Opinion: Having a Robust Business Case for Connectivity is More Important Than Ever

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Nicole Grainger heads up Strategic Marketing for Collins Aerospace’s Inflight Connectivity and Cabin Operations portfolios. She regularly develops business cases for new concepts and provides feedback for existing product design activities.

Having a robust business case for aircraft connectivity is more important than ever; airlines want to know how they can use IFC across their fleet in the most efficient way possible.

Nicole Grainger, Collins Aerospace

Can you expand on what a “robust” business case really is? What key elements must a business case possess to be considered robust?

Looking at what makes a business case robust means investigating all available options and opportunities. It’s about working with an airline to ensure their aircraft are really helping them to achieve their business objectives. The aircraft themselves are an integral part of the service provision and business model of any airline, so the contribution of any new products or services to the aircraft platform should be quantified and understood.

Whose job is it to determine the business case for aircraft connectivity and who must they convince? Are there more than two parties in this process?

Historically, airlines have worked with a number of disparate suppliers on various elements throughout the service value chain. Sometimes this is still the case, but more and more airlines are keen to understand the benefits of single-source synergies and how they can be leveraged to increase the benefits for the airline, by generating operational efficiencies and service level improvements, for example.

Previously, business case development would sit within the airline, either at a fleet management, engineering or platform level, and would form part of the evaluation discussion for any new service being brought onboard. But Collins Aerospace is perfectly placed to help build that connectivity business case, as we have a business model that can help quantify and validate the expected return on investment and payback period.

What role does each of the following play in a well-rounded business case for connectivity?

  • Operational efficiency
    Operational efficiencies play a huge part in the business case from a nose-to-tail connected aircraft perspective. A connectivity business case can’t be built on revenue alone – in order for airlines to understand what can be realized with a connected aircraft, efficiencies coming from things like live weather applications need to be looked at. Ensuring multimedia capabilities for the aircraft (having the right off-aircraft communication method for the varying applications that are transmitting and receiving data) is also important.
  • Safety
    Safety is obviously paramount. The ability to use the air traffic control pipe in the way it was intended is critical. Taking the non-safety and higher bandwidth demands to more suitable transmission methods, such as the broadband link, will ensure mission-critical transmissions are not impacted by a heavier load of operational or non-safety messages.
  • Passenger satisfaction
    Over and above the enhanced in-cabin services made possible by connecting the cabin, there’s value in passengers having an intrinsically digital journey too. It allows omni-channel experiences to continue in-flight, adding both tangible and intangible values. Ensuring this is documented will improve the overall value of the business case.
  • Connected crew
    We all know that flight crew are an embodiment of brand value and key in delivering the customer experience promises made by the airline. Being able to quantify the value of supporting the crew with time-saving apps and systems also play a key part in business case creation.
Nicole Grainger
Nicole Grainger, Cabin Marketing and Strategy, Collins Aerospace

Which of these do you think should be in sharp focus right now and why?

Given the current climate, supporting airlines to better use their existing assets and looking at ways to provide upgrades or improvements without significant further investment are key. This is especially true if they play into the airline’s core value proposition.

Of course, anything that helps to improve passengers’ perceptions of sanitization or hygiene, like reducing physical touchpoints, will help to meet the basic safety need that must be achieved before any other enhancements are made towards a contactless cabin environment.

Tell us about a specific product or service in the Collins Aerospace portfolio that can help airlines measurably improve efficiency of their IFC investment in a short amount of time?

Our smart solutions involving aircraft interface devices and managed connectivity provide ways to offload from safety pipes onto broadband pipes. This is an area where airlines can see significant improvements in a short amount of time.

Working with various teams and departments within an airline to understand their activities and how access to, or visibility of, various data-related elements from the connected aircraft could improve their operations or ability to forecast is somewhere we can also have significant impact.

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