Here are the most-read “Entertainment and Connectivity” stories from this year’s APEX Daily Experience newsletters. To receive breaking passenger experience industry news in your inbox on a daily basis, subscribe here.
Fully Connected: WestJet and Air Canada to Offer Fleet-Wide Wi-Fi
Canada’s two largest airlines; Air Canada and WestJet; will retrofit the majority of their North American fleets with in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity by the end of year, in order to catch up with US rivals. WestJet currently offers wireless connectivity on 30 percent of its aircraft, but expects to roll out the service to its fleet in 2016. Air Canada says all 129 of its single-aisle jets will offer in-flight Wi-Fi by March, and also plans to add the service to its wide-body international flights but did not disclose details.
American Airlines Could Switch from Gogo to ViaSat, According to Reports
American Airlines could be switching its in-flight Internet provider from Gogo to ViaSat after filing a lawsuit last Friday in a district court. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the lawsuit states that American’s contract with Gogo permits it to terminate or renegotiate if the airline can find faster service elsewhere. In a statement released yesterday, the US carrier said: “We’ve notified Gogo of a competitor’s offering, and we will evaluate all of our options.” Gogo responded by announcing that it will submit a competing proposal, reaffirming its belief that “2Ku is the best performing technology in the market.”
SIA Chooses Thales IFEC Solution for Future Airbus A350 Fleet
Singapore Airlines has selected Thales In-Flyt Experience’s AVANT in-flight entertainment and Ka-band connectivity solution for its future Airbus A350 fleet. SIA’s upcoming medium-haul aircraft will be equipped with the Android-based IFE system and the latest AVANT high-definition seatback displays in 2018. As part of the deal, the airline’s future A350 premium cabins will also feature Thales’ next-generation “Touch Passenger Media Unit” monitors which offer second screening NFC capability to deliver a “home in the air” experience to passengers.
Internet of Wings: Qantas Chooses ViaSat’s Ku/Ka-band for In-Flight Wi-Fi
Qantas and ViaSat have signed a memorandum of understanding to bring in-flight Wi-Fi to passengers on domestic flights later this year. The Australian carrier is ViaSat’s first customer in the Asia-Pacific region and its domestic fleet will be equipped with the internet provider’s hybrid Ku/Ka-band antenna, delivering speeds up to 10 times faster than ground-based in-flight connectivity services. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said: “Bringing high-speed Wi-Fi to Australia’s domestic aviation market has been an ambition of ours for a long time.”
Like an iPhone: Delta Debuts a Redesigned IFE User Interface
Delta Air Lines has unveiled a revamped graphical user interface (GUI) on its in-flight entertainment system. The Atlanta-based carrier says the redesign provides an improved experience, which aligns with the airline’s website and mobile app. According to Joseph Kiely, Delta’s managing director of Product and Customer Experience, navigating the new GUI is “more like interacting with an iPhone.” Upgraded features include enhanced search functionality, a spotlight section to highlight promotions, customizable monthly themes and background images based on departure cities.
ViaSat and Gogo Talk American Airlines and the Evolving Business Case for Wi-Fi
The public tussle between American Airlines and Gogo came to a head last week when the airline announced it had selected ViaSat to outfit 100 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with Ka-band satellite Internet service. Meanwhile, Gogo quietly announced on Friday in an SEC filing that American Airlines has purchased equipment and service to transition up to 140 aircraft from Gogo’s Air-To-Ground technology to its 2Ku satellite-Internet service. Representatives from both connectivity providers were seated on a panel about the competitive in-flight connectivity landscape and the emergence of various business models at the Global Connected Aircraft Summit taking place this week in Hollywood, California.
Are RoboCop-Style Visors the Future of IFE? Zodiac Thinks So
A futuristic-looking visor that wraps around passengers’ eyes could be the future of in-flight entertainment, according to a newly filed patent from Zodiac Seats US. Images of the company’s latest blueprint show a headrest with a foldout visor, allowing air travelers to be partly immersed when watching movies and TV shows on a tiny screen in 3-D or holographic video. Zodiac says the technology could allow passengers to feel more comfortable in closely confined spaces and could also be used to display in-flight announcements. ‘‘The visor may provide a semi-immersive entertainment experience, allowing a passenger to focus on entertainment or multimedia … also preventing claustrophobia or discomfort from complete enclosure,” said the company in its patent application.
What Does Apple’s Decision to Remove the 3.5mm Headphone Jack Mean for IFE?
Initial verdicts on the iPhone 7 have been positive, with tech website The Verge calling it “another excellent update to what was already, for many people, the best smartphone in the world.” However, Apple’s decision to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack raises questions about how airlines and the in-flight entertainment hardware industry will adapt to a wireless future where passengers may increasingly travel with Bluetooth-enabled rather than wired headphones.
What Does Netflix’s Offline Playback Mean for Airlines and IFE?
Yesterday’s Netflix update for iOS and Android allows subscribers across the world to download movies and TV shows for offline viewing on smartphones and tablet devices. Brian Richardson, American Airlines’ director of In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity, doesn’t think airlines and IFE vendors should be worried about this fundamental change to Netflix’s service offering: “There are limitations [to offline viewing] because it still requires passengers to plan ahead and have enough storage space on their devices.” Éric Lauzon, Air Canada’s manager for In-Flight Entertainment, foresees Netflix increasing pressure on Hollywood studios to access early-window content. “The game is not completely lost to Netflix, but this certainly marks the beginning of a new IFE era,” he says.
Up, Up and Away: Panasonic Avionics Launches an IFEC Blog
Panasonic Avionics has launched an in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) blog called UP. The company says the blog will be used as a communications channel to provide its airline customers with “new and unique perspectives on topics that matter in the IFEC industry, technology and business.” So far, the blog has published posts discussing topics such as how to measure the value of IFEC, how airlines can “superbrand” their experience and how connected aircraft can increase the personalization of customer service.