APEX Insight: Satellite-based in-flight connectivity could save airlines $14.9 billion in annual operating costs according to research by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in association with Inmarsat.

The increasing move towards connected aircraft will transform airline operations and safety into a strategic asset, according to LSE’s research findings in Sky High Economics: Evaluating the Economic Benefits of Connected Airline Operations. The report was released yesterday and follows the first part, which was released during APEX EXPO in September 2017.

The report and its findings are based on IATA data and industry interviews with airlines, regulatory agencies, developers and suppliers of aircraft equipment and software solutions.

“The study’s findings highlight not only the powerful commercial efficiencies for airline operations, but crucially, the resulting advantages for safety and environmental impact.” – Dr. Alexander Grous, LSE

“The forecast doubling of aircraft in the skies by 2035 will create both challenges and opportunities for the global aviation industry,” said Dr. Alexander Grous, Department of Media and Communications, LSE and author of Sky High Economics. “IP-enabled aircraft are an essential step in facilitating growing demand for air travel, while meeting vital safety requirements. The study’s findings highlight not only the powerful commercial efficiencies for airline operations, but crucially, the resulting advantages for safety and environmental impact.”

The report says improved weather information to the cockpit through IP-enabled communications currently reduces fuel burn by 1% per flight, equating to 3.39 billion liters of fuel, 8.3 million tons of CO2 and $1.3 billion in fuel costs each year. It predicts this figure could increase to 2.5% per flight with savings accrued in other areas. Meanwhile, migrating from radar-based air traffic management systems to satellite-based navigation, which automates aircraft positioning reporting, could deliver $3 billion in annual savings.

If connectivity is fully utilized in disruption management, it could reduce the impact of delays, cancelations and diversions, delivering annual savings that could reach up to $11 billion.

The LSE thinks aircraft connectivity will also reduce on-the-ground maintenance turnaround times thanks to predictive analytics using data to create a live electronic tech log transmitted from onboard servers to cloud or ground-based servers, which “could deliver annual cost savings of $5.6 billion.”

“This report demonstrates that the connected aircraft is a shrewd commercial decision,” – Frederik van Essen, Inmarsat Aviation

“This report demonstrates that the connected aircraft is a shrewd commercial decision; unrivalled access to real-time data is reducing airlines’ bottom-line operating costs while reducing emissions and improving safety,” said Frederik van Essen, senior vice-president, Inmarsat Aviation. “With finite air space available to accommodate increasing passenger numbers, airlines need to act now and consider the technology and infrastructure they need to future-proof their operations.”

Ari is the news editor at APEX Media.