Claudia Sender

Claudia Sender, CEO, LATAM Brasil, and vice-president of Customers, LATAM Airlines GroupImage: Vance Walstra

In addition to investing $400 million over the next three years in cabin retrofits for two-thirds of its fleet, LATAM is working with Spafax to use in-flight entertainment as a decision-making tool to test new content and efficiently allocate monetary resources.

In response to LATAM Airlines Group’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), which revealed passengers care most about the cabin experience, the airline will be investing $400 million over the next three years in cabin retrofits for two-thirds of its fleet, announced Claudia Sender, CEO of LATAM Brasil, and vice-president of Customers, LATAM Airlines Group, at APEX EXPO last month. “Our role at LATAM is to care for the people who fly and work with us. This is at the core of everything we  do,” she said.

Rollout of the new cabins is scheduled to begin in January of next year, with Thompson Aero supplying the business-class seats, which will feature a sliding divider for privacy, granite cocktail table and 18-inch in-flight entertainment screens. LATAM will also be expanding its route network through a joint venture with American Airlines and IAG Group to maintain its position as a leading carrier in Latin America. “To be relevant to our customers we need to be big – size matters in our industry,” she said, adding this would help stimulate inbound tourism to South America.

João de Moraes Chaves Neto, IFEC senior product manager, LATAM Airlines Group (left) and Andrea Whyte, Director of Commercial Content Strategy, Spafax (right). Image: Vance Walstra

LATAM is also working with content service provider Spafax to buff up its in-flight entertainment offering. “A lot of airlines think content strategy is synonymous with budget,” began Andrea Whyte, director of Commercial Content Strategy, Spafax, in a session at APEX EXPO co-presented with João de Moraes Chaves Neto, senior product manager, IFEC, LATAM Airlines Group. What it should be, she continued, is a decision-making tool that allows airlines to act with agility, test new content and efficiently allocate monetary resources.

Airlines, however, must ensure their teams have a clear understanding of what they’d like to communicate through their product offerings – especially for in-flight entertainment because it is so customer-facing, Whyte said.  To illustrate, Chaves Neto described his own challenge in servicing a region with six different countries, in two different languages, and all the while respecting its cultural richness. Turns out travelers across the countries all appreciated a good laugh, so stand-up comedy content was added to the airline’s catalog. “Even though we had one single set of content for each country, passengers had a little bit of content from each of their local cultures.”

One of the best ways to know your passengers is to observe their consumption habits on the ground, Whyte said, and indeed airlines are looking to OTT platforms for inspiration. But there is one area where OTTs fall short, she said: “More and more segmentation means users are having to layer multiple subscription services and TV options to watch what they want.”

Airlines may never be able to compete with OTTs in terms of value or technology, but they do have an advantage. “Essentially, airlines have the ability to address one of the biggest frustrations travelers have at home,” Whyte said. “Airlines can cherry-pick the best in entertainment from a variety of sources.” However, when selecting their content, it’s important that airlines look beyond box-office success and Rotten Tomatoes ratings, she said, as these don’t necessarily translate to success in the air.