The annual Aircraft Interiors Expo saw more than 14,000 visitors this year over its three-day airing in Hamburg, Germany.
The latest innovations in cabin connectivity were shown and discussed, in addition to some incredible interior designs.
Airlines and service providers were asking new questions this year, leading us to believe that in-flight connectivity, as a relatively new requirement for the cabin, is climbing higher on the list of priorities for passengers.
Rockwell Collins’ Jeff Standerski, senior VP, said that the term IFEC (In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity) should be referred to in the future as IFPE (In-Flight Passenger Engagement), demonstrating that the way we are thinking about cabin connectivity is changing.
Rockwell Collins’ ARINC Cabin Connect is certainly moving with the times, offering next-generation connectivity with support for personal electronic devices, and opportunities to increase in-flight revenue and enhance customer service with AirCrew Connect.
Latin American LATAM Airlines Group has announced that it will invest $100 million on cabin services tech projects to help provide an enhanced passenger experience.
Plans include a Smartphone app for passengers to manage their travel arrangements, improvements to flight status systems that is aimed at giving passengers greater access to flight information and, through a deal signed with YouTube, passenger access to popular channels integrated into the in-flight entertainment system.
In addition, the launch of LAN & TAM Entertainment has been announced – a wireless IFE system that will allow passengers to watch TV, movies and video using their personal mobile devices on board.
Although WiFi connectivity is not yet part of the offering, LATAM Group have revealed that they have been exploring the possibility for a number of years and their eventual aim is to include WiFi in their free package.
Middle Eastern & African airlines are exploring solutions to boost passenger numbers, while making improvements to operational productivity, efficiency and connectivity across all areas of operations.
Throughout the region, the market is coming into its own with Wi-Fi connectivity at the top of the list for passenger satisfaction. Consequently, this sector is becoming competitive as companies vie for the best connections at the best prices.
WirelessG, a South African-based Wi-Fi telecommunications provider has made claims to have launched the world’s first mobile service offering customers a 3G/4G data bundle that can be used on the ground or in the air – 3G, ADSL, Wi-Fi and In-flight Wi-Fi – on a single online platform. There are still technical issues, according to their CEO.
“The Ku-band satellite service we received was relatively very stable. Our airline partner did an excellent job in supporting the service onboard,” says Mr van de Merwe. “Our major problem for two years was that we could not get our in-flight Wi-Fi services out of the ‘beta’ stage in order to meet the telecommunications uptime standards we are used to when providing Wi-Fi on the ground. In our specific case, we have had too many in-flight Wi-Fi hardware problems over our first two years.”
“You cannot fix a plane while it is flying,” he continued. “You have to wait for a suitable time at minimum opportunity cost to the airline. That can take between one week and one month. A new benchmark for in-flight Wi-Fi technology solution providers is therefore to provide and support onboard in-flight telecommunications solutions that support a telecommunications carrier grade model with reliability standards that at least match aviation operation service schedules. Maybe our standards and expectations are too high at this point in time, but we refuse to take our service out of beta until it meets our standards.”
Across the world, the demand for in-flight connectivity is increasing and not just in the cabin. Applications for real-time information on the flight deck also enhances the experience for the flight crew. Swift decision making can be facilitated by reliable connectivity, yet to be completely effective, the system required seamless connections with smooth band-switching.
King Air will soon be installing its SwiftBroadband SATCOM solution with installers Cobham SATCOM receiving Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) approval from Brazilian Administración Nacional de Avianción Civil (ANAC).
King Air models B200, B200C and B300 (Super King Air 350) will receive access to an extensive range of communications abilities with built-in WiFi options.
The aircraft will receive Cobham’s AVIATOR 200, a compact, lightweight system with the reliability of SwiftBroadband, Inmarsat’s 200 service. With speeds of up to 200 kbps and a single ABME 2 channel for voice calls, the King Air aircraft will be fully connected.
Kevin Harriman, Pro Star Aviation General Manager, said, “The AVIATOR 200 is the perfect choice for King Air operators as it offers the ideal broadband and voice solution and is small and lighter than other solutions. It is practical and affordable, and, with reduced hardware and installation costs, the AVIATOR 200 is everything you need to stay connected.”
Kim Gram, Vice President Aeronautical Business Unit, Cobham SATCOM, said, “The AVIATOR 200 offers in-flight broadband communication to aircraft of virtually any size as it utilizes a low gain antenna. We are particularly pleased to add the Brazilian approval to the FAA and EASA STCs already developed with Pro Star for King Air. This is a world-wide solution which can now benefit many more people. It represents another key step forward in enabling more users to take advantage of modern in-flight communications in the South America region.”
Other Inmarsat SwiftBroadband SATCOM providers, such as ARINC, can offer business jet operators seamless global connectivity with its unique partnership with the Iridium satellite networks.
American Airlines plans for 30 new Bombardier CRJ-900 NextGen regional jet aircraft will begin this month with the arrival of the first of the fleet. In a bid to provide ATG connectivity, the company has announced an agreement with Gogo, aero communications service provider, to install their systems for in-flight internet connectivity.
“American Airlines was the first commercial airline to launch connectivity service with Gogo, and we are excited to continue to build on our longstanding relationship with American by extending Wi-Fi service to passengers flying on its new regional jets,” said Michael Small, Gogo’s president and CEO.
In-flight internet is fast becoming a pre-requisite for business passengers in todays’ modern skies. The expectation is for connectivity to be as reliable and seamless as it is on the ground in order for business to be conducted as efficiently as the office.
Many business jet communications providers are supportive of the initiative and costs for installation and operation is competitive. The race for reasonably-priced, and above all, reliable in flight internet is gathering momentum across the globe as demand accelerates.
Considerable growth in the business aviation services sector has been highlighted by the announcement that Gogo plans to relocate its business aviation division, Aircell, to a larger facility in Broomfield, CO, later this year.
Aircell provides business aviation services, including in-flight entertainment and connectivity to private jet aircraft. With almost 200 employees, and plans to create more jobs, the company expect further growth over the next few years and hope that the new facility, housing more than double the space that they currently occupy, will suit their future expansion needs.
The business aviation services sector has experienced a surge in recent times, largely due to the competitive demands of the modern executive traveller. It is expected to offer seamless connectivity during the entire flight and with aircraft covering greater distances, it has been necessary for business operators to step up to the challenges of continuous connectivity.
Business aviation services providers, such as ARINC Direct, bring seamless connectivity to their customers with a unique partnership of Inmarsat and Iridium satellite communications networks. This partnership offers truly global coverage, even when traversing oceanic expanses and Polar Regions.
As demands continue to grow, the business aviation services sector is expected to become more and more competitive and will give rise to further expansion as the year passes. There are no visible signs of business slowing, and as regulatory conditions continue to add to the pressure, it is set to be an interesting year for business aviation services.