APEX Insight: The complexity and cost of in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems has limited the deployment of onboard content among low-cost carriers and regional airlines. But now, thanks to flexible solutions and innovative software, IFEC solutions can be tailored to fit almost any airline’s desired passenger experience.
It’s becoming a passenger expectation to have in-flight entertainment content and connectivity (IFEC) available on every aircraft and every flight. Low-cost carriers (LCCs) and regional airlines have unique business models and value propositions that govern a decision to offer IFEC to passengers. At the Passenger Experience Conference in Hamburg, Germany, a panel of industry experts considered the options available to LCCs and regional airlines.
As the industry evolves, it’s more important to provide airlines with IFE and connectivity choices that are based on an open architecture, says Niels Steenstrup, senior vice-president of Global Airline Sales, Gogo. “And that’s whether it’s an open network or different technologies to connect the plane to the Internet, or whether it’s the systems on the plane itself.” He explains that the airline’s business model has to be included in the open architecture.
“At Gogo, we look at ensuring the network has the capacity in the future to give airlines that flexibility that they’re seeking. And ultimately with that comes the ability to bring down price points for the airlines,” says Steenstrup.
Michael Reilly, vice-president, e-Enablement + Entertainment, Arconics, adds, “There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every carrier is different, with different trends in different parts of the world.” Arconics provides airlines with the CloudStore wireless IFE centralized content management portal, giving passengers the option of downloading content prior to boarding, during a flight or even after arrival.
“I think the real game changer was mobile devices,” says Peter Sharples, vice-president, Client Solutions, Piksel. “That’s an exciting place for airlines to be. I don’t think they’ll necessarily replace traditional systems, but it gives the airlines choice.” Leveraging his experience with online video solutions for broadcast companies, Piksel developed the Voyage app, which allows passengers to download content before a flight.
Dutch LCC Transavia has deployed Piksel’s app. Passengers can get the app – branded as Transavia Entertainment – and content for free. The airline’s senior product manager, Joan Tam, explains that Transavia’s regional, multi-country service area provides challenges that the Voyage app solves. “We have different types of content that passengers can download from the entertainment app,” she says. “For us, it’s really important – since we have the European network – that there are different types of content for different types of passengers, so we differ in languages and top movies in other countries.” Tam says that Transavia is carefully studying a connectivity solution as a possible next step.
Sharples adds that using mobile devices can drive rapid innovation. “With Piksel Voyage and Transavia Entertainment, the whole thing was up and running in a couple of months,” he says.