Kontron’s involvement in the EAN project has been well documented, supplying LRUs to support Inmarsat and the project in general. There’s something extremely exciting about being involved in a project of this scope and magnitude and this writer has been waiting for the chance to experience it first hand.
Having flown on many airlines and experienced traditional satellite based connectivity systems with varying degrees of success, the chance to try out something different, with speeds mentioned that support all you could ever want to do in an aeroplane, was incredible exciting.
Time and time again I would board my British Airways flight to find no WiFi network available nor any documentation that the service was available despite vigorous searching amongst the magazines and sick bag. Next time!!
Finally, the first In-Flight Experience
Boarding G-EUUM for a flight to Germany again I was disappointed BUT on the return flight just a few days later on the same aircraft, success, there it was, a network called BAWiFi. Getting a little excited now.
The sign in experience is as frustrating as ever. Now where is my credit card? (Note: I confess I’m not sure if I could pay with avios points). Fortunately the credit card was in my bag under my seat but what a palaver. Many times it was in the overhead bin, this part needs sorting and Kontron again can help here, but that’s another story.
Once connected I streamed from YouTube, SkyGo. BTMobile, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and even my home media server, all worked like a dream. Posting on Facebook, Instagram, again; flawless. Conversations via Snapchat, WhatsApp were as they would be on the ground and a quick FaceTime call to this writers Mother was a highlight. Fantastic quality better than the majority of experiences on the ground.
The speeds achieved were 4/5Mbps down and 2-3Mbps up. As the service wasn’t advertised on the flight, I’m unclear how many other devices were connected, but this user didn’t mind and thoroughly enjoyed his first experience of the EAN service.
The Airline's Dilemma
It got me thinking of the airlines dilemma regarding the passenger experience “To connect or not to connect”.
It’s clear we’re in the age of communication and connectivity, but we also continue in the age of ROI and revenue. Would an airline see increased revenue and customer retention/satisfaction if they offered a fully connected aircraft to its passengers, giving them total freedom to surf and stream or would the airline be smarter to offer access to a disconnected system, offering a managed and hand-crafted experience, that corrals the customer in to a large but controlled ecosystem, ensuring the airline controls what the customer sees, opening up targeted and sponsored content leading to increased revenue.
Total Freedom or to control? To connect or not to connect? And is there a difference in the type of airlines out there and how they want to manage IFEC?
Would a premium brand choose to offer more freedom?
Would a budget brand choose to offer only limited sponsored content?
Do you need connectivity or simply update on the ground and host locally?
To connect or not to connect?
There’s no doubting the dilemma airlines have and it potentially gets more complicated when additional regulation is added into the mix, such as Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2). The need for 2 factor authentication inflight could be a game changer for these discussions. Nevertheless the connectivity technology is here and available now and customers are ready for it. There is a cost but there are many exciting avenues for revenue generation that this technology can support. Sponsorship, extending brand awareness and new cross-market collaborations are now conversation topics taking place across the industry, and Kontron sit ready to support our customers in these type of discussions.
With more airlines seeing the value in supporting the complete "Home to Destination" ecosystem, a fully connected or "updated on the ground" disconnected system is a hugely important service. Is it a case of "when" and not "if" all airline offers this?
Whatever you want and whichever way you want it; you can have it. So what do you want your customers to associate you with? Can you afford to be last to market?