Now that airlines have slowly resumed flying, the major market players in the inflight entertainment (IFE) industry have an opportunity to recover from the financial repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic. While some companies have launched touchless check-in systems to gain customers’ trust, various technological advancements and supportive policies that have enabled the use passengers’ own electronic devices have supplemented the demand for embedded IFE.
According to Allied Market Research, the global in-flight entertainment and connectivity market is expected to hit US$6.24 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 11.2% from 2017 to 2023. This is because of an increase in the use of personal laptops and other devices, and airlines have invested a huge amount of money to support passenger-supplied digital hardware and offer IFE technology to stream content to passenger devices.
Potential opportunities for IFE & connectivity
As laptops and smartphones have become smarter, lighter and cheaper, it seemed like airlines might let go of seatback IFE screens. However, experts believe that improved embedded IFE is the future. What’s more, offering more interesting and informative content on the IFE system would encourage customers to opt for using a seatback IFE screen. In their everyday lives, people prefer to view bigger screens such as TVs while their personal devices are still on their lap. The same principle of ‘second screening’ can be applied in planes. If companies can figure out ways to stream online entertainment platforms such as Netflix at a faster speed, air travellers would prefer to view seatback IFE screens than their personal devices.
Along with streaming IFE platforms, gaming is the next big thing. Panasonic has been working for some time on the broadcasting of live sports in the skies, and has signed deals with various airlines. Moreover, some companies are aiming to launch inflight gaming platforms so customers can enjoy playing titles such as FIFA and Call of Duty as they fly. During a flight, travellers can enter a tournament, and by the time they approach their destination, the winner can be announced.
Just as gamers love to play games, business travellers may like to enrol themselves in online courses, or watch insightful online conferences to gain more knowledge in their chosen profession. Moreover, travellers with a similar profession can choose to interact with each other and use the seatback screens to communicate and collaborate with each other. Although such inflight services have not yet been launched, it has potential if the journey is longer than three to four hours.
Emergence of new technologies
Given the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies are searching for new ways to minimise the users’ physical contact with hardware. For instance, American Airlines recently introduced a touchless check-in experience to ensure customer’s safety and wellbeing while enhancing the customer experience. This technology allows users to proceed through airport gates without touching kiosk screens, and travellers who would like to check their baggage while travelling domestically can do so via the airline’s app or the American Airlines website. When the customer arrives at check-in, they can scan their boarding pass and the kiosk will automatically print bag tags, eliminating the need to touch the kiosk. This technology is expected to be introduced at more than 230 airports.
SpiceJet recently launched Spicescreen, a revamped version of its complimentary IFE system. The airline partnered with an Indian start-up and unveiled its lightweight, wireless entertainment (W-IFE) system that offers seamless content delivery on customer’s personal devices through a wi-fi network. Through Spicescreen, travellers can access movies, TV shows, stand-up comedies, and cartoons on their smartphones, tablets or laptops by connecting to the cabin wi-fi network.
Similarly, Burrana announced the launch of its RISE IFE platform. The platform offers a new approach to the single-aisle market, delivering a fast, lightweight and cost-effective alternative. Moreover, the RISE platform can be combined with cabin lighting and in-seat power to make the travel experience more comfortable. At the core of the RISE platform is its 48VDC power backbone, and every onboard system relies on it. This centralised unit can be controlled wirelessly through the 4K screens for streaming entertainment, and it is also incorporated with the crew controls.
The launch of such a platform is just the beginning. Today’s customers demand inflight connectivity, and offering fast inflight broadband benefits both airlines and customers. Having IFE and connectivity systems eliminates the additional weight of onboard servers and enhances aircraft fuel efficiency. Over the last couple of months, airlines have faced tremendous losses due to the various travel bans. Now, some countries have started to revoke the bans and airlines are aiming to attract customer attention with new facilities such as contactless platforms and IFE systems to win back their trust.
About the author:
Swamini Kulkarni holds a bachelor’s degree in Medical from Pune University, and works as a content writer at a reputable firm. She is deeply fascinated by the impact of technology on human life, and loves to talk about medical science and mythology. When she is not glued to the computer, she loves to read, travel, and daydream about her areas of interest.