demands [in the air] are equal to their demands on the
ground,” he said. “If a passenger normally spends hours
surfng the internet, they want that. If they usually use
Netfix, we have to ofer that. We need to make sure our
technology can handle whatever passengers bring on
“Even if you’re in the middle of the Norwegian moun-
tains, you expect your phone to work. You would leave
home without your wallet, but not your phone. Connec-
tivity is a must-have.”
But, Bubresko acknowledges, “Right now we are in
the childhood of onboard connectivity.”
Te challenge is that normal for one person is not nor-
mal for another. “What is considered entertainment by
the traveling public covers a huge broad range of things,
so what we have to do is facilitate choice. Passengers don’t
ft into one bucket,” Panasonic’s Bruner said.
One area where onboard connectivity improvements are
changing what can be ofered is with gaming, which has
historically been limited to classics such as Solitaire and
Tetris because onboard systems lack the sensors, gyros
and processing power for anything more sophisticated.
But those simple games are hugely popular, Bruner said,
and the connected aircraft could open the door to further exploration, such as multiplayer games between
passengers and people on the ground.
“Gaming is huge in terms of value, but you’d struggle
to play a lot of games on a seatback screen. Tis doesn’t
tend to be top of pile in terms what airlines asking for,”
A lot of games need controllers, they are free and go
out of fashion quickly, but these barriers could be overcome by linking up passenger mobile phones to onboard
systems and exploring in-game purchasing partnerships.
“Tere is potential to make money that is not being explored yet,” Bruner noted.
International Airlines Group (IAG) head of IAG Connect Andrea Burchett sees gaming, particularly collecting
games for loyalty points, as an area for exploration. “Tis
is clearly an area we will look at. [Gaming] is a massive
market, which absolutely falls into the category of entertainment,” she said.
Airlines and connectivity providers are also looking at
IFE diferently in terms of revenue generation and personalization.
When IAG launched long-haul LCC Level, it selected
a system where passengers pay for seatback food and
drink purchases using their trusted mobile devices. “It
turns payment into a non-event. It is almost divorced
from their thinking; it’s just something that happens,”
IAG, Norwegian and Panasonic all see a future for
personalized IFE portals. “Today we ofer one onboard
Wi-Fi portal, but I believe going forward we will see personal portals based on passenger needs, their destinations
and their previous interactions with us,” Bubresko said.
IFE creates opportunities for partnerships, but Burchett
adds a caution. “You have a captive audience and lots of
brands are interested, but you have to be careful you don’t
overwhelm passengers. Tey switch of very quickly if there
is no added value. It’s not just about making money. Tere
has to be a set of strategic principles to it.”
Panasonic’s Companion app synchs to the IFE system
and customizes the onboard experience by storing confgurations between fights. “What we could see is more
and more control going to the mobile phone,” Bruner
said. “Tere’s going to be tighter integration with immediate environment around you.”
Te use of virtual reality (VR) is also coming to the fore.
French VR specialist Skylights has secured several airline
customers, including French carriers Corsair, XL Airways and new Air France carrier Joon. Skylights markets
light-weight, standalone VR headsets as an inclusive
part of the premium cabin experience, although some
airlines are renting them to economy passengers too.
Skylights’ latest headset weighs just 135 grams. “Tese
are not chunky headsets anymore; it’s like putting on a
streamlined pair of sunglasses,” Skylights communications manager Rory Gillies said. Te devices are Wi-Fi
and Bluetooth-ready and can hold about 40 high-def-nition flms and documentaries, some of which can be
viewed across 180 degrees, even when lying fat.
“We lease the headsets to airlines on an annual basis. Seatback screens have high installation costs and
are quickly obsolete. Our leasing model means airlines
always have the most up to date solution and you can
deploy from one day to the next without a single bolt on
the aircraft,” Gillies said.
“We ofer an experience above anything else available
on an aircraft and better than what is readily available to
most people on the ground. Tat gives airlines a unique
opportunity to ofer something totally new. It creates a
memorable moment, which passengers link to the airline, enhancing brand loyalty,” Gillies said.