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In-flight connectivity is a growing trend in the aviation industry; an increasing number of airlines fully or partially integrate cabin connectivity in their fleets, providing in-flight services to improve passenger experience. Passengers are now looking for cheaper and, eventually, free, fast and reliable connectivity services to remain continuously connected as they are in daily life. This trend is driving airlines and suppliers to innovate, develop a competitive advantage and find the best way to realise profit in this complex and challening market.
Introduction: Onboard Applications of In-flight Connectivity
In-flight connectivity is a growing trend in the aviation industry; an increasing number of airlines fully or partially integrate cabin connectivity in their fleet, providing in-flight services to improve passenger experience. Passengers are looking for cheaper and, eventually, free, fast and reliable connectivity services to remain continuously connected, as they are in daily life. This trend is driving airlines and suppliers to innovate, develop a competitive advantage and find the best way to boost profit in this complex and challenging market.
In-flight connectivity helps passengers stay connected via their own devices or through the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment system. Following the social trend towards continuous connectivity, particularly since the mass proliferation of smart phones, passengers are looking to be continuously and seamlessly connected on board flights, from departure to arrival and from gate to gate. Connectivity demand is driven by many factors, such as the requirement of business passengers to make the most of their flight time, particularly on long-distance routes, as well as the need for ordinary passengers to organise onward travel plans while in transit, or the desire to connect with friends and family through social networks, e-mail and instant messaging. In addition, it is an opportunity to enhance passenger entertainment offerings, providing passengers their favourite networks, such as online film and television services. As a result, passengers could, in future, customise their own entertainment, improving choice and simplicity.
The increasing penetration of smart phones and other portable electronic devices (PEDs), such as tablets and laptops, confirms the trend for more global and continuous connectivity. Passengers carry their devices onboard and want to utilise their full potential. In-flight connectivity enables the continued use of devices as in any other mode of transport and elsewhere in day-to-day life and work. Passengers can leverage Internet browsers to connect to their favourite social network and use Internet applications, text messaging, instant messaging and e-mails and, if airlines eventually allow it, passengers can make and receive mobile phone calls. Another key advantage of connectivity is the ability to provide passengers with a customised entertainment service. If cabin connectivity can support this demand, passengers can access preferred content from cloud-based devices, thus increasing satisfaction as in-flight entertainment will not be limited to the airline’s offering.
In terms of phone calls, some airlines allow them while others do not, as they are of the opinion that the quiet cabin environment will be disrupted and the other passengers will be disturbed. Thus, messaging, e-mailing, Internet and everything related to data communication are favoured over voice communication, and passengers can remain connected while not causing a disturbance to anyone. In the United States, while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation has been relaxed with regard to the use of PEDs for data communication, mobile phones cannot be used for voice communication as a result of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that prohibit in-flight calls.
Connectivity can also be an advantage for cabin crew. The provision of connected devices to cabin crew allows them to give updates and live information to passengers, Information regarding airline operation, such as live transfer information at the airport and flight connection, will enhance customer satisfaction as the crew will be able to answer questions with certainty. Cabin connectivity will also provide flight attendants with point-of-sale connectivity, potentially improving the sale of extra items, thereby increasing on-board sales.
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