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APEX Insight: The prevalence of smartphones has driven a service and retail revolution both on the ground and in the air. Spurred by connectivity, SITA OnAir finds that travelers are happiest when they have the freedom to use technology for the information, services and entertainment they desire.

In the aerospace world, most of us think about passenger connectivity in terms of in-flight amusement: tweeting at 35,000 feet, tidying up the work inbox and, of course, streaming content. But beyond the ways Wi-Fi keeps passengers preoccupied, connectivity also allows airlines to enhance passenger services in highly personalized ways.

“Passengers are happiest when technology enhances their journey,” says Katrina Korzenowski, Regional Commercial vice-president, APAC, SITA OnAir. In her upcoming presentation, “Contextual Engagement at 30,000 Feet: The New Personalized Onboard Experience,” at the APEX Asia conference in Singapore, Korzenowski will be exploring the ways in which connectivity facilitates personalization.

SITA 2015 Airline IT Trends Survey

“Personalization of the [passenger] journey has been given a kick start by the strong adoption of smartphones, which allows anytime, anywhere interaction with passengers,” Korzenowski explains. With constantly connected travelers, airlines – and airports – are better able to connect with customers at key times. And according to SITA’s 2015 Airline IT Trends Survey, over 75 percent of airlines are planning to do just that, with investments in major programs that will deliver passenger services through smartphones in the next three years.

In the airport, kiosks and beacons will play a key role in personalizing these communications. On-the-ground connectivity has accelerated the growth of on-demand services, such as Uber or AirGrub, an airport food delivery app. “In its infancy is a ‘virtual concierge’ for passengers, delivering airport shopping to gates and lounges,” Korzenowski shares.

The on-demand trend translates to in-flight entertainment, even pre-boarding. “Passengers, for instance, will be able to download content for the flight, including books and films, from media kiosks to their tablets or smartphones,” Korzenowski says. “More than one-fifth (22 percent) of airlines are expecting to offer this service by 2018,” she adds.

“Passengers want to use their own personal electronic devices, both in the airport and on the airplane,” she notes, elaborating that passengers have a preference toward their own devices and content rather than airline-provided entertainment options. SITA’s 2015 Passenger IT Trends Survey reports that 67 percent of passengers would “definitely” want to access their own devices for entertainment, compared with 56 percent with airline-supplied content.

“Overall, the results suggest passengers are keen to have the same level of control over how they spend time during their flight as they are starting to get on the ground through self-service initiatives,” Korzenowski says. And allowing passengers with more control, fuelled by connectivity, facilitates a more personalized and enjoyable experience.

Don’t miss Korzenowski’s presentation, Tuesday November 17, at this year’s APEX Asia conference in Singapore.