The AIX team sat down with aerospace thought-leaders, market disruptors and established companies to discuss how Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC) can keep up with changing passenger expectations.
The team spoke with Martin Orzechowski, Business Development Manager, AERQ.
What are your predictions for connectivity in the aircraft cabin in 2023?
“We see 2023 as the kick-off year for LEO satellite connectivity and free in-flight Wi-Fi. As the first airlines invest in LEO technology, others will closely observe their progress. These investments will set the stage for offering free in-flight Wi-Fi, compelling airlines using older connectivity solutions to follow suit.
As a result, passengers can look forward to the introduction of a more seamless internet experience like their home connections with select airlines.”
How do you see in-flight connectivity evolving in the next five years?
“In the next five years, in-flight connectivity is expected to undergo significant changes, driven by the increasing demand for a seamless and frictionless travel experience.
Passengers will experience more seamless connectivity as they transition between different transportation modes, such as ground transportation to air travel. This could include features like automatic synchronisation of entertainment content and personal preferences across various travel providers.
In addition, connectivity will become a more integral part of the in-flight experience and be offered free of charge to passengers. Because of this, airlines may explore new business models and revenue streams, such as more partnerships with content providers and streaming services, in-flight e-commerce and shopping, expanded in-flight advertising and sponsored content, or even premium connectivity add-ons like priority bandwidth when the cabin network is strained.
By exploring these new business models and revenue streams, airlines can not only monetize their investment in in-flight connectivity but also create a more personalised and engaging experience for passengers.
As the demand for connectivity continues to grow, airlines that can adapt and innovate in this space will be well-positioned to differentiate themselves and generate additional revenue.”
Some estimations have put the “take-rate” for on-board Wi-Fi at just 6%, with some lamenting the poor connectivity and inability to stream content.
How do you see the role of Wi-Fi changing in the cabin going forward?
“We expect the role of Wi-Fi in the cabin to evolve significantly in the coming years, driven by advancements in satellite technology and the increasing expectations of passengers for seamless connectivity.
With the up-and-coming LEO satellite constellations of Starlink, OneWeb, Telesat, and Amazon Kuiper, passengers will experience faster and more reliable Wi-Fi connections. This will make it easier to stream content, take part in video conferences, and access other high-bandwidth applications, resulting in higher take rates and greater overall satisfaction with in-flight Wi-Fi.
With the evolution of in-flight connectivity, Wi-Fi will also play a more integral role in delivering a personalised experience for passengers. This could include syncing personal entertainment preferences, accessing customised services, and staying up to date with flight information. As a result, passengers will see in-flight Wi-Fi as an essential part of their travel experience.
Airlines may also reconsider pricing strategies and explore new ways to incentivise usage. This could include free or discounted Wi-Fi for all or a selected group of passengers, bundling Wi-Fi access with other in-flight services, or providing tiered pricing options based on speed and data allowances.”
The demand to stream content including on short and medium flight has proliferated.
How will airlines ensure they continue to meet this demand?
“Airlines must adopt various strategies and invest in technologies to meet passengers’ expectations. One obvious solution would be to invest in next-generation satellite and air-to-ground connectivity that offer faster speeds, lower latency, and higher capacity at lower cost.
Airlines could also establish partnerships with content providers and streaming services to optimize content delivery. Additionally, airlines could cache popular content locally on the aircraft to reduce the need to stream content over in-flight connectivity to save bandwidth.”
The EU commission has unveiled plans for airlines to implement 5G technologies onboard for passengers.
Do you see this revolutionising onboard connectivity?
“The implementation of 5G in aviation demands substantial investments in infrastructure and requires strong collaboration among airlines, connectivity providers, and regulatory bodies, which might pose a considerable challenge. While 5G may not completely revolutionise in-flight connectivity as we know it, it will serve as a valuable enabler for a more seamless and frictionless passenger experience within the aircraft cabin.”
Any other comments or insights you would like to share around the topics of digitalisation and connectivity?
“Digitalisation and connectivity are reshaping the aviation industry, creating new opportunities and challenges for airlines, passengers, and service providers. As a result, we will see that in-flight entertainment and in-flight connectivity systems will continue to progressively converge, ultimately forming fully integrated IFEC ecosystems.
By embracing these changes and focusing on innovation, collaboration, and sustainability, airlines can enhance the passenger experience, improve operational efficiency, and stay competitive in an ever-evolving market.”