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Images: Ricardo Polo

APEX Insight: The success of a low-cost carrier relies on lean operational expenses, keeping weight low and costs lower so that passengers can enjoy base fares. Traditionally, budget carriers have found entertainment hardware too heavy to carry, but with new technologies, this market segment is finding room for amusement. In Part One of “Budget-Friendly Entertainment,” we hone in on the Bring Your Own Device phenomenon and its effect on low-cost in-flight entertainment. 

A number of low-cost carriers (LCCs) interested in bringing entertainment on board have opted for one of the various bring-your-own-device (BYOD) solutions available on the market. Beyond being cost-effective, some airlines have found ways to drive ancillary revenues with this approach.

APEX-Experience-6.3-IFEonLCC-2Working with Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE), low-cost innovator Southwest Airlines offers free streaming of live television and a catalog of popular TV shows on Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft. In 2008, the Dallas-based carrier became the first in the US to test satellite-delivered broadband on multiple aircraft. Now access to browse the Internet is available for $8 a day. The airline also offers a selection of live TV channels and on-demand access to popular TV shows.
Full-length movies are available for $5. In 2014, GEE and Southwest also struck a landmark deal with Beats Music, which lets passengers access hundreds of playlists in a wide range of musical genres through the airline’s Wi-Fi connection.

Similarly, Singapore-based LCC Scoot offers customers ScooTV content streamed directly to their personal electronic devices (PEDs) via the Scoot Wi-Fi network, for a charge of $11. Passengers get unlimited access to movie and television programs for the duration of their flight, including Hollywood favorites, international and Asian hits, and dedicated kids programming. As an added incentive for Scoot customers to buy a full-service ticket, passengers flying ScootBiz get complimentary access to entertainment.

Scoot has found a niche market among passengers who need less and want to pay less.

While Scoot’s full-access Wi-Fi pass is popular, the airline has found a niche market among passengers who need less and want to pay less. Working with Panasonic Avionics, Scoot now offers a Social-Lite service, with enough power for texting, chatting and light web browsing (20 MB of data at 64 Kbps), which can be purchased for $5. The airline has found it a good fit for customers wanting to catch up with friends and family, but who don’t want to pay $11.95 for an hour or $21.95 for a 24-hour pass on the unlimited data plan.

Tigerair Australia has recently announced it will introduce passenger device-based in-flight entertainment (IFE) on its B737-800 aircraft. The airline has chosen Arconics CloudStore wireless IFE with hardware supplied by Kontron. Via CloudStore, Tigerair will offer passengers both free and paid content, including Hollywood hits, popular films and television programs.   

Dutch LCC Transavia, part of the Air France-KLM Group, went the full-app route, avoiding the costs of equipping aircraft for IFE and connectivity. Customers can access a content catalog through the airline’s app, from which they can download up to five films or TV series before boarding while on a Wi-Fi connection either at home or at the airport. Transavia’s content menu includes box office hits and popular television series, and it’s free. The app’s content is only available for the duration of the flight and must be downloaded again on a return flight.

Dutch LCC Transavia, went the full-app route, avoiding the costs of equipping aircraft for IFE and connectivity.

Immfly’s wIFE (wireless in-flight entertainment) solution is flying on Iberia Express’ fleet. The Barcelona-based startup also recently announced a new deal with Spanish LCC Volotea for the airline’s A319 aircraft. The Wi-Fi-enabled system offers passengers print, videos and music; they can also search for and book activities at their destination. In June, Immfly entered the long-haul LCC market in a deal with XL Airways.

One of the downsides to the BYOD approach is that it limits entertainment access to passengers who have devices – though that soon may not be an issue. SITAONAIR, which offers streaming content and live TV solutions with its ONAIR Play product, says that 94 percent of flyers carry some electronic device, be it a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Of passengers carrying devices, 15 percent carry all three.

Alongside the proliferation of devices comes the need for airline-supplied power. Some LCCs have also addressed concerns over draining batteries by adding various power outlets on seats. While Scoot offers access to its 110V or 60Hz charging outlets for free in ScootBiz, it’s found a way to monetize this amenity in economy, offering charging to passengers for a small fee.

This story was originally published in the June/July issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.