Insights from Inflight Middle East

Posted by Purdal Mya on January 30th, 2018 | Blog

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Inflight Aviation show in the always wonderful Dubai, UAE.  A wide range of vendors, from seat-back electric socket providers to plane turbine manufacturers, peppered the exhibition floor looking to give their pitch. Aside from the vendors, there was a great workshop that lined up experts from within the industry to cover all things IFE, IFC and cabin tech.

Looking back on the show, there were 3 stand out moments for me first being the welcome address by Jon Norris from Panasonic Avionics (also an APEX Board Member). Secondly, the connectivity panel was amazing with great contributions from Neale Faulkner from Inmarsat and Tina Ghataore from Yahsat.  Last but not least, I thoroughly enjoyed the session on improving ancillary revenue through increased connectivity with our own SVP Product and Marketing, Robin Hopper from Guestlogix.

The State of Inflight Entertainment

A couple major themes of the workshops straddled on the misconception that the seat back is dead. The seat back is not dead.

Let me repeat that: THE SEAT BACK IS NOT DEAD.

This was made crystal clear by multiple panelist with logical reasoning. IFE and IFC must be decoupled to provide passengers the choices they want, when they want. If a passenger wants to go on their own device to check their WhatsApp messages, then they should be able to. They should just as easily be able to switch to the seat back and continue watching the show they had playing in background.

This is the way passengers entertain themselves at home and airlines need to be able to provide the same experience at 50,000 ft. The seat back will only die when we get rid of TVs in our homes (augmented reality, anyone?). We live in an “and” world not an “or” world. I want to Snapchat my friends AND watch Jumanji at the same time.

Connecting Over Connectivity

Education on connectivity was also touched on heavily. There are many advertisements for futuristic connectivity speeds but the reality is this is not the case in a live environment. There needs to be proper education directed to passengers on what they expect out of their WiFi experience. Why promise comparable on-the-ground experiences when the reality will likely fall short?

Set your passengers’ expectations so you can live up to them. One of the bits of info I found interesting is how Korean Air does not offer WiFi on planes because they know they cannot provide the speed their passengers are used to on the ground.  

Future Experience Improvements

Now with all the forward thinking happening between vendors and airlines, there seems to be this leapfrog effect that will take place once high-speed connectivity becomes the norm.  Current worries in the airline industry revolve around things like continuous connectivity for passengers and remembering passenger preferences. These things are standard offerings for any tech experience in other industries. As we solve these problems (which in and of themselves is no small feat) the airline industry will be able to focus on leveraging innovative tech to do things like curbside baggage pick up/drop off, hyper targeted advertisements, inflight AR/VR, or even biometric boarding.  Airlines are positioned to take the most innovative projects to the air as there is a clear experience-related problem with opportunity for large improvements. It will soon become an amazing time to fly. No longer will we be looking at the “good old days” of flying. Those days are ahead of us.

As a whole, the show was fantastic – many great booths, expert panelists, and interesting topics with engaging conversation. I look forward to the next show!

To keep the conversation going, connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn and make sure you don’t miss my upcoming post on frictionless experience and the passenger.