Airline passengers are already experiencing some of these transformations first-hand through in-flight broadband access, enhanced entertainment options and other services. Thales is at the forefront, with more than 750,000 airline passengers using our InFlyt Experience systems every day, and delivering capabilities that allow a broadband Internet connection and live TV viewing at 36,000 feet in the air.
The connected airline gives air carriers an enormous opportunity to link aircraft, airports and their third-party service providers in a way that will help them understand their passengers’ DNA and provide a new level of customer service, whether an aircraft is in the air or on the ground.
Just like an online consumer at home who is constantly fed a set of recommendations, airlines will soon be able to use data in the same way to help them improve their passenger experience and, in the process, achieve greater revenues. This ability already exists in the terrestrial consumer world; Thales is working to apply it to the airline passenger world as well.
The same algorithms that provide information about online consumer purchases can help airlines know their passengers even better. For example, airlines will see the flight patterns and preferences of their frequent fliers. Taken to the next level, airport and passenger data could be used to help a mother traveling with kids find helpful services, products and destinations during an airport layover. During the same layover, business travellers, seniors and young couples could be similarly identified and notified of services that would create a unique, tailored experience.
Driving this transformation, of course, is an insatiable appetite for the connectivity of personal digital devices, and the expectation that they will be connected anywhere and at any time. It’s relatively easy to stay connected at home, in the office and in the airport, so why not on an airline?
The barriers to seamless in-flight connectivity are falling quickly. Naturally, there is some additional infrastructure build-out required to remove the barriers that remain. This infrastructure build-out, primarily space-based, will ultimately support broadband access to all airlines around the world.
In the meantime, “personalization” is going to remain the key word for airlines, and work is underway to enhance the experience with better advertising and shopping content by destination, and the creation of access to an always-connected travel experience – including scheduling/rescheduling information in the event of a delay, re-routing or cancellation.
Soon, we will enable pairing of personal electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets, fitness trackers and smart watches with an aircraft’s on-board experience solutions – allowing airlines to monitor an in-flight micro-social network, with insight into what is “trending on board.”
These capabilities will give airlines a critical look at passengers’ interests to enable more personalized experiences for each passenger, which will drive brand loyalty, greater client satisfaction and stronger ancillary revenue streams.