The Aircraft Interiors mash-up in Hamburg ended this past week with some very interesting and unpredicted trends in the IFE space. For sure, the move toward smaller, thinner, lighter and more capable electronics was present. Second, third, and fourth generation electronics were claimed in the thin seat/thin and smart IFE world. Without a doubt, this is the trend of the next round of seatback/seat hardware. We really liked the Thales product!

There were a number of R&D projects almost ready for prime time: A wireless seat power development project that claimed 97% efficiency from KID (isn’t that better than wire?); a really great in-seat power supply design concept (Recaro and KID), which removed the seat power box and placed it in a central seat tube; a rapid prototyping capability for seat peripheral products (IFPC); a new, simple, content aggregation software from an Italian supplier; a new satcom/radio software data reduction algorithm that lops 40% of the overhead budget (TriaGnoSys); a new line of inflight hardware from a predominantly portable IFE supplier; a big sale for one fiber-optic IFE provider; two new seat power boxes; a 65” LCD Display; and so much more.

There is a big deal underway in IFE gatelink data that promises to expand ground-based IFE/airplane data that may finally automate that last node on the airline networks – the aircraft. It may do so by the build-up of ground-based networking…not in-flight connectivity. This offering looks like another SITA or ARINC and may incorporate their efforts as well. We will report on this project in the upcoming weeks.

iPad, iPad, iPad is all we heard about. No less that 8 vendors at the Hamburg Show had them in their booth. One even professed that it will be used as an inflight IFE offering. We do not know how it will ever pass DO-160 specifications so that rules out an imbedded application, but hope springs eternal. Additionally, the unit still stumbles with the lack of file handling capabilities and multitasking…not to mention security issues around file encryption. One rumor on the floor placed a major movie distributer in the booth of one vendor claiming they must print a retraction to an earlier news release claiming iPad first run movies? You can believe what you may but you heard it here first.

On the road, we wanted to give a tip-of-the-hat to Seattle Tacoma International Airport for their much appreciated, free Wi-Fi offered to all travelers. In an interview, the airport claimed that it costs them easily over $100,000 each year given the fees and royalties paid by service providers. Airports are not friendly places any more, but the folks at SeaTac deserve mention.

We hear Alaska Airlines will be offering introductory free Go-go Wi-Fi service till July 31, this year.

While air travel to and from the Hamburg show was nothing short of madness, thanks to the Icelandic volcano, we worry about the long-term impact on European air travel and airlines. Having experienced the absolute breakdown of one airline’s ability to manage the emergency we wonder if there are any management solutions to random weather emergencies? One thing for sure, it is going to cost us all more to fly!

20 May 2010: Korean airline Asiana walked away with the 2010 World Airline Awards’s top award. The coveted Airline of the Year award was announced during a ceremony, held during Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.

Organised by Skytrax, the World Airline Awards are now in their 11th year.  Edward Plaisted, CEO of Skytrax, handed out awards across 53 categories including Best Cabin Staff, Best Inflight Entertainment and Best Seat, in each of the cabin classes.

The World Airline Awards are the most prestigious awards to recognise product and service quality across the world airline industry.  The awards are based on the World Airline Survey, which is organised annually by Skytrax; unlike many airline awards winners are selected by airline passengers. The survey measures over 35 different aspects of passenger satisfaction for an airline’s product and service standards, evaluating the typical travel experience. Regarded as the primary benchmark tool for passenger satisfaction levels of airlines throughout the world, the survey is based upon analysis of both business and leisure travellers and across all cabin travel types – first, business, premium economy and economy class passengers. 

Edward Plaisted, CEO of Skytrax, said: “What marked Asiana out above all the other airlines this year was the overall quality of their customer service – across both the airport and the onboard environment. This award represents a true recognition of the front-line product and service that Asiana Airlines is delivering to its customers and the award slogan of ‘The Passenger’s Choice’ underlines the fact that Asiana Airlines are succeeding in satisfying the hardest critics – their users.”

Reed Exhibitions Group Exhibition Director, Ian Crawford, said: “This is the second year that Aircraft Interiors Expo has played host to these prestigious awards; it was wonderful to see so many airline attendees this year. Congratulations to Asiana Airlines and all the other winners.”

Greetings from Hamburg, Germany! Thanks to AYA-FIOLA-YOKUL – a few out-of-the-way airports, delayed flights, unexpected bus tours, missed connections, and schedule slides we managed to make it to Hamburg… better late than never! Next week’s issue of IFExpress will include the latest and greatest from AIX… assuming the volcano doesn’t get too obstreperous at the end of the week when we are to fly home via ICELAND again!

Now for the Hot Topic: Never satisfied with the status quo of inflight LCD displays, Yukio Sugimoto founder of Aircraft Cabin Systems (ACS) recently rolled out the biggest cabin display yet. The HDMI certified 65” LCD video monitor knocked us out when we saw it at their new Redmond, Washington facility. Sporting a native resolution of 1920 x 1080 (3x pixels), the mondo-monitor just breaks the 100-pound mark and is bound to be the “must have” for the biz jet set and the Head of State crowd. The unit will be on display in the ACS booth # 6C15 at the AIX in Hamburg. We understand one customer has already signed-up for the first unit off the production line and ACS anticipates a robust demand for this product. Here is more information on the 65” LCD Video Monitor.

Lastly, you know how show rumors persist and this year is no exception! Lumexis is purportedly going to release the name of their “new” customer at AIX on Tuesday in Germany. We hear that the airline is Fly Dubai. Don’t jump to conclusions readers!