in the past – mostly low-cost carriers (LCCs) and those operating short-haul networks – are starting to take advantage of technological developments to offer entertainment content in various forms. In fact, the landscape is changing so rapidly that travellers are starting to question why some airlines, regardless of their business model or the length of the flight, are failing to offer at least some form of digital entertainment.
Portable, scalable onboard networks – such as those adopted by the likes of XL Airways, Iberia Express, and Arkefly – and which allow passengers to stream content to their own devices in-flight, have quickly gained traction, but some airlines are taking a slightly different approach.
Canadian carrier Air Transat offers a pre-flight content download service, while Transavia also offers something similar, albeit with a different provider.
IFE content at the airport
However, for those who are not quite as organised and don’t manage to download any content before leaving home, other solutions have emerged. If you’re flying with SWISS from Geneva Airport, you can now – well, for the next three months at least – download content to your smartphone or tablet while waiting at the gate or in a lounge.
The new ‘SWISS e-media’ service allows passengers to access a variety of content via a dedicated Wi-Fi network. If you download the SWISS e-media app, you can also download content to watch in-flight. The service has been developed in partnership with SITA, which is also responsible for the installation of ‘EntertainMe’ kiosks at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Read full article »
By Marisa Garcia
27 May 2016 | Last year, Finnair committed to a fleet-wide investment in inflight connectivity, valued at USD33 million. The service was first made available on the airline’s new A350 aircraft (of which it currently has five in service), and further installations will continue through 2018 on both Finnair’s long- and short-haul fleets.
While some airlines still ponder the business case in favour of giving customers the wi-fi connectivity they want onboard, Finnair provides passengers in Business Class with free inflight wi-fi and has put its new ‘Nordic Sky’ inflight portal to work as a channel to offer new services to flyers, as well as boost ancillary sales.
The portal can be accessed on passengers’ own devices and gives all passengers free access to finnair.com, plus Finnair services such as destination information, customer care and pre-order duty free shopping— with items purchased being delivered to the passenger’s seat on their return flight.
Reviving duty free sales
This onboard retail strategy is a departure from the tired trolley product push which has been part of the in-flight experience for decades. Technology allows Finnair to promote shopping opportunities while letting passengers enjoy the journey and letting cabin crew focus on more critical functions of passenger service and cabin safety.
“That’s why we’re using technology, the IFE, the portals we have. So that, if you want to shop, we enable that through the technological platforms we have onboard,” Finnair’s chief commercial officer Juha Järvinen told APEX last year. “We shall not increase the number of trolleys going back and forth in a corridor. That’s what you don’t want. The IFE technology and the wi-fi platforms enable you to do your shopping when you want, at your discretion.” Read full article »
18 March 2016 | Expectations of airline passengers are not only shaped by how well an airline performs versus its direct competitors. They are also fuelled by standards set by experiences that consumers have in other industries, as innovative products and services in one industry raise the bar for all industries. This means airlines and airports need to tune into the customer from a holistic perspective when designing the passenger experience.
At this year’s Passenger Experience Conference – which is part of the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo/WTCE in Hamburg – AirlineTrends delivered a presentation about ‘Digital Innovation and the End-to-End Passenger Experience’. Below is the outline of our talk, illustrated by a few examples of how airlines are tapping into the changing consumer behaviour and expectations of today’s connected travellers.
As smartphones make it quick and hassle-free to order goods online, flag a taxi via Uber, or what have you, the on-demand economy has generated a sense of entitlement to fast, simple and efficient experiences as it taps into consumers’ appetite for greater convenience, speed, and simplicity. For example, analysis from Uber shows the longer Uber has been in a city, the less willing to wait for a car everyone becomes.
In the food and beverage industry, Starbucks’ new pre-order app has become a very popular time-saving service, while airport restaurateur OTG has installed thousands of food-ordering iPads at half a dozen U.S. airports.
And a growing number of airlines – including Virgin America, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, Norwegian, Azul – allow passengers to order meals, snacks and drinks via the in-seat IFE system in between regular meal services, while Qantas and EVA Air offer passengers the option to purchase duty free via the Panasonic eX3 IFE systems. Passengers onboard leisure carrier TUI Netherlands can even order drinks and duty free via their own smartphones. Read full article »
By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience
28 January 2016 | JetBlue has announced a major A320 cabin restyling, which will include the introduction of what it calls a “fully connected in-seat experience.” New 10-inch, high-definition, Internet-enabled in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens, more than 100 live television channels and in-seat power outlets and USB ports are among the key features.
Android-based ‘connected’ IFE
JetBlue becomes the first airline to sign up for the new streaming television IFE system from Thales – called STV+ – which is built on the Google Android platform. The carrier said in a release this opens “unlimited possibilities for custom app and widget development, live content streaming, audio-and-video-on-demand, and personal device pairing.” In addition, the IFE system offers access to content stored locally on the aircraft.
The new IFE experience represents a major upgrade to the existing standard-definition, 5.6-inch screens and 36 channels of live DirecTV that can currently be found on JetBlue’s A320s.
Passengers will also have gate-to-gate access to the Fly-Fi connectivity service, meaning they can browse the Web and even stream movies on Amazon Prime before and during take-off and after landing.
The cabin redesign will also incorporate a number of features introduced on the A321s in 2014, including the B/E Aerospace Pinnacle seats with moveable headrests and LED cabin lighting. The reconfigured A320s will feature 162 seats – 12 more than at present – but the carrier will maintain a 33-inch pitch. Airbus’ Space-Flex v2 galley and lavatory module will also be introduced on the A320 and A321 all-core aircraft. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
11 November 2015 | Finnair has been the first European airline to take delivery of the A350-900 and the third carrier worldwide (after Qatar Airways and Vietnam Airlines). Finnair’s 297-seat aircraft is configured in three classes with 208 seats in Economy, 43 in Economy Comfort and 46 in Business. Following a month of ‘familiarization flighs’ to European destinations, Finnair’s first A350 will begin operating long-haul routes between Helsinki and Shanghai on November 21st.
There is a lot to like about Finnair’s (and its design agency dSign Vertti Kivi & Co) approach towards designing the A350 onboard experience, which features several innovative elements.
1. Welcome Onboard: Galley Screen
On most widebody aircraft passengers enter the cabin at the so-called door 2 and often their first impression is the sights of an industrial-looking galley area. Finnair has come up with a clever (and economic) solution by installing galley screens that are lowered when passengers are boarding and which feature a striking photo.
Marisa Garcia from FlightChic summarizes it nicely: “There is a very clever introduction of Finland’s lush green nature with a calm forest image in a galley screen, which I found was an attractive detail. It helps the cabin feel fresh, quieting the disturbing visual noise of galley equipment. It’s really a very simple thing, but Finnair took the time to consider it.”
2. Mood Lighting: Northern Lights
A remarkable feature of the cabin is the dynamic mood LED lighting. When passengers board the plane, they are greeted by the sight of clouds drifting across a blue sky throughout the cabin (video), while cool Nordic blue shades resembling the Northern lights will set the mood as the plane approaches Helsinki.
In all, there are 24 lighting schemes, and for example a warm orange glow can be created to suggest an Asian ambience on flights to the Far East. Says Juha Järvinen, Finnair’s Chief Commercial Officer, “Finnair’s new Airbus aircraft feature a cabin interior largely based on the Space Alive concept developed by dSign, where the main idea is to change the mood of the cabin space as the flight progresses.”
The mood lighting is also integrated with the in-seat IFE system. Jouni Oksanen, VP Digital at Finnair tells Hangar.no, “We’ve also added a timeline for dimming of the displays. This means that during the flight the screens will adapt to the time zones the aircraft passes. When it’s night outside, it will be night on the screens so it does not light up a whole bunch of bright displays that disturbs people who want to sleep.”
3. Business Class: Ladies’ Room
Female passengers in Business Class have access to a dedicated Ladies’ Room which is stocked with cosmetics and other supplies from Finnish brand Clean (images here and here). Australian Business Traveller reports that the ladies-only lavatory will be made available to “high-flying hommes” in the event that there’s a higher than usual proportion of men to women in business class, but as a rule it will be reserved for women. Read full article »
By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience
23 September 2015 | The discussion as to whether wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) poses a threat to the traditional embedded screens is one that rears its head on a regular basis, but the wireless IFE providers themselves face stiff competition from a new breed of companies who see opportunities to further reshape the market, particularly on narrow-body aircraft serving short-haul routes, which have previously lacked an IFE offering.
Bring Your Own Content
Dutch LCC Transavia, for example, has partnered with a company called Piksel to allow passengers to browse movies and TV programmes, and download the content to their own electronic devices weeks, days or hours before their flight. As soon as the passenger boards the aircraft, the pre-downloaded content is activated and it is then automatically deleted at the end of the journey to satisfy the licensing laws.
“Bring your own content” is not new – there is nothing to stop a passenger renting or buying digital content and saving it on their device before travelling, as many passengers already do with their Spotify Premium account and now also Amazon Prime – but the fact that it has now been embedded into a carrier’s own IFE portfolio is certainly significant.
Roy Scheerder, Chief Commercial Officer at Transavia, explained that the Dutch low-cost carrier’s decision to adopt the IFE solution was inspired by changing consumer habits. “The way people consume media has changed rapidly in recent years and the airline industry needs to reflect this in its in-flight entertainment systems,” he said. “Our aim was to both boost the flying experience for our customers and cut the high costs of installing onboard infrastructure for video delivery.” Read full article »
Images from MI Airline. Arke’s ‘TUI Cloud’ is branded in the airline’s colours
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
31 August 2015 | Earlier this year we reported on MI Airline’s AirFi box – a portable, battery-powered and self-scaling wireless local network. The AirFi solution is based around a small box which can be stowed in a luggage locker – instead of having to be installed in the aircraft, hence no certification is needed.
Launch customers of the AirFi box are Estonian Air, Transavia and Arke (part of tour operator TUI) – who are using the portable wifi network for inflight entertainment, and/or to connect the tablet devices of cabin crew.
Netherlands-based leisure carrier Arke – which later this year will be rebranded as TUI – has installed the AirFi box onboard its fleet of 3 B787, 1 B767 and 5 B737 aircraft for wireless entertainment purposes. The service is branded as ‘TUI Cloud’ and allows passengers to use their own devices to watch video content, read newspapers and play games.
Arke’s managing director Hans van de Velde tells TravConnect that the wireless service is appreciated by passengers. For example, on some flights 40 percent of passengers is reading De Telegraaf (the largest newspaper in the Netherlands) via TUI Cloud and the airline is considering not to carry the paper edition of the newspaper anymore.
According to Arke, the content and functionality of ‘TUI Cloud’ will be expanded with e-books, magazines (in partnership with publisher Sanoma) and newsfeeds in the coming months.
Ordering drinks, snacks and duty free
Arke is also the first airline in the world to let passengers order food, snacks and duty free items via their own devices for delivery to their seats. The airline is currently trialing the on-demand service on a select number of long-haul and short-haul routes. Read full article »
By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience
10 June 2015 | The jury is still out on virtual reality in-flight entertainment (IFE) – some think it holds great potential, but others see it as nothing more than a gimmick – and Transavia has become the latest carrier to explore the potential benefits of the immersive technology.
On 21 May, passengers flying with Transavia from Amsterdam to Barcelona had the chance to try out the Oculus Rift DK2 during the flight, and Roy Scheerder – the airline’s Commercial Director – revealed to Future Travel Experience that more trials are planned following the “very positive” reaction. He explained that up to five “qualitative tests” will now be undertaken, before the results are analysed and the next steps are planned.
During the trials, passengers are able to enjoy a variety of content, including a virtual cockpit tour, a virtual cinema experience in which the passengers can watch a movie in an empty cinema surrounded by aircraft seats, and a virtual hang-glider experience in which they are floating above the earth, watching the landscape below. The latter also includes a fly-by by a Boeing aircraft.
Excitement or escapism?
Interestingly, Scheerder explained that based on the first trial, it seems different passenger types prefer different types of virtual reality IFE content. “Virtual reality is very immersive and as such we get great reactions about the technology itself,” he said. “We are testing three concepts and already see that different customer groups have strong preferences and ask for relevant content. Read full article »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
20 May 2015 | The massive consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets has resulted in a large number of new and established suppliers developing wireless inflight ‘intranet’ solutions that can be used as a low-cost wireless inflight entertainment system, as well as for onboard retail purposes, inflight service and crew productivity.
A recent article on Runway Girl Network nicely summarizes this development: “Independently-backed IFE streaming providers are surfacing at an unprecedented rate in commercial aviation. Designed for a quick deployment, most of these new systems are being offered to airlines for free or at a fraction of cost of wireless systems from the majors.”
AirFi portable wifi
One solution that has been adopted by several airlines recently is MI Airline’s AirFi box – a compact, portable, battery-powered and self-scaling wireless local network that is not connected to the aircraft. The system is based around a small box, which can be stowed in a luggage locker – instead of having to be installed in the aircraft.
Thanks to its portability, the AirFi solution is classified as a so-called T-PED (Transmitting Personal Electronic Device) and does not require modification to the aircraft. Hence no lengthy STC (supplemental type certificate) certification is needed. “We provide the box with all the required paperwork so that the airline only needs to [advise] the authorities, change some of their security manuals and do a risk analysis,” MI Airline CEO Job Heimerikx told APEX. “The complete process takes one person two days.”
At the start of each day, AirFi boxes are placed in crew-dedicated overhead stowage bins and switched on with the push of a single button. At the end of each day, the boxes are offloaded and their batteries are charge as they synchronize wirelessly with a ‘proxy box’ on the ground. When the boxes are synchronized, content is automatically updated and user data can be saved to the airline’s own network for analysis.
Roughly the size of a shoebox and weighing 1.2 kilograms, the AirFi box runs entirely on battery power that can last up to 15 hours. Two AirFi boxes are capable of covering the entire cabin of a 180-seat B737, while three to four will be used to ensure robust service across a 280+ passenger twin-aisle jet. Read full article »
By Marisa Garcia, Flight Chic
24 April 2015 | Rapidly evolving alternatives to traditional inflight entertainment systems, smarter seat designs and a redefined premium cabin were top themes at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo 2015 in Hamburg, the aircraft cabin show of shows.
Airlines are eager to make the most of potential revenue space on their planes, while air travelers dread crowded cabins. To resolve this tension, airlines need to draw attention away from the pain of the cabin crunch—especially in Economy.
Technology now takes centre stage in Hamburg as inflight connectivity and entertainment offer passengers productivity, emotional comfort, or at least distraction. This technology is a major capital investment, but vendors are introducing solutions which make these IFE technologies more affordable—even a potential source of revenue and a way to optimize operations.
As airlines step-up the rollout of in-flight connectivity, Panasonic Avionics Corporation celebrated the 700th installation of its eXConnect in-flight Wi-Fi system at the show. The company provides a suite of options which combine in-seat entertainment with global coverage of Ku-band satellite broadband Wi-Fi and 3G services for internet, text and telephony through AeroMobile.
Panasonic also announced that Asia’s largest airline, China Southern, chose its hybrid eXO IFE solution for its narrowbody fleet of A320s and A321s. The eXO system lets airlines mix and match Full HD overhead video and in-seat audio, seat-back Audio-Video On Demand (AVOD), and wireless streaming to passenger devices. This flexibility lets airlines configure entertainment on the aircraft by sections, to suit their product strategy. It lowers costs, reduces weight, and allows easy upgrades when airlines chose to update cabins.
Wireless in-flight entertainment (wIFE) has proven successful where installing embedded in-flight entertainment is impractical. It can also complement existing embedded IFE systems.
Gate-to-gate usage of in-seat tablets
Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect solution offers a rich user interface for entertainment and connectivity directly streamed to passengers’ personal electronic devices. The company has developed an in-seat product which fits consumer tablets on a frame added to the seat-back.
Read full article »
By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines
15 February 2015 | 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 »
By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir
29 January 2015 | The future is here and no, this is not an April Fools’ joke. Qantas has partnered with Samsung Electronics Australia to launch a futuristic trial entertainment service that uses Samsung virtual reality (VR) technology to give customers a spectacular three dimensional experience in a 360 degree style interactive format.
Qantas’ clunky yet “Apple generation” stylish headsets will completely envelop customers in an immersive virtual world. Currently the entertainment features the sights and panoramic vistas of Qantas’ destinations, new product and of course a selection of the latest inflight blockbuster movies.
3-month trial for First Class passengers
As part of the trial, a number of Samsung Gear VR headsets will be made available to customers in Sydney and Melbourne International First Lounges as well as a worlds first: in the First Class cabins on select A380 services.
The trial will run for three months to assess customer feedback on how this kind of VR offering might add to their overall travel experience on long-haul flights – we have doubts that customers on-board will fully enjoy the experience – as it hasn’t ever been trialled in an environment that has inherent motion before (see our reasoning below). That said, you can’t help but applaud the airline, to embrace new technology like this – at it is a catalyst for other airlines to follow.
Qantas Group Executive, Brand, Marketing & Corporate Affairs Olivia Wirth said the technology will open up a new world of lounge and inflight entertainment for customers, as well as give Qantas a powerful way to preview destinations and experiences. Read full article »
By Kai-Chin Shih, >talkairlines
23 September 2014 | 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.
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.
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 »
By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com
21 August 2014 | One of the most popular sections of the IFE system is the moving map. Compared with the two-dimensional maps that are still found on the IFE systems of almost any airline, the latest maps now offer the option to deviate from the flight path to look at specific land marks and zoom into ever greater detail – Google Earth style.
Dubbed geotainment, this location-triggered content displays geographical and historical information relevant to the location of an aircraft on, or around, its flight path. Says Boris Veksler, CEO of Betria Interactive – which has developed the FlightPath3D geotainment app: “Travel is exploration. Delivering informative destination ‘geotainment’ services gives the passenger a form of discovery in anticipation of their arrival. It is natural and engaging extension of the moving map.”
The deployment of geotainment-based flight maps is still in its early stages. On its fleet of B787s, Norwegian features a geotainment app on its IFE systems from FlightPath3D on the moving map channel, while Singapore Airlines has become the first customer to sign up for a new ‘geo-entertainment’ product for moving maps developed by Airborne Interactive in association with the Royal Geographical Society.
Delta, meanwhile, in early 2013 added a ‘Glass Bottom Jet’ geotainment feature to its ‘Fly Delta’ iPad app. On flights in North America passengers can use their own device to view the ground below via maps enriched with interesting information on various points of interest near the route. Passengers do have to be connected to the paid onboard Wi-Fi network though.
Air France KLM
Air France and KLM have also become early adapters of the geotainment trend. The airlines have selected FlightPath3D to deliver their next generation moving map and ‘geotainment’ service.
Passengers can follow the flight path as their trip progresses and learn more about points-of-interest during their journey via text and images. They can also choose from several interactive 3D views or use free roaming mode to investigate the world they are flying over. Read full article »
American Airlines’ Wearable Hackaton case is part of the ‘COOL TECH’ trend that appears in the upcoming edition of our annual ‘The State Of Airline Marketing’ report.
29 June 2014 | As technology is evolving at a rapid pace and many airlines have problems to think outside the box in order to develop innovative mobile-based services, forward-looking carriers are recognizing they better team up with the creative and technology classes to co-create new applications.
Emerging out of bankruptcy protection in 2013, American Airlines has pushed hard to shake off its old image, trying to prove that its new brand image is more than skin-deep. In 2013, the airline organized a hack-a-thon at the annual SXSW event in Austin, inviting more than 60 developers to work with American’s mobile travel API (application programming interface) to see what they could come up with.
At the end of the event a total of 15 apps were created. The winning app entry was ‘AirPing’, a tool that provides live updates to flight changes and delays and estimate travel times to the airport. The app also provides airlines with real-time information on the whereabouts of passengers to better determine how many seats can be provided to customers on standby.
According to the airline, it looks to explore new touch points with its customers and partner with developers to bring their technology to market. As AA puts it: “Wearables will give travelers timely, unique data at the right time and place during their journey. New opportunities will also be opened thanks to in-flight Wi-Fi throughout all of American’s aircraft. And, location is always key and it just got big in a micro way with American’s aggressive beacon rollout to all its hub airports.”
At the recent 2014 Air Transport IT Summit, SITA and American Airlines also announced the largest deployment of iBeacons so far at Dallas Fort Worth’s Terminal 4. Starting this summer, a 180-day trial will use 100 iBeacons will involve a group of ‘beta’ passengers before making it available to the general public in the next quarter.
American’s hackaton at SXSW proved not to be a one-off initiative, as the airline has recently partnered with innovation platform Wearable World to organize the Wearable Hackaton event, which saw 200 creative techies make their way to San Francisco on June 6 and 7 to work directly with American’s development team, hardware and API partners to create the next app for wearable devices such as smart watches and interactive glasses, for trial on American Airlines. Read full article »