IFE & CONNECTIVITY

TUI first airline to let passengers order food, beverages and duty free items via their own devices

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Images from MI Airline. Arke’s ‘TUI Cloud’ is branded in the airline’s colours

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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.

TUI Cloud
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 »

Transavia plans more virtual reality IFE trials after positive passenger feedback

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By Ryan Ghee, Future Travel Experience

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 »

Bring Your Own Wi-Fi » Airlines deploy portable wireless networks

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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 »

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AIX 2015 » Density and distraction drive new aircraft interiors trends

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By Marisa Garcia, Flight Chic

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.

Connectivity
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 »

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 »

Qantas lets passengers in First Class try out Samsung Gear virtual reality headsets

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

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 »

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

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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 »

Air France and KLM latest airlines to introduce ‘geotainment’ flight maps

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

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 »

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Cool Tech » American Airlines ‘hackaton’ challenges techies to create the next app

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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.

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.

#NewAmerican
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.

Tech co-creation
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.

Wearable Hackaton
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 »

Philippine Airlines introduces ‘layered’ Business Class seat on its A330s

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As Business Class seats that can be turned into full-flat beds have become the industry standard in recent years, airlines have been facing the challenge to determine the best seat layout in order to optimize the valuable real estate onboard.

This has led seat manufacturers to come up with several inventive designs, such as herringbone, staggered, V-shaped and backward/forward-facing configurations [image].

Layered design
French seat manufacturer Sogerma has figured out that it can decrease the default pitch in a full-flat Business Class seat by about 4 inches by including a slight overlap in the foot wells for the two customers in the paired seats on its V-shaped Equinox product line, calling the seat Equinox 3D.

Both are fully flat but the seat on the right is raised above the seat on the left. When moving to the bed position, the window seat moves up to armrest level while the aisle seat moves down to just above the floor.  This design is said to also allow for easy access for the window-side passenger.

Or as aviation journalist Jason Rabinowitz (aka AirlineFlyer) put it when testing the seat at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg: “The seat pair is angled in toward each other, which is nothing new. What is new, however, is that the two seats transform into a layered lie-flat bed. In essence, the feet of one passenger end up resting on a platform on top of the adjacent passenger. This saves a bit of width per seat without compromising comfort, but it sure does look strange. I tried the seat and found it to be comfortable, so this will be one to keep an eye out for in the future.”

Philippine Airlines
Philippine Airlines (PAL) is the launch customer of the Equinox 3D seat (images here and here) when it took delivery of its new Airbus A330-300 last month.

PAL’s A330s accommodate 368 passengers — 18 in Business, 27 in Premium Economy and 323 in Economy, and the airline will operate the aircraft on medium-haul routes between Manila and Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, and Honolulu. Read full article »

Turkish Airlines lets start-ups pitch to Business Class passengers in-flight

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Istanbul’s startup sector, known as the ‘Digital Bosphorus’, is thriving. As Wired reports this month: “Along with this shifting attitude to failure, Istanbul’s successes have encouraged younger generations to seek entrepreneurial success, resulting in strong software and gaming sectors emerging in a city best known for e-commerce. Venture capital is also emerging.”

‘Invest On Board’
So when Turkish Airlines wanted to promote its country’s technology and Internet start-ups, it decided to do something different. The airline’s new ‘Invest On Board’ program streams pitch videos from startups to the in-seat screens of passengers in Business Class, providing participating startups with a captive audience for their pitches [video here].

Or as THY puts it: “Invest on Board is a one of a kind opportunity for investors flying Turkish Airlines Business Class to invest in hand-picked startups. Finding the next big business has never been so effortless.”

The project is run by Etohum, a Turkish startup accelerator and the short videos, which run under two minutes, advertise mostly Turkey-based startups but also some foreign companies.

Participating startups in the first batch of IFE pitch videos include home accessories e-commerce site Dekoreko, commerce platform Ganipara, and dating service Pembe Panjur. Startup companies can apply via the ‘Invest On Board’ website for a chance to be featured on Turkish Airlines’ IFE system.
Read full article »

Norwegian’s long-haul low-cost Dreamliner features geotainment and in-seat ordering of food & beverages

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Similar to Finnair’s ‘Via Helsinki’ hub strategy, Norwegian – Europe’s third largest low-cost carrier – aims to take advantage of the Nordic region’s favourable geographic location as the shortest route between Europe, North America and Asia. The airline sees an opportunity to capitalize on its extensive short-haul network and the limited number of direct long-haul flights from Oslo and Stockholm.

Short-haul network
Voted Europe’s best low-cost carrier in the 2013 SkyTrax World Airline Awards, Norwegian was the first (and still only) airline in Europe to offer high-speed broadband on short-haul flights. The airline’s full fleet of 75 Boeing 737-800 aircraft have WiFi on board, provided by Row44, and unusually for an LCC, the service is free of charge. Passengers can also rent movies via the wireless inflight portal and have access to a range of content via their smartphones, tablets or laptops.

Long-haul low-cost
At the end of May 2013, Norwegian launched its long-haul low-cost service to New York from Oslo and Stockholm – followed by Oslo to Bangkok in early June and from Stockholm to Bangkok at the end of June – with leased A340 aircraft. Both routes are operated by the airline’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliners since August 30th.

Android-based IFE
Whereas long-haul low-cost carriers such as AirAsia X, Scoot and Air Canada Rouge have opted for wireless IFE systems – and Jetstar rents out iPads to passengers – in order to cut costs, Norwegian has chosen to install an Android-based in-seat IFE system. The reason for this is that Boeing requires its 787s to have an in-seat IFE system (for now).

Norwegian’s 787 Dreamliners, which seat 291 passengers – 32 in Premium Class and 259 in Economy –are the first aircraft to feature Panasonic’s new Android powered in-seat in-flight entertainment system, the result of an 18-month joint development between Norwegian and Panasonic Avionics.

Says Paul Margis, CEO for Panasonic Avionics, “This open platform architecture facilitates faster, easier, application development, integration, and deployment, enabling Norwegian to engage passengers in an even more amazing entertainment experience while creating new revenue streams.”
Read full article »

How data, connectivity and a retailing mindset help increase onboard revenues

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

The combination of rapid developments in consumer electronics, the acceleration of wifi installations onboard aircraft, and the large number of passengers carrying one or more digital devices, is creating a momentum that sees many of today’s inflight innovations focus on digital developments.

In this three-part series on how new technologies are improving the onboard passenger experience, airlinetrends.com founder Raymond Kollau takes a look at some of the major initiatives and innovations that are the result of this convergence. The first article discussed how inflight connectivity provides passengers and crew with real-time information up in the air, the second article highlighted the latest in inflight entertainment, and this last part focuses on onboard ancillary revenue generation.

Ancillaries: Maximising Revenue Per Seat
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, in an effort to add high-margin ancillary sales to low-margin air revenue. Over the past few years, airlines have monetized baggage, seat selection and meals, and have come to recognize there is a wide array of merchandise they can sell onboard.

Or as the New York Times puts it nicely: “The great advances in technology presents for airlines themselves to essentially sell more things to the customers, whether the product is in-flight entertainment, food and drink, customized services to elite-status passengers or products at the destination, including hotel packages, sports and concert tickets, restaurant and theater reservations. On an airplane, you have a captive market, and with sophisticated technology, you can sell to passengers in very personal ways.”

Airlines as Retailers
However, the airline retail model is still in its infancy. Travel retail solution provider Datalex believes that airlines have only reached the tip of the ancillaries iceberg, as their opportunities for growth include selling a much broader range of products and services before, during and after the flight. Says the company’s CEO, “The airline industry is rapidly evolving to become retail-focused and airlines will have to reinvent themselves as retailers. Airlines could learn a lot from retail chains like WalMart and Tesco, especially when it comes to offering the right product to the right customer at the right time.”
Read full article »

Second screens, geotainment, apps » IFE&C goes fast forward

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Rapid developments in consumer electronics, the acceleration of wifi installations onboard aircraft, combined with the large number of passengers carrying one or more digital devices, is creating a momentum that sees many of today’s inflight innovations focus on digital developments.

In this three-part series on how new technologies are improving the onboard passenger experience, airlinetrends.com founder Raymond Kollau takes a look at some of the major initiatives and innovations that are the result of this convergence. The first article discussed how inflight connectivity provides passengers and crew with real-time information up in the air, this second article highlights the latest in inflight entertainment, and the last part will focus on onboard ancillary revenue generation.

Fast Forward
Rapid developments in consumer electronics have been fueling consumer expectations towards the entertainment offered onboard. As Tony Tyler, former CEO of Cathay Pacific, observed already a few years ago: “The bar is being set very high by Apple and others and our customers don’t understand why we can’t match it. Meanwhile, by the time an airline IT project comes to fruition, things have already moved on. Things have flipped. The consumer market is now driving innovation, rather than the business market.”

However, major IFE suppliers are not resting on their laurels. For example, many of the latest IFEC systems offer similar touchscreens as found on devices such as the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy, allowing passengers to swipe across screens, scroll through text and instantly jump around the system, with a touch of a fingertip.

Furthermore, the latest systems by Panasonic and Thales are based on Google’s Android mobile operating system, which like smartphones and tablets, allows for the installation of apps. Low-cost carrier Norwegian has just become the first airline to install Panasonic’s new Android-powered IFE system on its fleet of B787 Dreamliners. Norwegian’s passengers can use select Android apps that are pre-loaded onto the system. According to Panasonic, “the open platform architecture facilitates faster, easier, application development, integration, and deployment.”
Read full article »

How new technologies are improving the onboard passenger experience

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

The acceleration of wifi installations onboard aircraft around the world, combined with the large number of passengers carrying one or more digital devices, is creating a momentum that sees many of today’s inflight innovations focusing on digital developments.

In this three-part series on how new technologies are improving the onboard passenger experience, we will take a look at some of the major initiaves and innovations that are the result of this convergence. This first article will focus on the implications for seat design, the provision of real-time information to passengers, and opportunities to improve onboard customer service. The second article will highlight the latest in inflight entertainment (both fixed and wireless), followed by onboard ancillary revenue generation and personalization in the last part.

Power ports and storage
The first impact of today’s tech-toting passengers is on cabin ‘hardware’. Airlines around the world are responding to the large number of passengers carrying smartphones, notebooks, tablets and e-readers by equipping seats with power and USB ports. A number of airlines and interior suppliers are also looking how to integrate passengers’ own devices with the design of the seat.

Besides creating storage space for personal electronic devices for the more spacious seating arrangements in Business Class, several seat manufacturers are also beginning to incorporate smartly designed spaces in Economy seats where passengers can store their mobile device.

For example, passengers travelling in Economy on Air France’s A380 and select B777-300s can store their cell phone into a small belonging stowage, which is located just below the in-seat USB port to allow for easy recharging of the device. Japan Airlines’ new Economy seats (manufactured by ZIM Flugsitz), which made their debut on the airline’s B777-300s in January 2013, have been designed with a a conveniently placed smartphone holder which is also located near the USB port.

Meanwhile, startup companies such as SmartTray and SkyCast have come up with simple yet smart tray table designs that feature a built-in groove, or two clips, for holding tablets, e-readers and other portable electronic devices upright. For example, Canadian budget airline WestJet rents out Android tablets that clip onto the back of the seat tray in a design called TrayVu.
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