Cyril Jean, CEO of PXCom (left); Duncan Jackson, president of FlightPath3D (right). Image: Maxim Sergienko

APEX Insight: In-flight connectivity isn’t just about enabling passengers to check their e-mails, post photos to Instagram and browse the web. At today’s Passenger Experience Conference in Hamburg, Cyril Jean, CEO of PXCom, and Duncan Jackson, president of FlightPath3D, discuss how IFC can generate new revenue streams and create opportunities for personalization, too.

The same person who learned how to search on Google and shop on Amazon is sitting in the aircraft cabin; this is a gift for airlines, insists Duncan Jackson, president of FlightPath3D. Expectations for the in-flight connected experience may be high, but airlines are perfectly placed – and timed – to turn this challenge into a revenue-generating opportunity.

Doing so requires the adoption of a new currency: time and context. Supermakets have been using this formula for ages with clever in-store merchandizing (ever wonder why the milk is always at the back of the store?), and online retail giant Amazon has followed suit with its suggested purchases function. Amazon attributes 35 percent of its sales to its recommendations, which are themselves a matter of good timing and a strong sense of costumer intent. “I hope there are some light bulbs going on,” Jackson quips at this part of his presentation. “Who has perhaps the most knowledge about your intent, who you are, where you are going and how long you are going to be there? … It’s the airline industry. You’re literally in front of your passengers for hours.”

“You’re literally in front of your passengers for hours.” — Duncan Jackson, FlightPath3D

But a captive audience won’t do airlines any good unless they are in tune with the passenger mindset at each phase of the retail journey. “When you are in flight, you are already in the destination. It is, ‘when I land, I want to eat, drink, locate, have my business meeting, take care of all these activities,” explains Jackson. Thus, beyond selling in-aircraft ancillaries, airlines need to use IFC channels to address that forward-thinking, in-destination mindset in flight.

Harnessing that opportunity is a matter of relying more heavily on location-based advertising, destination content placement, service integration and monetizing passenger data – the last of which fellow panelist, Cyril Jean, CEO of PXCom, touches on in his session, positing that Wi-Fi portals can give airlines access to  valuable passenger data.

Three out of four passengers are willing to share personal information to get a personalized experience, explains Jean, and with the advent of airline Wi-Fi portals, data needn’t be sourced through IT, but through passenger devices directly. But how do we get passengers online in the first place? Increasing IFC uptake, according to Jean, can be as simple as including a printed reminder on a boarding pass or bag tag, or having a gate agent or crewmember spread the word.

Although using different terms, Jean agrees with Jackson that capitalizing on the connected journey depends largely on an airline’s ability to anticipate passengers’ needs and understand their context: “As long as you know your passenger, then you can provide passengers with the right content.”

Valerie is deputy editor at APEX Media.