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A revolution in the air: Mary Kirby, Runway Girl Network


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On-board connectivity continues apace, as the new ‘in-flight must-have’ for both passengers and crew. As it becomes the default expectation for next generation travelers, tablets and mobile devices in the air will impact passenger service levels and customer satisfaction as much as they are on the ground. From an operational point of view, what are the IT needs for the cabin, cockpit and data handling to ground? What innovations can we expect, and how do we see the development of new services for keeping customers happy and loyal?

A revolution in the air – improving the flying experience: Mary Kirby, Runway Girl Network

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A revolution in the air: Mary Kirby, Runway Girl Network

  1. 1. Currently available: Air-to-ground (ATG)-based inflight Wi-Fi in the United States; operated exclusively by Gogo L-band satellite (Inmarsat SwiftBroadband service), which is billed as global except for the poles; offered by OnAir, Panasonic’s AeroMobile unit, and Rockwell Collins’ newly acquired Arinc business Ku-band satellite connectivity - a patchwork quilt of Ku satellites with a few patches still yet to be filled; offered by Panasonic, Gogo and Global Eagle Entertainment Regional Ka-band connectivity, which is now available in the United States, but coming soon to Europe; offered by ViaSat and LiveTV/Thales
  2. 2. Coming down the pike: Regional Ka in Europe, and ultimately the Middle East Inmarsat Global Xpress Ka-band constellation; global except for the poles High Throughput Satellites in Ku-band 4G LTE ATG service to be operated by AT&T in the US Inmarsat’s newly announced integrated ATG/satellite solution for Europe Hybrid Ku/Ka solutions?
  3. 3. So, as satellite industry consultant Tim Farrar suggests, deployment is clearly accelerating…
  4. 4. Though revenue is still lacking…
  5. 5. Take rates for paid service: Less than 7% on average However, high-traffic routes like transcon US see take rates as high as 30% for paid service
  6. 6. Take rates for free Wi-Fi are obviously much higher… “On some of the transcon flying, we’ve had flights with excess of over 100 customers connected simultaneously.” JetBlue president Robin Hayes
  7. 7. Passengers share their speed tests and their experiences on social media (#PaxEx on Twitter)…
  8. 8. With few exceptions (high-capacity regional Ka), we’ve observed… Most free Wi-Fi promos equate to a degradation in service for the user Most current Wi-Fi systems are capacity constrained Even when passengers pay, there is no shortage of complaints
  9. 9. Passengers are naming and shaming…
  10. 10. Sometimes they’re brutal…
  11. 11. They don’t discriminate…
  12. 12. MB data packages frustrate passengers accustomed to unfettered access on the ground… “All of the ways that we have now become used to navigating: leaving our Gmail, Twitter, or feed readers open on auto-refresh, are not possible unless you want to see your 20 bucks disappear in the blink of an eye.” Enrique Dans, Professor at IE Business School (Madrid, Spain)
  13. 13. IFE stalwarts like Panasonic are also fielding complaints about Wi-Fi reliability…
  14. 14. Being upfront about connectivity capabilities is key, as is good customer service…
  15. 15. Even though most inflight connectivity systems cannot support the streaming of Netflix and/or HBO GO, the ability – or inability – to do so in the United States could become the measure by which these systems will be judged going forward. So the pressure is on all providers to deliver better, faster, cheaper.
  16. 16. Yet connectivity is clearly impacting booking decisions … and some passengers can no longer afford to be disconnected for long-haul flights, even if a service is imperfect.
  17. 17. “I have a ton of work to do that requires Internet access and am willing to take whatever routing will guarantee me Wi-Fi…”
  18. 18. Passengers don’t always know if connectivity is available, though services like Routehappy and SeatGuru help….
  19. 19. The presence of connectivity is even factored into how a flight is rated…
  20. 20. Conditions for using inflight Wi-Fi are not always ideal… Plenty of business travelers on a budget are flying in coach class, yet it’s very cramped for laptop use In-seat power is not always available, which is cold comfort to passengers who have paid $20 for a session Lack of power can mean carrying back-up power packs
  21. 21. To consider… It’s clear that passengers crave heavy bandwidth functionality (want an at-home Wi-Fi experience in the air) Mobile, social passengers are growing increasingly vocal about their experience; managing their expectations is crucial As passengers grow accustomed to free Wi-Fi at airports, coffee shops and restaurants, their expectations for free inflight Wi-Fi will continue to grow Most connectivity systems cannot support free Wi-Fi model at this time
  22. 22. Clear opportunities on the wireless IFE front… Pull eyeballs away from that precious inflight connectivity pipe Simulate a Netflix-type experience onboard without using bandwidth Allow passengers to personally tailor their experience
  23. 23. As airlines and passengers embrace the wireless cabin, the traditional embedded IFE business model is under threat… Most widebody aircraft today are delivered with embedded IFE; airlines simply tick a box, and the selection is limited Philippine Airlines’ decision to offer mobile and Wi-Fi service + wireless IFE via OnAir Play – on its Airbus A330 widebodies will serve as a tremendous test case. Will the success of this program prompt other legacy carriers to follow suit? Already seeing clear interest for wireless IFE on aircraft that haven’t traditionally offered any IFE – Lufthansa, WestJet, Virgin Australia, Silk Air, etc… - as well as United Airlines’ latest decision to offer video streaming service
  24. 24. Thank you Mary Kirby
  25. 25. DISCLAIMER Any use, republication or redistribution of this content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of the Author. Permission to copy and reproduce content may be granted by the author, at their discretion, and by request only. Source: presentation of Mary Kirby, Runway Girl Network at the 2014 SITA Air Transport IT Summit, Brussels. 2014 Air Transport IT Summit