APEX Insight: Day One of APEX Asia began with a welcome address from the association’s CEO, Joe Leader, who shared his vision for a passenger journey dotted by personal touches, including biometric boarding, automated luggage delivery and hyper-personalized service on board. In Asia, a region characterized by the rise of the low-cost carrier, ensuring these personal touches seamlessly reach the most amount of people will be key.
Blend Seatback and PEDs for Optimal In-Flight Entertainment
In a chat about in-flight entertainment (IFE) trends and future outlook, Paul Margis, non-executive chairman on digEcor’s board of directors and former CEO of Panasonic Avionics, says he is optimistic about the staying power of seatback screens. Not only are embedded screens necessary for a pleasant viewing experience on longer haul flights, they are a key touchpoint for airlines to interact with their passengers. In other words, the in-seat product is owned by the airline; the wireless devices that passengers bring on board are not. “You don’t own someone’s cell phone, but you do own that seatback.” And since a lot of the “intelligence” is in passengers’ devices, airlines need to find a hybrid solution that leverages the benefits of both systems.
Strategies for Building Airline Brand Loyalty
Today’s consumers are more skeptical than ever before, says Japan Airlines’ vice-president of Products and Services, Akira Mitsumasu, adding that airlines must therefore clearly define a unique value proposition that moves beyond simply transporting people from Point A to Point B. “We began by asking ourselves, ‘How will the world be different should JAL cease to exist tomorrow?’ and ‘Are we merely selling what we produce or are we truly producing what we sell?’”
Such thinking lead to the development of several purpose-driven campaigns and services, including a ski tour for passengers with wheelchairs, JAL Pet Family, which speaks to the reality of there being more pets than children in Japan; and a strategic partnership with TripAdvisor to help revitalize rural areas in the country. But perhaps the best way for airlines to be relevant is to involve consumers in the production process itself, Mitsumasu says. With consumers more willing than ever to give up information about their preferences, prosumerism may be the best strategy for harnessing brand loyalty.
Asia on Demand: Diversifying IFE Programming
There is no such thing as one single type of Asian content, the panelists on this afternoon’s session on the region’s in-flight entertainment trends agreed, adding that diverse content from the region would benefit non-Asian passengers, too. “Airlines seem to be believe that only Chinese people want to watch Chinese movies, but that’s just not true,” Jovitah Toh, CEO, Encore Inflight, said. “We need to move beyond demographics. Asian content can go a long way with non-Asian passengers.”
Co-production may be one way to attract broader audiences, but Dian Song, director of International Distribution, Wanda, warns that local content that delves deep into one specific culture rather than glossing over multiples ones is a better bid: “When you try to represent two cultures and reach two audiences, you end up failing both.” Local content in the form of art house and independent films are especially well-suited for the aircraft cabin, where passengers are likely to explore content that they might not otherwise on the ground, said Liang Ying, head of Production and Acquisitions, Asian Shadows. Unlike in the theatre, where you are restricted by time, choice and the preferences of your movie-going companion, “In the airplane, you have total freedom to watch what you want,” she added.
Hollywood Features for the Asian Market
What are early window or new release titles? What’s the difference between late window and classical titles? Why are some movies held back for China? Pravin Jumabhoy, executive director, Images in Motion, answered these questions and more for Chinese airlines in the audience who may be interested in licensing Hollywood releases. Regarding the question, “How do I get my wireless entertainment system approved by the Hollywood studios?” Jumabhoy responded, “It’s a really simple process. All you need to do is to get your white paper, which says how your system works, details for the hardware as well as software components, and send it to the Hollywood studios. They’re more than happy to approve it and it takes about three to four weeks.”
Personalization, Yes… But to What Extent?
Airline representatives and in-flight entertainment and connectivity providers came together to discuss how they could better engage passengers and enhance loyalty. When it was suggested that personal touches, such as crewmembers offering gifts to passengers flying on their birthday, could be implemented, not everyone agreed. “Is it feasible to do something personal for 200 passengers?” asked Kyle Cheung, deputy general manager of China Eastern Airlines E-Business. “What we should focus on is finding processes that are repeatable and scalable, while customizing as much as we can.”
Speaking from a content service provider perspective, Jason Hau, account director, Spafax, said that delighting a few passengers could, in the long run, be more valuable than amassing “hits” on a certain movie. As data analytics takes on a bigger role in personalization, Jon Norris, senior director of Marketing, Panasonic Avionics, and APEX board member, says, “The right controls need to be put in place for airlines not to seem creepy.” Passengers should feel that they are really benefiting from giving up their data and not just being exploited to help increase advertisement sales, he added.
Is Airport Hospitality the Key to PaxEx Differentiation?
Jonathan Song, business development director of Plaza Premium Group, says airport hospitality has been somewhat of a grey area when it comes to airlines looking to invest in the overall passenger experience. This is largely because lounges are thought to be targeting first- and business-class passengers, but these segments only account for 15 percent of travelers. “What about the rest?” Song asks. The remaining 85 percent, he insists, can enjoy the VIP experience as well, thanks to independent corporate lounges and pay-for access.
But low-cost carriers and full-service airlines could be doing more for their budget-savvy passengers, Song says, adding that, “This is a missed opportunity because there are a lot of great touchpoints at the airport where airlines could make a difference.” The goal, he says, is to turn the airport into a destination in its own right. And with passengers who are spoiled for choice, airport hospitality could be the deciding factor when it comes time to make the purchase.
Click here for more takeaways from Day 2.