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PR: Despite Pandemic, IFC Terminal Installed Base in Business Aviation to Reach 32,000 by 2029

August 13, 2020 13:00 British Summer Time (BST)

London. A new report predicts strong take-up of in-flight connectivity (IFC) systems on business aircraft over the next ten years. According to Valour Consultancy, an award-winning provider of market intelligence services, the number of IFC terminals installed on business jets will rise to almost 32,000 in 2029 – up from 20,689 at the end of 2019.

The report – “The Market for IFEC and CMS on VVIP and Business Aircraft” – predicts a sharp drop-off in installation activity in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but sees the market picking up more quickly than commercial aviation. “Annual installations of IFC systems on business aircraft are set to fall by 28 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 said report author, Craig Foster. “While 2021 will be another tough year, the launch of several new solutions will provide impetus. Deployments from SmartSky Networks, Iridium (with Certus) and SES/Collins Aerospace (LuxStream) are all expected to ramp up at this point in time. Intelsat and Satcom Direct will resume new installs for the FlexExec service too” he continued.

Foster also highlights how the market could benefit from current and ongoing airline capacity reductions and people looking less favourably on travelling through crowded airports and in cramped commercial aircraft cabins. “So-called health corridors are starting to emerge as increased interest in flying privately from those who haven’t previously done so acts as a catalyst of the recovery. Many fractional providers are reporting that recent months have seen record enquiries from new customers. We also expect to see more business jets being used by corporations to transport employees beyond the C-suite to protect them from COVID-19 and recent moves to create more flexible business models will help support these added users” said Foster.

The report also takes a look at the closely-related markets for in-flight entertainment (IFE) and cabin management systems (CMS). Due to the higher costs associated with installation of these systems and private aircraft owners and operators said to be prioritising IFC when pulling back on discretionary spend, the impact of the outbreak is expected to be more profound in 2020 and 2021. “While IFE/CMS vendors have been harder hit, the adoption of wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and full CMS functionality on smaller aircraft like small cabin jets and turboprops is expected to increase, expanding the total addressable market beyond the mid- to large-cabin aircraft that have long been the staple of the market” concluded Foster.

Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Market for IFEC and CMS on VVIP and Business Aircraft – 2020 Edition is the newest addition to the firm’s highly-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 85 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment.

Contact: info@valourconsultancy.com

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A new report predicts strong take-up of in-flight connectivity (IFC) systems on business aircraft over the next ten years. According to Valour Consultancy, an award-winning provider of market intelligence services, the number of IFC terminals installed on business jets will rise to almost 32,000 in 2029 – up from 20,689 at the end of 2019. The report – “The Market for IFEC and CMS on VVIP and Business Aircraft” – predicts a sharp drop-off in installation activity in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but sees the market picking up more quickly than commercial aviation. “Annual installations of IFC systems on business aircraft are set to fall by 28 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 said report author, Craig Foster. “While 2021 will be another tough year, the launch of several new solutions will provide impetus. Deployments from SmartSky Networks, Iridium (with Certus) and SES/Collins Aerospace (LuxStream) are all expected to ramp up at this point in time. Intelsat and Satcom Direct will resume new installs for the FlexExec service too” he continued. Foster also highlights how the market could benefit from current and ongoing airline capacity reductions and people looking less favourably on travelling through crowded airports and in cramped commercial aircraft cabins. “So-called health corridors are starting to emerge as increased interest in flying privately from those who haven’t previously done so acts as a catalyst of the recovery. Many fractional providers are reporting that recent months have seen record enquiries from new customers. We also expect to see more business jets being used by corporations to transport employees beyond the C-suite to protect them from COVID-19 and recent moves to create more flexible business models will help support these added users” said Foster. The report also takes a look at the closely-related markets for in-flight entertainment (IFE) and cabin management systems (CMS). Due to the higher costs associated with installation of these systems and private aircraft owners and operators said to be prioritising IFC when pulling back on discretionary spend, the impact of the outbreak is expected to be more profound in 2020 and 2021. “While IFE/CMS vendors have been harder hit, the adoption of wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and full CMS functionality on smaller aircraft like small cabin jets and turboprops is expected to increase, expanding the total addressable market beyond the mid- to large-cabin aircraft that have long been the staple of the market” concluded Foster. Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Market for IFEC and CMS on VVIP and Business Aircraft – 2020 Edition is the newest addition to the firm’s highly-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 85 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment. Contact: info@valourconsultancy.com [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Re-Imagining the Passenger Experience in a Post Coronavirus World

Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus.

It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology.

While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with.

This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens.

New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with.

Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise.

More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash.

The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board.

One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited?

The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor?

While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed.

Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards.

There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open.

Stay safe and healthy!

Valour Consultancy

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5303|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/12c51ea9ed7611a127aa27f26be64ef1e9390fd9-scaled-e1585144762134.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="none" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus. It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology. While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with. This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens. New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with. Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise. More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash. The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board. One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited? The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor? While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed. Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards. There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open. Stay safe and healthy! Valour Consultancy [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ATG to Drive Adoption of In-Flight Connectivity in China

Mainland China has been unanimously pegged as the next big growth area in the global In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) market for some time now. The country’s aviation sector continues to grow at pace and local airlines possess largely unconnected fleets of almost 3,700 aircraft, 85 per cent of which are single aisle. According to our most recent Quarterly IFC Tracker, 168 aircraft registered to airlines in Mainland China (all wide-body) offered passenger connectivity at the end of March 2019; just 5% of the commercial active fleet.

One could be forgiven for assuming Chinese airlines will follow the lead of others, globally, and opt for satellite connectivity. Afterall, much of the limited IFC-related activity to date has been around bringing satellite-based solutions to market, including recent tie-ups between Viasat and China Satcom, and Honeywell and local service provider Air Esurfing. Furthermore, Panasonic Avionics’ Ku-band solution, which is installed on almost every Chinese aircraft equipped with IFC today, is expected to remain relevant in the coming years thanks to the company’s investment in the APSTAR 6D HTS satellite. But it seems increasingly likely that airlines in Mainland China will be presented with an alternative to satellite-based IFC in the form of China Mobile’s proposed 5G Air-To-Ground network.

China is one of a few countries that can be considered a natural fit for an ATG network. After all, it is the fourth largest in the world, in terms of landmass (behind the U.S., Canada and Russia) and the volume of aviation traffic operating within Chinese borders continues to rise; an estimated 75 per cent of narrow-body aircraft registered to local airlines operate routes exclusively within Mainland borders. Beyond these factors, the broader benefits of ATG over satellite-based solutions, specifically reduced downtime and installation costs, would no doubt appeal to those Tier 2 and 3 airlines unlikely to install a Ku- or Ka-band solution.

With the above in mind, it is no surprise various companies, such as Beijing Weibang Yuanhang Wireless Technology Co., Ltd (Weibang) and China Telecom Satellite have trialled small-scale networks in recent years. The latter is understood to still have 32 towers active and ready to go pending regulatory approval, which to date remains allusive.

In 2018, China Mobile joined this list, successfully trialling a 4G LTE network consisting of 52 ground base stations positioned across a number of high traffic routes. Now, the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is understood to be working toward launching a full blown 5G ATG network, which will leverage a large chunk of spectrum in the 4.8-4.9 GHz band.

In our most recent report “IFC in China, India and Russia – 2019”, we have put our neck on the line to suggest this ATG concept will succeed where others have failed and become commercially active. But what is it about this proposal that stands out from those before it? For us, there are several factors.

  • China Mobile is the largest in the world, boasting 931 million mobile subscribers (as of March 2019), all of which would likely benefit from the in-flight service, driving take-rates.
  • China Mobile is a state-owned entity, a status that at the very least could speed up the regulatory process associated with launching its proposed network.
  • Crucially, Chinese aviation regulator, the CAAC, seems to be behind the proposal too, having been part of the initial 4G LTE trial in 2018 and subsequently talking up China Mobile’s intentions in a paper published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October 2018.
  • Finally, China Mobile has surrounded itself with good company. In 2018, it partnered with the Chinese R&D subsidiary of Airbus to develop an end-to-end 5G ATG solution and a month later Chinese heavyweight, Huawei, was brought into the fold to work on the associated terminal.

But whilst there appears to be a number of factors in China Mobile’s favour, it is also important to acknowledge that some significant hurdles lie ahead. Firstly, to justify its existence, the proposed network would have to attract at least one of the major airlines, such as China Southern, China Eastern, Air China or Hainan Airlines. Whilst there appears to be genuine interest from Tier one airlines, a formal decision will likely require proof of service quality. This will understandably take time.

More fundamentally, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) will need convincing that its concerns around the network’s frequency interference with sovereign military and space applications are unfounded. Whilst this is not expected to put an end to China Mobile’s proposal, it looks likely to delay a commercial launch beyond the MNO’s suggested 2021 launch, with 2022/23 a more realistic time-frame.

Clearly then, there is still some way to go before China Mobile’s proposed ATG network becomes a reality and there is every chance this could be yet another trial that doesn’t ever make the jump to a commercially viable solution. However, the genuine momentum which seems to be building behind this concept makes it difficult to ignore when thinking about the future of IFC in China. All factors point toward this ATG proposal being the one which becomes a reality. Assuming all goes to plan for China Mobile in the next couple of years, we estimate the installed base of ATG in Mainland China will reach approximately 1,300 aircraft by the end of 2028.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4841|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/china-654405_1280.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text] Mainland China has been unanimously pegged as the next big growth area in the global In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) market for some time now. The country’s aviation sector continues to grow at pace and local airlines possess largely unconnected fleets of almost 3,700 aircraft, 85 per cent of which are single aisle. According to our most recent Quarterly IFC Tracker, 168 aircraft registered to airlines in Mainland China (all wide-body) offered passenger connectivity at the end of March 2019; just 5% of the commercial active fleet. One could be forgiven for assuming Chinese airlines will follow the lead of others, globally, and opt for satellite connectivity. Afterall, much of the limited IFC-related activity to date has been around bringing satellite-based solutions to market, including recent tie-ups between Viasat and China Satcom, and Honeywell and local service provider Air Esurfing. Furthermore, Panasonic Avionics’ Ku-band solution, which is installed on almost every Chinese aircraft equipped with IFC today, is expected to remain relevant in the coming years thanks to the company’s investment in the APSTAR 6D HTS satellite. But it seems increasingly likely that airlines in Mainland China will be presented with an alternative to satellite-based IFC in the form of China Mobile’s proposed 5G Air-To-Ground network. China is one of a few countries that can be considered a natural fit for an ATG network. After all, it is the fourth largest in the world, in terms of landmass (behind the U.S., Canada and Russia) and the volume of aviation traffic operating within Chinese borders continues to rise; an estimated 75 per cent of narrow-body aircraft registered to local airlines operate routes exclusively within Mainland borders. Beyond these factors, the broader benefits of ATG over satellite-based solutions, specifically reduced downtime and installation costs, would no doubt appeal to those Tier 2 and 3 airlines unlikely to install a Ku- or Ka-band solution. With the above in mind, it is no surprise various companies, such as Beijing Weibang Yuanhang Wireless Technology Co., Ltd (Weibang) and China Telecom Satellite have trialled small-scale networks in recent years. The latter is understood to still have 32 towers active and ready to go pending regulatory approval, which to date remains allusive. In 2018, China Mobile joined this list, successfully trialling a 4G LTE network consisting of 52 ground base stations positioned across a number of high traffic routes. Now, the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is understood to be working toward launching a full blown 5G ATG network, which will leverage a large chunk of spectrum in the 4.8-4.9 GHz band. In our most recent report “IFC in China, India and Russia – 2019”, we have put our neck on the line to suggest this ATG concept will succeed where others have failed and become commercially active. But what is it about this proposal that stands out from those before it? For us, there are several factors.
  • China Mobile is the largest in the world, boasting 931 million mobile subscribers (as of March 2019), all of which would likely benefit from the in-flight service, driving take-rates.
  • China Mobile is a state-owned entity, a status that at the very least could speed up the regulatory process associated with launching its proposed network.
  • Crucially, Chinese aviation regulator, the CAAC, seems to be behind the proposal too, having been part of the initial 4G LTE trial in 2018 and subsequently talking up China Mobile’s intentions in a paper published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October 2018.
  • Finally, China Mobile has surrounded itself with good company. In 2018, it partnered with the Chinese R&D subsidiary of Airbus to develop an end-to-end 5G ATG solution and a month later Chinese heavyweight, Huawei, was brought into the fold to work on the associated terminal.
But whilst there appears to be a number of factors in China Mobile’s favour, it is also important to acknowledge that some significant hurdles lie ahead. Firstly, to justify its existence, the proposed network would have to attract at least one of the major airlines, such as China Southern, China Eastern, Air China or Hainan Airlines. Whilst there appears to be genuine interest from Tier one airlines, a formal decision will likely require proof of service quality. This will understandably take time. More fundamentally, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) will need convincing that its concerns around the network’s frequency interference with sovereign military and space applications are unfounded. Whilst this is not expected to put an end to China Mobile’s proposal, it looks likely to delay a commercial launch beyond the MNO’s suggested 2021 launch, with 2022/23 a more realistic time-frame. Clearly then, there is still some way to go before China Mobile’s proposed ATG network becomes a reality and there is every chance this could be yet another trial that doesn’t ever make the jump to a commercially viable solution. However, the genuine momentum which seems to be building behind this concept makes it difficult to ignore when thinking about the future of IFC in China. All factors point toward this ATG proposal being the one which becomes a reality. Assuming all goes to plan for China Mobile in the next couple of years, we estimate the installed base of ATG in Mainland China will reach approximately 1,300 aircraft by the end of 2028. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

More Compelling Use Cases Needed to Stimulate Next Wave of IFC Adoption

Earlier this year, I wrote an article which spoke about the industry entering a phase of action rather than talk as various service providers set to work on backlogs built up in recent years. This process began as 2017 came to a close and has continued throughout 2018. A notable and perhaps worrying side effect has been a relative lack of new IFC announcements compared to previous years. With 2019 predicted to be another quiet year as far as announcements go, the key question is why the slowdown and what is needed to bring back momentum?

The majority of early adopters and what might be considered “low hanging fruit” are already offering, or are in the process of rolling out IFC services. According to our quarterly IFC tracker, 91 airlines offered passenger Wi-Fi at the end of June 2018, with many more under contract. There are a significant number of commercial airlines still to target, but the pool of unconnected aircraft is becoming increasingly concentrated with operators that are unconvinced of the business case for IFC and/or cannot afford the upfront CAPEX and subsequent OPEX.

Swaying those that remain unconvinced would perhaps be easier with strong user-cases, but publicly available compelling examples exist today. It is reasonable to assume continued challenges around service consistency, passenger uptake and cost are a factor behind the lack of positive headlines. Average IFC take-rates continue to hover around 5-8% when a paid model is in place, which most airlines feel they must implement to recoup the costs associated with high ongoing service fees. This, in turn, dampens potential ancillary revenue generation from the sale of session passes. For those passengers willing to pay, service consistency is often not where it should be, compounding the issue and causing some airlines to shy away from marketing their IFC service to passengers. Not necessarily the headlines prospective airline customers want to hear.

Of the success stories that have gained traction, the case which arguably stands out the most is Jetblue’s free service with Viasat, mostly because it is one of a few that is endorsed by the airline, passengers and the industry. It also demonstrates how the airline monetised IFC, in this case through its (now scaled back) partnership with Amazon.

With new announcements seemingly on pause, there is a need for more success stories, but first airlines must define what monetising IFC looks like to them and build a strategy around that. It can be easy to assume the answer is for airlines to offer Wi-Fi for free to all passengers. Indeed, IFC take-rates tend to jump to up to around 40% when doing so. But sponsors are proving hard to convince (discussed below) and even if this weren’t the case, the economics of the freemium model doesn’t always stack up today. IFC services would become unusable or cost the airline a small fortune if every passenger on board was to connect. Such a situation would only add more strain on those in the middle layer of the IFC value chain.

Many airlines, therefore, face the decision of charging passengers to access the Internet or absorbing the cost associated with a free service. A tough one to explain to stakeholders looking for a quick return on investment (ROI) – especially now the price of jet fuel is once again marching northward. But airlines are finding ways to limit losses and at the same time find alternative ways to justify ROI beyond simply selling session passes. Some of these approaches are discussed below:

Retaining Top-Tier Customers

Many carriers offer free IFC to frequent and top-tier flyers as a value-added service. In this case, the cost of providing the free service is justified by passenger satisfaction metrics and repeat business.

Increase or Maintain Ticket Sales

More carriers, such as All Nippon Airways, NOK Air and Japan Airlines, offer free Wi-Fi specifically on short-haul/domestic flights to stand out in increasingly competitive local markets. In these circumstances, the cost of providing a free service is assumed to be absorbed in ticket sales.

Tiered Pricing

Where completely free services cannot be accommodated, airlines are deploying tiered packages that allow passengers to access low-bandwidth applications, such as messaging apps, or a “slower” connection for free. Charges are applied to access faster services. This model is similar to what we see on the ground, in hotels for example, and ensures passengers can still surf for free whilst costly data hogs are charged accordingly for using more data.

Sponsorship/Advertising Revenue

An ideal situation for airlines is generating a revenue stream from advertising or sponsorship. This is a path most airlines would like to take, however, very few have made this work. Brands will only come to the fore if they feel there will be enough eyeballs on the screen and this is challenging for airlines with small fleets and for those that achieve IFC take-rates in the low single-digits. Ironically, sponsorship typically frees up airlines to offer a free service in some capacity, increasing take rates and making it an even more attractive offer for brands. But getting over the initial hurdle of demonstrating the ROI to potential advertisers and sponsors is a difficult task.

Cost Savings Through Operational Efficiencies

Some airlines are beginning to offset the cost of providing IFC by moving operational data, such as real-time weather updates, maintenance data and real-time payment verification, over the passenger connectivity pipe. Similarly, crew devices are being connected so that CRM databases can be mined in real-time to enhance the passenger experience and leave a lasting impression. Despite much commentary around the large operational savings that can be made through IFC, few airlines are advanced in their approach to the connected aircraft. But that will change over time and we expect the nose-to-tail story to increasingly resonate – especially amongst notoriously cost-conscious LCCs. Any IFC system that can promise significant savings, or ‘pay for itself’ will almost certainly be of interest.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4858|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/plane-841441_1280-min-1024x680-1.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text]Earlier this year, I wrote an article which spoke about the industry entering a phase of action rather than talk as various service providers set to work on backlogs built up in recent years. This process began as 2017 came to a close and has continued throughout 2018. A notable and perhaps worrying side effect has been a relative lack of new IFC announcements compared to previous years. With 2019 predicted to be another quiet year as far as announcements go, the key question is why the slowdown and what is needed to bring back momentum? The majority of early adopters and what might be considered “low hanging fruit” are already offering, or are in the process of rolling out IFC services. According to our quarterly IFC tracker, 91 airlines offered passenger Wi-Fi at the end of June 2018, with many more under contract. There are a significant number of commercial airlines still to target, but the pool of unconnected aircraft is becoming increasingly concentrated with operators that are unconvinced of the business case for IFC and/or cannot afford the upfront CAPEX and subsequent OPEX. Swaying those that remain unconvinced would perhaps be easier with strong user-cases, but publicly available compelling examples exist today. It is reasonable to assume continued challenges around service consistency, passenger uptake and cost are a factor behind the lack of positive headlines. Average IFC take-rates continue to hover around 5-8% when a paid model is in place, which most airlines feel they must implement to recoup the costs associated with high ongoing service fees. This, in turn, dampens potential ancillary revenue generation from the sale of session passes. For those passengers willing to pay, service consistency is often not where it should be, compounding the issue and causing some airlines to shy away from marketing their IFC service to passengers. Not necessarily the headlines prospective airline customers want to hear. Of the success stories that have gained traction, the case which arguably stands out the most is Jetblue’s free service with Viasat, mostly because it is one of a few that is endorsed by the airline, passengers and the industry. It also demonstrates how the airline monetised IFC, in this case through its (now scaled back) partnership with Amazon. With new announcements seemingly on pause, there is a need for more success stories, but first airlines must define what monetising IFC looks like to them and build a strategy around that. It can be easy to assume the answer is for airlines to offer Wi-Fi for free to all passengers. Indeed, IFC take-rates tend to jump to up to around 40% when doing so. But sponsors are proving hard to convince (discussed below) and even if this weren’t the case, the economics of the freemium model doesn’t always stack up today. IFC services would become unusable or cost the airline a small fortune if every passenger on board was to connect. Such a situation would only add more strain on those in the middle layer of the IFC value chain. Many airlines, therefore, face the decision of charging passengers to access the Internet or absorbing the cost associated with a free service. A tough one to explain to stakeholders looking for a quick return on investment (ROI) – especially now the price of jet fuel is once again marching northward. But airlines are finding ways to limit losses and at the same time find alternative ways to justify ROI beyond simply selling session passes. Some of these approaches are discussed below: Retaining Top-Tier Customers Many carriers offer free IFC to frequent and top-tier flyers as a value-added service. In this case, the cost of providing the free service is justified by passenger satisfaction metrics and repeat business. Increase or Maintain Ticket Sales More carriers, such as All Nippon Airways, NOK Air and Japan Airlines, offer free Wi-Fi specifically on short-haul/domestic flights to stand out in increasingly competitive local markets. In these circumstances, the cost of providing a free service is assumed to be absorbed in ticket sales. Tiered Pricing Where completely free services cannot be accommodated, airlines are deploying tiered packages that allow passengers to access low-bandwidth applications, such as messaging apps, or a “slower” connection for free. Charges are applied to access faster services. This model is similar to what we see on the ground, in hotels for example, and ensures passengers can still surf for free whilst costly data hogs are charged accordingly for using more data. Sponsorship/Advertising Revenue An ideal situation for airlines is generating a revenue stream from advertising or sponsorship. This is a path most airlines would like to take, however, very few have made this work. Brands will only come to the fore if they feel there will be enough eyeballs on the screen and this is challenging for airlines with small fleets and for those that achieve IFC take-rates in the low single-digits. Ironically, sponsorship typically frees up airlines to offer a free service in some capacity, increasing take rates and making it an even more attractive offer for brands. But getting over the initial hurdle of demonstrating the ROI to potential advertisers and sponsors is a difficult task. Cost Savings Through Operational Efficiencies Some airlines are beginning to offset the cost of providing IFC by moving operational data, such as real-time weather updates, maintenance data and real-time payment verification, over the passenger connectivity pipe. Similarly, crew devices are being connected so that CRM databases can be mined in real-time to enhance the passenger experience and leave a lasting impression. Despite much commentary around the large operational savings that can be made through IFC, few airlines are advanced in their approach to the connected aircraft. But that will change over time and we expect the nose-to-tail story to increasingly resonate – especially amongst notoriously cost-conscious LCCs. Any IFC system that can promise significant savings, or ‘pay for itself’ will almost certainly be of interest.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

How Airlines are Catering to Millennials

Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are a demographic cohort referred to by some as the “Me, Me, Me Generation” – lazy, constantly seeking feedback and prone to jumping from job to job. Others see a group of liberal and upbeat people brimming with confidence and self-expression, who are most receptive to new ideas and ways of living. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, one undeniable trait of millennials is their enormous purchasing power.

For this reason, millennials are one of the most talked about and disruptive generations for businesses globally. Companies, some of which have been household names for generations, have had to fundamentally shift their company culture, redesign products and services, and adopt new, fluid sales channels to resonate with this increasingly important group. Airlines are no exception.

Take Joon, Air France’s new low-cost subsidiary, as an example. The airline launched last year and promises to offer “a global travel experience” as opposed to just a flight and a fare. Part of this experience, somewhat bizarrely, involves a troupe of flight attendants decked out in resplendent white trainers, blazers with rolled up sleeves, polo shirts and ankle-length trousers. However, the “experience” element of the new brand goes a little deeper than a chic uniform. All-too-aware that millennials have grown up with an unmatched presence of technology in their lives, Joon has crafted its in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) offering accordingly.

First, all seats are equipped with USB ports to allow in-flight charging of personal electronic devices (PEDs). While this is by no means unique, it does point to an understanding that in-flight Internet and wireless content streaming – both of which are being offered by Joon – go hand-in-hand with in-seat power. After all, who boards a plane with a smartphone or tablet that is fully charged? Millennials, who are the likeliest of all to have been glued to their phone on the way to the airport, at the airport, and in the departure lounge, cannot be expected to interact with on-board connectivity if their pocket friends are low on juice! Unfortunately, wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and in-flight connectivity (IFC) are often deployed without any means to charge the devices that would be used to access these services.

Level, the low-cost arm of the International Airlines Group (IAG), has also put technology at the forefront of its marketing strategy. Its new on-board payment solution, Pair and Play, allows passengers to pay for food, drinks, Wi-Fi, amenity kits and duty-free goods by pairing their mobile devices to the seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. According to Level, its passengers are largely millennials flying long-haul for the first time and being able to pay from their own device is a way for them to have more control of their own experience.

The word “experience” always features prominently in any marketing spiel explaining an airline’s approach to building rapport with millennials. The theory being that millennials, more so than any other demographic, are driven by an experience and being able to share that experience in the moment on social media. And this, in turn, drives greater recognition of the brand among the target audience and with it, customer loyalty and increased revenue.

Delta Air Lines has noticed younger consumers tend to prefer experiences rather than tactile goods, although it favours the term “Emerging High-Value Customers” (eHVCs) over “millennials”. The Georgia-based carrier sees eHVCs as being much more likely to purchase premium products that will enhance their travel experience and has embarked upon a strategy to attract these high-yield future consumers at an early stage. This is why it has placed so much emphasis on the provision of IFC (more than 1,000 planes are now equipped; many with Gogo’s high-speed 2Ku offering) as a way to take business from competitors who offer slow, unreliable Wi-Fi, or no Wi-Fi at all.

JetBlue Airways would doubtless agree about the importance of good-quality in-flight Internet. Its awarded-winning Fly-Fi service has proven extremely popular and has been credited with boosting the airline’s Net Promoter Score, which is a loyalty metric that measures a customer’s willingness to not only return for another purchase, but also make a recommendation to their family, friends or colleagues. Of course, JetBlue offers customers Fly-Fi for free, and very few airlines do that right now for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, the tech-savvy millennial is used to ubiquitous and free connectivity on the ground, so why should the aeroplane be any different? JetBlue has sought to offset the considerable costs involved with providing complementary IFC – its sponsorship with Amazon brings in valuable revenues and helps underpin the business model.

We are also seeing airlines having to adapt to the way in which millennials engage with content. American Airlines’ decision to forego seatback screens in favour of W-IFE on its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in mid-2017 raised questions from some about the future of traditional embedded systems. However, many carriers are installing W-IFE alongside seatback screens, especially on their long-haul aircraft. Philippine Airlines, for example, re-introduced embedded IFE systems onto its A330 aircraft in 2017, alongside ONAIR play, its W-IFE solution. One reason for this trend is to allow for ‘second-screening’, a habit most prevalent amongst millennials where people commonly use their PEDs while watching another screen.

Data science company, Black Swan Data, helped the aforementioned Level take second screening a stage further by enabling pairing of a PED directly to the seat-back system via Pair and Play. JetBlue, meanwhile, is using NFC as a binding technology on its newly-restyled A320s. This allows passengers to use their own devices as remote controls/gaming controllers, port Android-based applications and also, stream content to seatback displays.

IFE content is also changing to meet the needs of a younger audience rather than the baby-boomer generation as has been the case in years gone by. On wide-body aircraft, which typically fly routes long enough for people to watch a Hollywood movie, a growing proportion of the video content available is shorter-form with drama series, documentaries and long-running comedy shows becoming more and more popular. Medieval fantasy epic, Game of Thrones, political dramas like House of Cards, and zombie-apocalyptic horror, The Walking Dead, have all gained cult-like status in recent years and represent examples of the content today’s connected generation are enjoying on the ground. In addition, some companies have begun aggregating YouTube and Vimeo shorter snackable video content and offering customised TV channels to airlines. With this demographic expecting connectivity in the air to be more like it is on the ground, it makes sense that the content they view in the air should be of a similar nature to the content they view in their homes.

Next-generation IFEC systems are being architected so that passengers can create and sign into an IFEC account using their social media credentials, and with permission, these systems can learn even more about passengers from their online profile(s) or even the types of emails they send and receive. As a result, it becomes possible to present ads and content that are more compelling, rather than the same thing across the entire cabin. And this is what the millennial passenger expects – most actually embrace recommendation engines from the likes of Amazon and Netflix.

This familiarity with Amazon and Netflix also has an impact on the way in which GUIs are being designed. A good UI should be pretty, intuitive, snappy and put as little space as possible between the passenger and what he or she wants to watch. Delta Air Lines and Turkish Airlines have undoubtedly taken cues from the VOD giants with their recent GUI redesigns. The former’s new look IFE aims to bring important content to the highest levels for ease of access and feel “more like interacting with an iPhone.” The latter’s is the result of a study conducted by professional usability and user experience laboratories. One of the major updates is category filtering for movies or ratings of TV shows and movies from well-known database, Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

And there is much more to come. Virtual Reality (VR) is experiencing a second coming and is a technology many airlines are looking into today. Intriguingly, VR plays to the perceived traits of millennials as it allows passengers to escape the confines of the cabin and therefore the awkward conversation with a stranger, or family member, millennials supposedly prefer to avoid. Joon has committed to deploying SkyLights’ second-generation cinematic VR headset, AlloSky, this year.

In the coming years, we can expect to see more airlines redefine their brand, processes and service to capture the loyalty of millennials. This will become increasingly important and evident as the influence of millennials on economies across the world strengthens. One need only look to the much-changed retail sector and the disruption caused by Amazon to see that the adoption of technology will be fundamental to airlines delivering a passenger experience worth sharing and coming back for.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4920|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Millennials-1024x530-1.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text] Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are a demographic cohort referred to by some as the “Me, Me, Me Generation” – lazy, constantly seeking feedback and prone to jumping from job to job. Others see a group of liberal and upbeat people brimming with confidence and self-expression, who are most receptive to new ideas and ways of living. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, one undeniable trait of millennials is their enormous purchasing power. For this reason, millennials are one of the most talked about and disruptive generations for businesses globally. Companies, some of which have been household names for generations, have had to fundamentally shift their company culture, redesign products and services, and adopt new, fluid sales channels to resonate with this increasingly important group. Airlines are no exception. Take Joon, Air France’s new low-cost subsidiary, as an example. The airline launched last year and promises to offer “a global travel experience” as opposed to just a flight and a fare. Part of this experience, somewhat bizarrely, involves a troupe of flight attendants decked out in resplendent white trainers, blazers with rolled up sleeves, polo shirts and ankle-length trousers. However, the “experience” element of the new brand goes a little deeper than a chic uniform. All-too-aware that millennials have grown up with an unmatched presence of technology in their lives, Joon has crafted its in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) offering accordingly. First, all seats are equipped with USB ports to allow in-flight charging of personal electronic devices (PEDs). While this is by no means unique, it does point to an understanding that in-flight Internet and wireless content streaming – both of which are being offered by Joon – go hand-in-hand with in-seat power. After all, who boards a plane with a smartphone or tablet that is fully charged? Millennials, who are the likeliest of all to have been glued to their phone on the way to the airport, at the airport, and in the departure lounge, cannot be expected to interact with on-board connectivity if their pocket friends are low on juice! Unfortunately, wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and in-flight connectivity (IFC) are often deployed without any means to charge the devices that would be used to access these services. Level, the low-cost arm of the International Airlines Group (IAG), has also put technology at the forefront of its marketing strategy. Its new on-board payment solution, Pair and Play, allows passengers to pay for food, drinks, Wi-Fi, amenity kits and duty-free goods by pairing their mobile devices to the seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. According to Level, its passengers are largely millennials flying long-haul for the first time and being able to pay from their own device is a way for them to have more control of their own experience. The word “experience” always features prominently in any marketing spiel explaining an airline’s approach to building rapport with millennials. The theory being that millennials, more so than any other demographic, are driven by an experience and being able to share that experience in the moment on social media. And this, in turn, drives greater recognition of the brand among the target audience and with it, customer loyalty and increased revenue. Delta Air Lines has noticed younger consumers tend to prefer experiences rather than tactile goods, although it favours the term “Emerging High-Value Customers” (eHVCs) over “millennials”. The Georgia-based carrier sees eHVCs as being much more likely to purchase premium products that will enhance their travel experience and has embarked upon a strategy to attract these high-yield future consumers at an early stage. This is why it has placed so much emphasis on the provision of IFC (more than 1,000 planes are now equipped; many with Gogo’s high-speed 2Ku offering) as a way to take business from competitors who offer slow, unreliable Wi-Fi, or no Wi-Fi at all. JetBlue Airways would doubtless agree about the importance of good-quality in-flight Internet. Its awarded-winning Fly-Fi service has proven extremely popular and has been credited with boosting the airline’s Net Promoter Score, which is a loyalty metric that measures a customer’s willingness to not only return for another purchase, but also make a recommendation to their family, friends or colleagues. Of course, JetBlue offers customers Fly-Fi for free, and very few airlines do that right now for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, the tech-savvy millennial is used to ubiquitous and free connectivity on the ground, so why should the aeroplane be any different? JetBlue has sought to offset the considerable costs involved with providing complementary IFC – its sponsorship with Amazon brings in valuable revenues and helps underpin the business model. We are also seeing airlines having to adapt to the way in which millennials engage with content. American Airlines’ decision to forego seatback screens in favour of W-IFE on its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in mid-2017 raised questions from some about the future of traditional embedded systems. However, many carriers are installing W-IFE alongside seatback screens, especially on their long-haul aircraft. Philippine Airlines, for example, re-introduced embedded IFE systems onto its A330 aircraft in 2017, alongside ONAIR play, its W-IFE solution. One reason for this trend is to allow for ‘second-screening’, a habit most prevalent amongst millennials where people commonly use their PEDs while watching another screen. Data science company, Black Swan Data, helped the aforementioned Level take second screening a stage further by enabling pairing of a PED directly to the seat-back system via Pair and Play. JetBlue, meanwhile, is using NFC as a binding technology on its newly-restyled A320s. This allows passengers to use their own devices as remote controls/gaming controllers, port Android-based applications and also, stream content to seatback displays. IFE content is also changing to meet the needs of a younger audience rather than the baby-boomer generation as has been the case in years gone by. On wide-body aircraft, which typically fly routes long enough for people to watch a Hollywood movie, a growing proportion of the video content available is shorter-form with drama series, documentaries and long-running comedy shows becoming more and more popular. Medieval fantasy epic, Game of Thrones, political dramas like House of Cards, and zombie-apocalyptic horror, The Walking Dead, have all gained cult-like status in recent years and represent examples of the content today’s connected generation are enjoying on the ground. In addition, some companies have begun aggregating YouTube and Vimeo shorter snackable video content and offering customised TV channels to airlines. With this demographic expecting connectivity in the air to be more like it is on the ground, it makes sense that the content they view in the air should be of a similar nature to the content they view in their homes. Next-generation IFEC systems are being architected so that passengers can create and sign into an IFEC account using their social media credentials, and with permission, these systems can learn even more about passengers from their online profile(s) or even the types of emails they send and receive. As a result, it becomes possible to present ads and content that are more compelling, rather than the same thing across the entire cabin. And this is what the millennial passenger expects – most actually embrace recommendation engines from the likes of Amazon and Netflix. This familiarity with Amazon and Netflix also has an impact on the way in which GUIs are being designed. A good UI should be pretty, intuitive, snappy and put as little space as possible between the passenger and what he or she wants to watch. Delta Air Lines and Turkish Airlines have undoubtedly taken cues from the VOD giants with their recent GUI redesigns. The former’s new look IFE aims to bring important content to the highest levels for ease of access and feel “more like interacting with an iPhone.” The latter’s is the result of a study conducted by professional usability and user experience laboratories. One of the major updates is category filtering for movies or ratings of TV shows and movies from well-known database, Internet Movie Database (IMDb). And there is much more to come. Virtual Reality (VR) is experiencing a second coming and is a technology many airlines are looking into today. Intriguingly, VR plays to the perceived traits of millennials as it allows passengers to escape the confines of the cabin and therefore the awkward conversation with a stranger, or family member, millennials supposedly prefer to avoid. Joon has committed to deploying SkyLights’ second-generation cinematic VR headset, AlloSky, this year. In the coming years, we can expect to see more airlines redefine their brand, processes and service to capture the loyalty of millennials. This will become increasingly important and evident as the influence of millennials on economies across the world strengthens. One need only look to the much-changed retail sector and the disruption caused by Amazon to see that the adoption of technology will be fundamental to airlines delivering a passenger experience worth sharing and coming back for. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Seat-back In-Flight Entertainment is NOT Dying!

It might not be a date that immediately evokes strong memories but cast your mind back, if you will, to January 25th, 2017. Donald Trump was just getting his feet under the White House desk after a shock election victory two months’ prior, Roger Federer was rolling back the years on his way to capturing a remarkable 18th grand slam at the Australian Open and, lest we forget, news outlets the world over were united in sounding the death knell for the humble seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.

And what prompted such proclamations I hear you ask? American Airlines revealed that it would be eschewing embedded IFE on new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in favour of wireless distribution of content to passengers’ own devices. Yes, the decision by one carrier not to offer the traditional seat-back IFE on one single aircraft type sent the media into a frenzy and resulted in headlines like these:

The death of in-flight entertainment? American Airlines scraps screens and tells fliers to bring their own” – The Telegraph

American Airlines to ditch seat back entertainment” – CNBC

American Airlines does away with seat-back entertainment” – The Economist

I could certainly understand the hullaballoo if American had come to such a decision for say, the 22 A350s it currently has on order, but that fact that it chose not to fit embedded IFE on some narrow-body aircraft is hardly revolutionary. Indeed, an estimated 45% of these aircraft roll off production lines without any form of IFE on board, and around one-third of the installed base still, somewhat surprisingly, carries drop-down screens (overhead IFE). It is therefore disingenuous in the extreme to imply that the adoption of wireless IFE (W-IFE) on aircraft that often don’t carry any form of IFE whatsoever is somehow tantamount to the imminent extinction of an entire class of product.

Today, nearly every single wide-body aircraft is delivered with a seat-back system and it would be much more revealing to look at whether W-IFE is making inroads into this market to establish whether a fundamental shift is taking place. The answer is that W-IFE is making inroads, but not at the expense of embedded IFE. In fact, many carriers are installing both W-IFE alongside seat-back screens on their long-haul aircraft. One reason for this is the emergence of second screening where people commonly use their personal electronic devices (PEDs) while watching another screen – a trend most prevalent amongst millennials who are accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of travellers.

Interestingly, it is Philippine Airlines (PAL), which might provide a clue as to how the industry may shake out in the not-too-distant future. Back in 2014, the carrier drew widespread criticism and mixed reviews for choosing to jettison embedded IFE on much of its long-haul fleet. Instead, PAL fitted its A330s and A340s with SITAONAIR’s ONAIR Play W-IFE offering and was heralded as the “poster boy” for the new class of streaming systems making their way to market. Fast forward to January 23rd, 2017 – a mere two days before American Airlines made shockwaves – and PAL quietly announced the return of embedded Audio/Video On-Demand (AVOD) systems on its A330s. The reader should note that its A340s are in the process of being phased out, while ONAIR Play will still be offered on the A330s, as well as on the carrier’s short-haul aircraft.

The bottom line is that when it comes to the death of embedded IFE, we’ve heard it all before. The re-birth of IFC following the demise of Connexion by Boeing in the mid-2000s was supposed to usher in a new era of in-cabin entertainment whereby passengers could stream to their hearts’ content. While the likes of JetBlue Airways, Aeromexico and QANTAS have, in recent years, struck deals with Amazon Prime (in the case of the former) and Netflix (in the case of the latter two) that allow passengers to do just this using new high-speed connectivity pipes, all continue to maintain the latest seat-back screens.

The key reason W-IFE will not cannibalise a significant chunk of the classic IFE market in the next ten years is down to the fact that almost every single wide-body is ordered with an embedded system way in advance of actual delivery. Furthermore, major Gulf carriers have indicated that they fully intend to offer seat-back screens well into the future. Emirates, for example, will install seat-back IFE on the 150 Boeing 777X aircraft that will start to enter its fleet in 2020. As long as these luxury brands continue to offer embedded systems, other flag carriers will be compelled to do likewise in order to be seen as on the cutting edge of in-cabin technology.

Another roadblock that W-IFE vendors seeking to smash into the wide-body market need to surmount is the restriction on the streaming of early window content (EWC) to passenger PEDs. Though some vendors are keen to underplay the value of EWC, passengers have come to expect that they will be able to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters on medium- and long-haul flights. To put this into perspective, Rodrigo Llaguno, Customer Experience Corporate Vice President at Aeromexico recently revealed that the airline had expected a higher take-up of passengers watching Netflix and was surprised when data revealed that people were actually watching more EWC. Regardless of the availability of EWC, there is an extremely long way to go before IFC technology can support streaming of web-based content to multiple seats on multiple aircraft and at a price that is palatable to passengers.

Relying on the bring your own device (BYOD) model has several other pitfalls. One is the assumption that passengers will bring onboard devices that are either fully charged, or contain sufficient charge for them to interact with the IFC/W-IFE systems for a sizeable portion of the flight. With many travellers now using their smartphones throughout their journey to store mobile boarding passes and to help them navigate through airports, as well as for general use, the need to re-charge on board is higher than ever. Unless PED battery life improves dramatically in coming years, in-seat power should almost always be installed alongside W-IFE and IFC. However, in-seat power comes with significant weight and cost penalties and weight and cost are, of course, two key considerations when carriers make the decision to ditch embedded systems in the first place.

Because most seats do not feature a method to keep PEDs upright and at a favourable viewing angle, passengers generally hold smartphones or tablets in their hands while resting their arms on the tray table. When watching a movie or television show for a long period of time, this can quickly result in neck and/or wrist ache. Additionally, the moment food and drink items arrive is the moment this valued arm rest takes on another purpose. Though a number of vendors have developed PED holders designed to overcome these issues, there is still plenty of room for innovation as pointed out by John Walton in this informative article on Runway Girl Network.

The recent electronics ban also highlighted the vulnerability of the W-IFE market to the ongoing fight against terrorism. Though it has now been partially lifted, any future return or extension of the ban (to smaller devices) would undoubtedly be extremely favourable to the future of seat-back systems.

For these reasons, it is hard to imagine seat-back IFE disappearing on long-range aircraft anytime soon. Rather than replacement technologies, W-IFE and IFC should be viewed as complimentary to embedded IFE. Entertainment can be amplified by connectivity, which can be viewed as a gateway to endless media and content options for everyone. Indeed, true personalisation of content and ads cannot be achieved without real-time connectivity off of the aircraft. Thus, it might be said that where there was once IFE, there will also now be IFC and where IFC existed on its own, there are opportunities too for IFE, whether wireless of wired.

Like PAL, Delta is another interesting test case. As well as providing IFC on many of its aircraft, it has also gone fleet-wide with the Gogo Vision-based “Delta Studio” W-IFE system. Whether passengers ultimately prefer to use this, the embedded system or a mixture of the two will offer insight into how the industry will develop.

Valour Consultancy is currently developing two new reports that delve more deeply into these trends. “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment – 2017” quantifies the market for four types of IFE system (embedded, wireless, overhead and portable) and provides forecasts for the growth of each. “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment Content – 2017” looks at how the demand for content is changing, particularly on routes where the flight time is shorter than the length of a typical movie.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4932|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/IFE.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text] It might not be a date that immediately evokes strong memories but cast your mind back, if you will, to January 25th, 2017. Donald Trump was just getting his feet under the White House desk after a shock election victory two months’ prior, Roger Federer was rolling back the years on his way to capturing a remarkable 18th grand slam at the Australian Open and, lest we forget, news outlets the world over were united in sounding the death knell for the humble seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. And what prompted such proclamations I hear you ask? American Airlines revealed that it would be eschewing embedded IFE on new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in favour of wireless distribution of content to passengers’ own devices. Yes, the decision by one carrier not to offer the traditional seat-back IFE on one single aircraft type sent the media into a frenzy and resulted in headlines like these: “The death of in-flight entertainment? American Airlines scraps screens and tells fliers to bring their own” – The Telegraph “American Airlines to ditch seat back entertainment” – CNBC “American Airlines does away with seat-back entertainment” – The Economist I could certainly understand the hullaballoo if American had come to such a decision for say, the 22 A350s it currently has on order, but that fact that it chose not to fit embedded IFE on some narrow-body aircraft is hardly revolutionary. Indeed, an estimated 45% of these aircraft roll off production lines without any form of IFE on board, and around one-third of the installed base still, somewhat surprisingly, carries drop-down screens (overhead IFE). It is therefore disingenuous in the extreme to imply that the adoption of wireless IFE (W-IFE) on aircraft that often don’t carry any form of IFE whatsoever is somehow tantamount to the imminent extinction of an entire class of product. Today, nearly every single wide-body aircraft is delivered with a seat-back system and it would be much more revealing to look at whether W-IFE is making inroads into this market to establish whether a fundamental shift is taking place. The answer is that W-IFE is making inroads, but not at the expense of embedded IFE. In fact, many carriers are installing both W-IFE alongside seat-back screens on their long-haul aircraft. One reason for this is the emergence of second screening where people commonly use their personal electronic devices (PEDs) while watching another screen – a trend most prevalent amongst millennials who are accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of travellers. Interestingly, it is Philippine Airlines (PAL), which might provide a clue as to how the industry may shake out in the not-too-distant future. Back in 2014, the carrier drew widespread criticism and mixed reviews for choosing to jettison embedded IFE on much of its long-haul fleet. Instead, PAL fitted its A330s and A340s with SITAONAIR’s ONAIR Play W-IFE offering and was heralded as the “poster boy” for the new class of streaming systems making their way to market. Fast forward to January 23rd, 2017 – a mere two days before American Airlines made shockwaves – and PAL quietly announced the return of embedded Audio/Video On-Demand (AVOD) systems on its A330s. The reader should note that its A340s are in the process of being phased out, while ONAIR Play will still be offered on the A330s, as well as on the carrier’s short-haul aircraft. The bottom line is that when it comes to the death of embedded IFE, we’ve heard it all before. The re-birth of IFC following the demise of Connexion by Boeing in the mid-2000s was supposed to usher in a new era of in-cabin entertainment whereby passengers could stream to their hearts' content. While the likes of JetBlue Airways, Aeromexico and QANTAS have, in recent years, struck deals with Amazon Prime (in the case of the former) and Netflix (in the case of the latter two) that allow passengers to do just this using new high-speed connectivity pipes, all continue to maintain the latest seat-back screens. The key reason W-IFE will not cannibalise a significant chunk of the classic IFE market in the next ten years is down to the fact that almost every single wide-body is ordered with an embedded system way in advance of actual delivery. Furthermore, major Gulf carriers have indicated that they fully intend to offer seat-back screens well into the future. Emirates, for example, will install seat-back IFE on the 150 Boeing 777X aircraft that will start to enter its fleet in 2020. As long as these luxury brands continue to offer embedded systems, other flag carriers will be compelled to do likewise in order to be seen as on the cutting edge of in-cabin technology. Another roadblock that W-IFE vendors seeking to smash into the wide-body market need to surmount is the restriction on the streaming of early window content (EWC) to passenger PEDs. Though some vendors are keen to underplay the value of EWC, passengers have come to expect that they will be able to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters on medium- and long-haul flights. To put this into perspective, Rodrigo Llaguno, Customer Experience Corporate Vice President at Aeromexico recently revealed that the airline had expected a higher take-up of passengers watching Netflix and was surprised when data revealed that people were actually watching more EWC. Regardless of the availability of EWC, there is an extremely long way to go before IFC technology can support streaming of web-based content to multiple seats on multiple aircraft and at a price that is palatable to passengers. Relying on the bring your own device (BYOD) model has several other pitfalls. One is the assumption that passengers will bring onboard devices that are either fully charged, or contain sufficient charge for them to interact with the IFC/W-IFE systems for a sizeable portion of the flight. With many travellers now using their smartphones throughout their journey to store mobile boarding passes and to help them navigate through airports, as well as for general use, the need to re-charge on board is higher than ever. Unless PED battery life improves dramatically in coming years, in-seat power should almost always be installed alongside W-IFE and IFC. However, in-seat power comes with significant weight and cost penalties and weight and cost are, of course, two key considerations when carriers make the decision to ditch embedded systems in the first place. Because most seats do not feature a method to keep PEDs upright and at a favourable viewing angle, passengers generally hold smartphones or tablets in their hands while resting their arms on the tray table. When watching a movie or television show for a long period of time, this can quickly result in neck and/or wrist ache. Additionally, the moment food and drink items arrive is the moment this valued arm rest takes on another purpose. Though a number of vendors have developed PED holders designed to overcome these issues, there is still plenty of room for innovation as pointed out by John Walton in this informative article on Runway Girl Network. The recent electronics ban also highlighted the vulnerability of the W-IFE market to the ongoing fight against terrorism. Though it has now been partially lifted, any future return or extension of the ban (to smaller devices) would undoubtedly be extremely favourable to the future of seat-back systems. For these reasons, it is hard to imagine seat-back IFE disappearing on long-range aircraft anytime soon. Rather than replacement technologies, W-IFE and IFC should be viewed as complimentary to embedded IFE. Entertainment can be amplified by connectivity, which can be viewed as a gateway to endless media and content options for everyone. Indeed, true personalisation of content and ads cannot be achieved without real-time connectivity off of the aircraft. Thus, it might be said that where there was once IFE, there will also now be IFC and where IFC existed on its own, there are opportunities too for IFE, whether wireless of wired. Like PAL, Delta is another interesting test case. As well as providing IFC on many of its aircraft, it has also gone fleet-wide with the Gogo Vision-based “Delta Studio” W-IFE system. Whether passengers ultimately prefer to use this, the embedded system or a mixture of the two will offer insight into how the industry will develop. Valour Consultancy is currently developing two new reports that delve more deeply into these trends. “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment – 2017” quantifies the market for four types of IFE system (embedded, wireless, overhead and portable) and provides forecasts for the growth of each. “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment Content – 2017” looks at how the demand for content is changing, particularly on routes where the flight time is shorter than the length of a typical movie. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Three C’s of (In-Flight) Connectivity – Coverage, Capacity and Consistency

A poor experience of anything in life is likely to make someone think twice about whether they want to try it again and the same is true of in-flight connectivity (IFC). People cannot be expected to pay twice for something that does not work well and in the social media age that we now live in, negative experiences can be quickly voiced and made available for the world to see. As Honeywell Aerospace’s passenger connectivity surveys have continually shown, the majority of people to have tried in-flight Wi-Fi have been left frustrated by the experience. Many expressed disappointment with inconsistent and/or slow service.

Unfortunately, I too can be counted amongst those who’ve been left dissatisfied by IFC. Though I’d liked to have relaxed and made a dent in the sizeable collection of content on Emirates’ impressive “ICE” in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, my recent flight from Birmingham to Dubai for the Aircraft Interiors Middle East (AIME) event represented the perfect opportunity to catch up on a backlog of emails. Or so I thought. Sadly, after consuming the initial complimentary 10 megabytes, my connection cut out somewhere over Romania. At first, I thought there had been a momentary blip as one satellite handed over to another but the network remained down for the remainder of the flight. As it turned out, I was still able to compose several emails that eventually made their way to their intended recipients upon reaching the sanctity of my hotel room whereupon Wi-Fi was once again available.

Panasonic Avionics, provider of the underlying technology on said flight, has since informed me that its mission control center reported two network disruptions during my journey and that its team is currently investigating the causes. At the time of writing, no further update had been provided. In the interests of balance, I should note that the system worked perfectly on the return leg, although I was unable to make best use of it having crashed out shortly after take-off – an ill-timed beverage prior to boarding resulted in a mad dash up and down escalators and on and off trains connecting various parts of Dubai International Airport.

But I digress and though I do have an appreciation of the technological feat involved with maintaining connectivity at 35,000 feet on a metal tube travelling 500 miles per hour, I do wonder if more could be done to manage passenger expectations when they’re on board and things don’t function as they should. While I didn’t ask any of the flight attendants why the network had seemingly gone down, it did occur to me that passengers might appreciate it if they were made aware of any disruptions and told if and when connectivity may resume (that’s assuming they’re told of the availability of connectivity in the first place which, surprisingly, still isn’t always the case). I might be wrong but surely a good old-fashioned public announcement would suffice or perhaps a banner message could be flashed across the seatback screen with words to the effect of “we’re sorry, our IFC system is momentarily down – we’re doing our best to get you back up and running as soon as possible”.

Sure, people are demanding faster and faster connections spurred by a desire to consume content in the air as they do on the ground but they don’t care a jot about the underlying technology and whether they are connecting to an L-, Ku- or Ka-band satellite, or to cellular towers on the ground, or how many megabits per second of throughput a solution can support. Passengers just want things to work and for them to work well. In-flight Wi-Fi that does not work the same in all regions and all conditions is arguably more frustrating than offering no in-flight Wi-Fi at all.

Quality of service, however it is delivered, is key as this excellent blog from iDirect’s Dennis Sutherland explains. Throughput is just one consideration. Rockwell Collins’ VP Sales & Marketing, Jeffrey Sales, sums this up well in this equally excellent article from Runway Girl Network:

“If you have great throughput and okay latency but every time that you switch beams there is a 2-minute wait to shift, or I lose connection you are going to be frustrated. If there is not enough spectrum to go around and therefore the third person on the airplane that tries to log on can’t surf, well that third person is disappointed. It is truly about quality of service. It is about consistency. It is about coverage. It is about capacity. But it is an algorithm of all three. It is not any one thing.”

Airlines looking to make an IFC investment decision must therefore ask service providers about road maps and product lifecycles rather than individual offerings and service levels today or in the short-term. This also involves thinking more holistically about connectivity and how it might be scaled not just to meet increased passenger demand but also to achieve operational efficiencies – all over a timeframe of a decade or more. Simply put, adoption of IFC should not be a case of “we need to move because our competitors are”. It should be about investing in a solution that will offer passengers a great service all throughout the flight and on every flight as well as ensuring that the aircraft is a truly connected node in the operation wherever in the world it happens to be.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5014|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/computer-frustrations-1.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text] A poor experience of anything in life is likely to make someone think twice about whether they want to try it again and the same is true of in-flight connectivity (IFC). People cannot be expected to pay twice for something that does not work well and in the social media age that we now live in, negative experiences can be quickly voiced and made available for the world to see. As Honeywell Aerospace’s passenger connectivity surveys have continually shown, the majority of people to have tried in-flight Wi-Fi have been left frustrated by the experience. Many expressed disappointment with inconsistent and/or slow service. Unfortunately, I too can be counted amongst those who’ve been left dissatisfied by IFC. Though I’d liked to have relaxed and made a dent in the sizeable collection of content on Emirates’ impressive “ICE” in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, my recent flight from Birmingham to Dubai for the Aircraft Interiors Middle East (AIME) event represented the perfect opportunity to catch up on a backlog of emails. Or so I thought. Sadly, after consuming the initial complimentary 10 megabytes, my connection cut out somewhere over Romania. At first, I thought there had been a momentary blip as one satellite handed over to another but the network remained down for the remainder of the flight. As it turned out, I was still able to compose several emails that eventually made their way to their intended recipients upon reaching the sanctity of my hotel room whereupon Wi-Fi was once again available. Panasonic Avionics, provider of the underlying technology on said flight, has since informed me that its mission control center reported two network disruptions during my journey and that its team is currently investigating the causes. At the time of writing, no further update had been provided. In the interests of balance, I should note that the system worked perfectly on the return leg, although I was unable to make best use of it having crashed out shortly after take-off – an ill-timed beverage prior to boarding resulted in a mad dash up and down escalators and on and off trains connecting various parts of Dubai International Airport. But I digress and though I do have an appreciation of the technological feat involved with maintaining connectivity at 35,000 feet on a metal tube travelling 500 miles per hour, I do wonder if more could be done to manage passenger expectations when they’re on board and things don’t function as they should. While I didn’t ask any of the flight attendants why the network had seemingly gone down, it did occur to me that passengers might appreciate it if they were made aware of any disruptions and told if and when connectivity may resume (that’s assuming they’re told of the availability of connectivity in the first place which, surprisingly, still isn’t always the case). I might be wrong but surely a good old-fashioned public announcement would suffice or perhaps a banner message could be flashed across the seatback screen with words to the effect of “we’re sorry, our IFC system is momentarily down – we’re doing our best to get you back up and running as soon as possible”. Sure, people are demanding faster and faster connections spurred by a desire to consume content in the air as they do on the ground but they don’t care a jot about the underlying technology and whether they are connecting to an L-, Ku- or Ka-band satellite, or to cellular towers on the ground, or how many megabits per second of throughput a solution can support. Passengers just want things to work and for them to work well. In-flight Wi-Fi that does not work the same in all regions and all conditions is arguably more frustrating than offering no in-flight Wi-Fi at all. Quality of service, however it is delivered, is key as this excellent blog from iDirect’s Dennis Sutherland explains. Throughput is just one consideration. Rockwell Collins’ VP Sales & Marketing, Jeffrey Sales, sums this up well in this equally excellent article from Runway Girl Network:
“If you have great throughput and okay latency but every time that you switch beams there is a 2-minute wait to shift, or I lose connection you are going to be frustrated. If there is not enough spectrum to go around and therefore the third person on the airplane that tries to log on can’t surf, well that third person is disappointed. It is truly about quality of service. It is about consistency. It is about coverage. It is about capacity. But it is an algorithm of all three. It is not any one thing.”
Airlines looking to make an IFC investment decision must therefore ask service providers about road maps and product lifecycles rather than individual offerings and service levels today or in the short-term. This also involves thinking more holistically about connectivity and how it might be scaled not just to meet increased passenger demand but also to achieve operational efficiencies – all over a timeframe of a decade or more. Simply put, adoption of IFC should not be a case of “we need to move because our competitors are”. It should be about investing in a solution that will offer passengers a great service all throughout the flight and on every flight as well as ensuring that the aircraft is a truly connected node in the operation wherever in the world it happens to be. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]