IFE & CONNECTIVITY

Inflight Ancillaries: How airlines can monetize their inflight engagement platforms

As ancillary revenues are on the agenda of every airline, much has been written and said about the grand vision of airlines as omni-channel retailers, in which the in-flight part is just another touchpoint in an end-to-end, personalized, seamless, digital travel eco-system.

However, as airlines are only just embarking on this merchandizing journey, we take a look at the current state of inflight retail, which sees the opening up of a cabin environment that was previously ‘closed’ because of proprietary IFE platforms and the lack of Internet connectivity.

From In-Flight Entertainment to In-Flight Engagement platforms

Android-based in-seat IFE platforms, wireless IFE, Internet connectivity, plus the large number of passengers – and increasingly cabin crew as well – that carry a digital device, provides airlines with much more control how to move beyond providing just entertainment to new opportunities to generate ancillary revenues in-flight.

Jeff Standerski from Rockwell Collins summarizes this evolution nicely: “Passengers’ expectations have evolved from a passive ‘Please entertain me’ to a proactive ‘I want to entertain myself’. Our industry needs a new term to describe a holistic experience that is equal in every way to how people leverage their devices on terra firma. The future of the passenger/cabin interaction is beyond one of mere entertainment and can be more accurately described as one of deep and ongoing engagement: In-Flight Passenger Engagement.”

A similar vision is painted by Thales CFO Fred Schreiner: “We are going to go into a period where it’s about engagement. How do we move from an in-seat system, where an airline is looking at cost line, to an in-seat solution coupled with connectivity that moves to a revenue line?” Schreiner said families will be able to plan their holidays from the seatback: booking restaurants and exploring street level views of a city’s sights.

Eventually this means that this new ‘inflight engagement platform’ – be it seatback systems, inflight wireless portals or mobile apps – will become another touchpoint in the airline travel ecosystem. Read full article »

Finnair’s A350 features a host of innovative passenger experience elements

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By Raymond Kollau

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.

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 »

Emirates crew use smartphones to take Business Class passengers’ F&B orders


images by PaddleYourOwnKanoo

Staff taking drink and meal orders using a digital device is a common thing in bars and restaurants around the world. Meanwhile, casual dining restaurant chains and airport F&B operators now let customers place their orders themselves, either via a tablet provided by the restaurant or via an app on their own smartphone.

Now the airline industry is taking its first steps in this digitally-enabled F&B service. Besides the handful or airlines – including Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, FlyDubai and Virgin America – that allow passengers to place orders via the in-seat IFE system, Emirates has recently issued so-called ‘Meal Ordering Devices’ to all its flight attendants who work in Business Class.

Meal Ordering Device (MOD)
Cabin crew recruitment portal PaddleYourOwnKanoo reports that the MOD smartphones connect to a plug-and-play WiFi router which is separate from the onboard connectivity system that passengers use.

All the smartphones (Samsung Galaxy A7) are synced to communicate with one another for the duration of the flight, don’t have a SIM card, and have been blocked from running any applications apart from the bespoke Meal Ordering app.

“The orders are taken on a hand held device and are instantly reflected on a tablet in the galley. Each order is then prepared immediately making service faster, more efficient and more personal,” said Terry Daly, Divisional Senior Vice President, Service Delivery at Emirates.

As Australian Business Traveller rightly puts it: “With as many as 76 business class passengers on an Emirates A380, the technology is proving to be a significant time-saver in keeping those premium passengers feed and watered – as well as ensuring what they’re served is precisely what they ordered, without slip-ups.” Read full article »

FlightPath3D lets passengers book an airport taxi via the IFE flight map

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THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON FUTURE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

Known for its highly interactive, 3D ‘geotainment’ moving maps – which are featured on the IFE systems onboard airlines such as Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian and Finnair – FlightPath 3D showed Future Travel Experience at the recent APEX EXPO in Singapore how it can now help airlines tap into “aircraft-to-door” ancillary revenue opportunities with its new ‘In-flight Travel Planner’, which is supported by multiple patents.

Book airport transfer
As Duncan Jackson, President of FlightPath3D, demonstrated to FTE, passengers can enter their final address (hotel, home, etc.) into the moving map in order to access myriad personalised features.

For instance, rather than simply displaying the estimated time of arrival at the destination airport, the In-flight Travel Planner can draw upon historical or real-time traffic data to provide an accurate time of arrival at the passenger’s final destination.

Partnerships with the likes of Uber and SuperShuttle also allow passengers to view and book ground transportation options while they are flying to help make the arrivals experience more seamless.

After booking their ride in-flight, passengers receive an SMS upon landing to confirm their booking and pick-up location. Read full article »

Jetstar Asia launches inflight book exchange to encourage holiday reading

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In an effort to encourage reading among Singaporeans while onboard the plane and during their holiday getaways, Qantas’ Singapore-based LCC Jetstar Asia has launched a book swap initiative.

Billed as “the world’s first flying book exchange” and the “latest in in-flight entertainment,” the Jetstar ‘Big Book Swap’ is a partnership with Singapore’s National Library Board.

On July 30th, Singapore’s inaugural National Reading Day, over 500 books and bestselling titles donated by the National Library Board, MPH Bookstores, Select Books, Book Point and Write Editions will be distributed to passengers at the boarding gates of selected Jetstar flights at Changi Airport Terminal 1.

Book. Fly. Swap.
Passengers will be invited to take the books on holiday, and leave them in the seat-backs on their return flight for another traveller to read en-route to their holiday destination. Passengers wanting to contribute their own books to the flying book club can also get a Book Swap sticker from the Jetstar crew.

The idea for the Big Book Swap was based on a survey of over 3,900 Singaporeans that found that reading was not a priority for most people. 55 percent of the respondents read less than five times a year, with 42 percent stating that the primary reason for not picking up a book was due to a lack of spare time. Despite holidays being a time for people to unwind and relax, only 7 percent usually read while on vacation. Read full article »

Finnair turns its inflight wi-fi portal into an e-commerce platform

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By Marisa Garcia

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 »

Meeting the expectations of today’s connected passengers: On-demand, real-time, end-to-end

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com                                                                      This article also appeared on the WTCE blog

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.

On Demand
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 »

TUI first airline to let passengers order food, beverages, duty free 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 »

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

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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 »

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 »

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 »

Passengers on Delta’s ‘Beta Plane’ can submit their ideas via Wi-Fi

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

We have reported several times before how airlines and airports are teaming up with the general public in order to generate ideas for new products and services.

As this trend matures, airlines such as KLM, SAS and Finnair have gone beyong incidental crowdsourcing campaigns by launching broad co-creation programs to improve the passenger experience.

KLM ‘Bright Ideas’, for example, asks Facebook fans to share and discuss their ideas to improve KLM’s products and services. Scandinavian Airlines’ ‘My SAS Idea’ is an online community where anyone can share their ideas and others can join in to further improve on each idea. Finnair’s Quality Hunters – now in its third year – invites a select group of enthusiasts to come up with ideas which are then shared online with the larger community.

Delta ‘Ideas In Flight’
In 2011, Delta teamed with “scientists and thinkers” conference TED (slogan: “Ideas Worth Spreading”) to generate innovative crowd-sourced ideas to improve the travel experience. Called ‘Ideas in Flight’, the program uses curated TEDTalks as thought-starters to inspire participants across technology, entertainment, design, etcetera. Ideas could be submitted through a dedicated tab on the Delta Facebook page.

In February of this year, Delta launched the second edition of Ideas In Flight. Similar to the 2011 edition, any Delta Facebook fan could contribute via Delta’s Facebook page and a voting system allows Delta and users to see what ideas are popular, and which ones will be considered to be implemented on the flight.
Read full article »

Qantas commissions books that can be completed in flight time

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By Springwise

In today’s world of non-stop information and endless social network notifications, it’s hard to find the time to concentrate on just one story, never mind finishing a full-length novel.

The Netherlands’ VertragingsApp has already encouraged train passengers to discover short story authors based on their delay time, and now a new project has created a range of fiction titles for customers of Australia’s Qantas airline, selected to correspond with flight times.

Titled ‘A Story For Every Journey’, the project is a collaboration with Sydney-based ad agency Droga5. The campaign used statistics from publishing house Hachette to discern that the average reader can finish around 200 to 300 words – or one page – each minute. Taking into account time set aside for meals and naps, customers should be able to read the books in exactly the time it takes to set off and land.

The range was selected while keeping in mind the airline’s Platinum Flyers demographic – mostly male customers – meaning they suitably span the thriller, crime and nonfiction genres. Penned by notable Australian authors and stylishly designed by UK-based agency Paul Belford, the airline is hoping to attract an upmarket audience by offering the novels on its extended flights. Video of the campaign here.

Given that airplanes are one of the few places where use of electronic devices is actually discouraged, the books could take off with those who fly regularly. Are there other ways to tailor literature to different reading environments to help consumers rediscover the novel?

How iPads are changing the way plane tray tables are designed

By Louise Driscoll, Terminal U

Let’s face it, economy class was never built for comfort. But the experience can often fall short of what we expect at the most basic level.

Take the flimsy tray table, for example, which is more ‘tray’ than table. It’s capable of holding your meal steady, until the plane hits turbulence and your drink starts sloshing all over the place, or lands in your lap when the seat in front catapults in your face.

Some major airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have introduced sturdy cup holders in economy on long-haul flights, but not all carriers have thought them through, as this video shows.

Economy tray tables also haven’t been engineered for the growing numbers of passengers using their own iPads, laptops and other personal electronic devices in their seats.

A few aircraft manufacturers have been working to make tray tables a bit more user friendly for the tablet user, but the incentive is largely to help airlines make money.

The ‘iHolder’?
US firm Smart Tray International recently unveiled, a new economy class tray table with a built-in groove for docking personal electronic devices.

If the new version catches on with airlines, passengers will be able to watch content on their iPad or iphone screens hands-free with the tray table up or down, and charge their devices at the same time.

With this set up, airlines could also install their own tray-table based inflight entertainment systems and bring in advertising revenue with targeted ads on-screen.
Read full article »