Facing a greater need than ever to offer competitive services, run each program efficiently, and turn a profit, airlines should expect more from an IFE provider. To help out, we have compiled a short list of six trends in inflight entertainment and connectivity that you should ask your IFE provider about. If you don’t yet offer IFE, then use these same questions when vetting potential solution providers.
As a special treat, we asked several industry insiders to contribute to the list.
IFE Vendors: Do you support Internet browsing?
Let’s just start with the gorilla in the room. Connectivity is spreading, and spreading fast. Recent reports say that Delta may complete fleet-wide Aircell installation ahead of schedule. So if connectivity is in your plans, then make sure that your IFE vendor provides a good Internet browsing experience.
Connectivity Vendors: How does your Wi-Fi compare to a terrestrial experience?
Brendan Gallagher, European Contributing Editor for WAEA Industry News, cuts straight to the point and suggests asking, “Can you offer me a connectivity service comparable in performance to what passengers are used to obtaining with their mobile phones, BlackBerries, iPhones and wireless laptops on the ground? If you can, what percentage of the revenues will I get? Will the provider of the air-to-ground link still be in business ten years from now?”
Will I actually earn Ancillary Revenue?
There is a lot being said about Ancillary Revenue, or Revenue Sponsored Entertainment, in the airline industry. With a-la-carte pricing and new program offerings, the industry is grappling to find a sustainable revenue model for IFE. So stop and ask, “Will I actually earn ancillary revenue and do you have examples of customers already earning revenue?”
How can your system integrate and capitalize on emerging media?
Steven Frischling, Founder of The Travel Strategist and Flying With Fish, offers some great insight on using emerging media to envelop the passenger in a memorable brand and entertainment experience.
“As consumers become more accustomed to seeking out emerging media and social media solutions to interact, satisfy curiosity and seek out answers to their questions, airlines have the opportunity to bring their emerging media content to a captive audience on-board flights.
With the widespread installation of in-seat inflight entertainment (IFE), and the growing use of stand-alone individual IFE devices, as well as the growing use of inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFE&C), airlines have not yet engaged in maximizing the potential of emerging media.
How airlines engage and interact with their passengers must change. Utilizing the overlooked options within IFE and IFE&C allows airlines to further capitalize on not only their brand, but also their sustained customer interaction and retention.”
What type of data and information is going to be shared between the IFE provider and airline?
With years of experience and industry knowledge, Terry Wiseman from Airfax.com gives some sage advice. “Airlines who don’t communicate with their IFE&C providers are asking for trouble in the form of a bad passenger experience. More to the point, it is the airline who knows its passenger demographic best. Beyond analyzing flight duration on various routes, the airline can provide the hardware and seat folks with data that is truly demand driven.
For example one question that doesn’t come up enough is: How many and what kind of communication devices do you travel with, and what ones do you use inflight? If for example, passengers are trying to watch their carried-on entertainment on Smartphone screens, it may help the IFE vendor determine that value of inseat power, large screen playback and device interface, Bluetooth connectivity (noiseless headphone playback), even the purchase and download of content thru the IFE system for ancillary revenue. And speaking of revenue, card swipe devices will need information about passenger credit card types.
With new carry-on rules, airlines need to take a close look at the physical environment too. I carry double-backed Velcro with me to prop up my iPod so I don’t have to hold the darn thing on the tabletop. Surely, airlines who don’t provide digEplayers can figure out some stand device if it is only a pre-punched plastic card (yes, with advertising) that acts as a foldable device stand. Lastly, there is no humor in flying any more. It is a serious, uncomfortable, problem studded business. Please get a room full of joke writers to make a channel for the embedded and portable IFE systems with 2 hours of jokes! Hey, at least the passengers will be smiling.”
Passenger’s Perspective: Give me reliability and choice
To finish out our list, Brett Snyder, from the CrankyFlier.com, offers a few thoughts as a passenger. “As a user, I just want the thing to work! There’s nothing worse than seeing a shiny new TV in the seatback and then finding out it doesn’t work. But beyond that, choice is good. I don’t mind paying for IFE as long as it’s worth paying for. So give me some compelling video programming, some music, and personally, I want a killer moving map along with cameras outside the plane (But that’s just the airline dork in me).”
Thank you to everyone that contributed to this list. And hopefully you airlines have found some new things to think about and speak with IFE&C providers about.