Airline IFC Must Evolve to Meet Customer Demands

By Mark Holmes | April 16, 2018
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The world of in-flight connectivity (IFC) is entering a new era as airlines and suppliers prepare to grapple with fresh customer demands.

David Bartlett, CTO of Panasonic Avionics, told the Passenger Experience Conference in Hamburg, Germany, last week that the conventional ways of providing content to airlines need to change. “The traditional way with a server on the plane doesn’t scale. So a cloud-based solution is the way to go. We can tailor content for every flight. We want to provide a predictive capability. The industry is moving very fast. People’s preferences are moving very fast,” he said.

Bartlett said that in the past, suppliers such as Panasonic have tended to deliver a solution that was good for a year or two. He believed the industry will have to do things a lot quicker going forward.

Bartlett also highlighted some new areas of interest when it comes to content. eSports, for example, is an area of growing interest to people and one that airlines could potentially leverage. With gaming increasingly popular among young people, this could be an area where airlines could differentiate their content.

Scott Ralston, president of product management and in-flight entertainment for Gogo, said the company was looking to power entertainment from a connected perspective.

“We would challenge our airlines to think about it a bit differently. Gogo is developing partnerships with companies like T-Mobile, for example. They are cutting deals with MLB, Netflix. We are looking for ways to enable people to have content they own on the ground. We don’t need to outsmart the consumer,” he said.

All agreed that the IFC market is moving very quickly. Craig Foster of Valour Consultancy highlighted the fact that the entrance of content streaming players has shaken up the market. He also said airlines need to do a better job of publicizing their offerings.

“Airlines don’t do a good job of marketing the availability of IFC/IFEC services. They need to advertise the availability. There is a lot could be done to make the payment frictionless. A lot (of messaging) could be done pre-flight.”

Cathay Pacific’s Vivian Lo said one of the big focuses for the airline was to enable HD content, which she said is in the pipeline for the airline. She added, “The trend is to connect your personal device. … Previously, airlines were not able to capture customer data. The current trend is that we can capture accurate customer data and use AI to understand customer behavior. I think it is about relevant content getting to the relevant customer.”

This was originally published at sister publication Via Satellite.


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