While preparing for our yearly sojourn to AIX in Hamburg, we began to think of what would be needed on the trip in the way of new apps for our portable devices that would be relevant and make the experience a bit easier. Let’s see, an app at the airports(s), an app or two in the plane for communication and possibly sleeping or game-play diversion and of course an app about Hamburg. We won’t go into the options here but this got us thinking as good little App Pupils: How big is this app ‘thing’ and why on earth are we thinking about device apps when an exciting trip is in the offing?

Rule Number One: If an app will get you through an airport and on or off an aircraft quicker or easier, it is probably a good idea. Further, and in general, if apps make the flight experience better we will try them. That may seem strange because we spend so much money and time on flying, but the flying experience is not really enjoyable anymore… at least not in economy! Perhaps we are willing to download and use device apps that have the potential to improve it… or at least, provide a diversion that keeps us from thinking about the “experience” while we are enduring it. At this juncture, we can’t help but think about dentistry’s Novocaine, but we digress. One can only guess that if the experience were better we would want it to last longer and would not look for apps to mask or improve the event.

Which brings us to the demand and usage of mobile connectivity. We read recently that “13 million passengers used Mobile OnAir last year – 65% used if for mobile data, which includes email, social media updates and surfing the Internet, 31% used it for text messaging, and 21% used it for phone calls, which includes listening to voicemail, we were told by a SITA/ONAir spokesperson, Charlie Pryor. He went on, “Basically, think of how people use their phones normally; with smartphones, the calling element is just another app. And people use their phones in the same way on a plane as they do on the ground.” Next, Mr. Pryor went on; “There are two OnAir products that provide passenger communication. Mobile OnAir is a mobile phone network. It works in exactly the same way as international roaming: you turn on your phone and start using it. The cost is included in your regular bill, as with roaming. So no, you don’t need any specific subscription – provided of course you have roaming enabled. You can use your phone for whatever you want – emails, social media, text messages, calls, reading the newspaper: the list is endless. Internet OnAir is Wi-Fi and to use that, you need to sign-up and pay with your credit card, just like any hotspot. Mostly: there is a growing trend for airlines to provide it free of charge. Again, you can use it for whatever you normally do on the Internet.”

Obviously, apps are well used and to prove a point, airline connectivity apps, developed in this case with SITA, are a big deal, and getting bigger. The company noted; “SITA OnAir is celebrating another successful year with 13 million people taking advantage of Mobile OnAir in 2014. The inflight mobile phone service, Mobile OnAir is now flying on 15 airlines worldwide. Over the year, 37% of passengers flying OnAir-equipped aircraft connected to the inflight network. They went on; “The demand for mobile connectivity has never been higher, with 80% of passengers carrying smartphones. In 2014, mobile data was the most popular service, used by 65% of the passengers who connected to OnAir’s onboard mobile network; mobile data includes email, social media updates and surfing the Internet. Text messaging accounted for 31% of usage and phone calls made up 21%. Many passengers use Mobile OnAir for all three activities, as people do on the ground. Over the coming years, mobile data usage will continue to grow, driven by smartphone penetration. Voice also remains an important service, especially for business passengers.”

The issue of flight connectivity brings us to one point we noticed while reading about apps and their use on personal devices – flying is becoming a “personal experience,” at least in the world of airline and airports – here is one document passage, again developed by the folks at SITA: “The ‘connected passenger’ has become a reality, with 97% of airline passengers carrying at least one personal electronic device. But global usage rates indicate passengers have been slow to adopt new airline and airport mobile services when traveling. Deeper analysis however, shows that some industry players are bucking the trend and achieving high levels of usage. This is according to The Future is Personal, the latest industry report from SITA, the leading global IT provider to the air transport industry. It combines SITA’s global research with commentary and cases studies from airports and airlines that have focused particularly on using mobile services to improve the passenger experience to great success. SITA’s industry insights are based on in-depth research directly with more than 6,000 passengers; carried out at 106 airports across the world that handled 2.35 billion passengers last year and with airlines that together carried more than half the world’s passenger traffic. The research shows airlines have made significant investments in mobile services over the past four years as smartphone adoption surged and the majority now enable passengers to buy tickets, check-in and access flight information via smartphone apps. Meanwhile half of the worlds’ airports also provide flight information via apps.”

Yes, apps are useful, but are they being used? SITA says; “Still global roll-out and adoption is proving to be slower and more complex than was anticipated. Half of passengers are keen to use their mobiles to find their way around the airport, access lounges or the aircraft, provide identification at checkpoints, or make payments. The reality is though, that despite these and other services, including mobile check-in and boarding passes provided by airlines, 24% of passengers have not yet used travel apps at all on their journey.

With the greater use of apps, we wondered a bit more about who develops them. In our discussions, Mr. Pryor noted: Apps are typically developed by airlines and airports; SITA provides developers with access to the relevant API data, through www.developer.aero.” He noted further that he had some interesting data on an airport app from Cork airport (Ireland) that we wanted to know a bit more about so he connected IFExpress with Kevin Cullinane and he answered the following airport app questions about which he had some interesting data on Cork Airport, Ireland:

Q. How many downloads of the Cork airport app to-date – Android… iOS?
A. There have been close to 10,000 downloads since its launch and the Cork Airport App currently has a 4* rating in the Google play store. It is also rated in iOS – the App is up to 29th place in the free iOS Apps in the Travel category in the Irish iTunes market. Nearly half the users are using iPhones to access the site.

Q. Why do passengers use it?
A. It is the essential guide to the full range of services at the Airport. It includes features such as live arrivals and departures information, car park booking, integrated maps and details of all of the retail and catering outlets within the terminal. The app also includes links to airport shopping services with all the latest offers from The Loop. It provides current weather details at Cork Airport, as well as live weather reports for all destinations. Cork Airport has also added bus and coach departure timetables to the App. The update makes it even easier for passengers to plan their journey to and from the airport.

Q. The App is called?
A. CORK Airport (Official) available to download for free on both iTunes and Google Play

Q. Why should travelers download the app?
A. The free Cork Airport app is the essential guide to the full range of services available at the airport. In addition to the new flight-tracking feature launched in January, the app features live bus and coach departure times, live arrivals and departures information, car park booking, integrated maps and details of all of the retail and catering outlets within the terminal. The app also includes links to airport shopping services with all the latest offers from The Loop. It provides current weather details at Cork Airport, as well as live weather reports for all destinations.

Finally we note, this business about apps and inflight connectivity got us thinking: Who is in the game? Noting that in the US, the government prohibits voice calls, we found an interesting study done at Stanford focusing on Gogo but talking about the worldwide competition, and, the study is worth a read. Here is what they say about inflight connectivity competition:

“Indeed, the main competitors on the market are OnAir, VIA SAT and Aeromobile. OnAir, a fully owned subsidiary of SITA, originally incorporated as a joint venture with Airbus is based in Switzerland and has operations internationally. OnAir is focused either on airlines but also on cruise ship since 2005. In 2014, they had equipped 22 airlines. They are offering to flyers an Internet connection of 56 Kbit/s and provide OnAir services with an integrated GSM. Recently they have equipped the innovative plane Solar Impulse.

Via Sat is an American company making 1 Billion Sales. They are specialized in global satellite services for government, commercial aircraft and cruises.

Aeromobile, part of Panasonic, is based in UK, since 2010 and generates 2 Million USD of revenues. Their technology is based on a component of Panasonic’s Global Communications services.

Honeywell Aerospace, the largest manufacturer of aircraft engines and avionics is based in the US, generating 31 Billion USD Revenue is acting in many segments of aviation. On a bigger scale, they have the objective to lead the market in a near future with an innovative Wi-Fi Satellite connection.

In conclusion, we are encouraged to note that Brazil is the leader in travel app usage (probably because of the dreadful telephone system), so noted a recent SITA release – “SAO PAULO – 5 March 2015 – More airline passengers in Brazil carry a smartphone than in other parts of the world. The SITA-ATW Passenger Survey reveals that 85% of passengers in Brazil carry smartphones compared to the global average of 81%. A significantly higher percentage of these passengers use apps from airlines, airports and travel agencies compared with passengers from Europe, Africa and the Middle East, making Brazil’s passengers among the most connected in the world.” The release went on to say: “When it comes to booking their flights, passengers in Brazil are also picking up their smartphones and tablets faster than their counterparts in other parts of the world. Some 43% of them regularly use their smartphone to book flights, this compares to the global average of 31%. In Brazil, 42% take advantage of the larger screen and regularly use tablets to book flights. This use of mobile technology is set to continue to rise – when asked which channels they would use more for tickets and services, if all equally available, 60% of passengers said smartphone apps and 53% tablets.”

Apps are here to stay and if the recent announcement of the Apple Watch has any influence and bearing on the situation, via GPS, one app on it will display your itinerary information when you near the airport. Make no mistake, wearable apps are next!

This Just In: IFExpress received a copy of the VT Miltope Press Release of their new nMAP2 – IEEE802.11ac Multifunction Access Point, featuring Cognitive Hotspot Technology. The company states that is is in the process of delivering its latest wireless product. And yes, it will be their “main focus” at AIX. More later…

  • OnAir only provider with authorization from Thai authorities

Geneva | February 17, 2014–
Thai Airways International (THAI) is launching THAI Sky Connect, which adds inflight connectivity to passenger inflight experience on the airline’s Airbus A330-300 and Airbus A380-800 aircraft. The connectivity is provided by OnAir.

From mid-February, passengers flying on THAI’s A380s and dedicated A330 flights will be able to log on to the on-board Wi-Fi product, Internet OnAir. It works exactly as a Wi-Fi hotspot on the ground. It is simply a case of entering credit card details, then surfing the Internet, checking emails and updating social media. It is expected that OnAir’s inflight GSM product, Mobile OnAir, will also be available on THAI flights, once the regulatory framework has been determined.

The launch of THAI Sky Connect is possible thanks to THAI being the first airline approved by the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission to provide inflight connectivity in Thailand’s airspace. OnAir is the only provider authorized to deliver inflight Wi-Fi services to airlines in Thailand.

“THAI is pleased to be launching THAI Sky Connect, an inflight WiFi product and service that adds to passenger inflight comfort and convenience on flights operated with Airbus A330-300 and Airbus A380-800 aircraft in all classes of service,” said Mr. Chokchai Panyayong, THAI Senior Executive Vice President, Commercial Department, and Acting President.  “THAI Sky Connect is offered to THAI passengers on A330-300 and A380-800 aircraft at package rates for laptop/iPad and smartphone usage, with OnAir as the Wi-Fi service provider. This is a positive step forward to bring internet connectivity and modern technology directly to passengers’ fingertips. THAI is pleased to introduce Wi-Fi service on board its flights, which will further improve passengers’ inflight entertainment experience and make travel with THAI even more enjoyable.”

THAI is one of three airlines currently operating OnAir connectivity on the A380; all three also use Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband satellite network. Internet OnAir and Mobile OnAir are the only connectivity products currently flying on more than 50 A380s every day.

OnAir has regulatory authorizations from over 100 countries, more than any other inflight connectivity service provider. Combined with its roaming agreements with over 350 mobile network operators, OnAir provides consistent coverage on all the major routes across the world.

“OnAir has a very strong track record in obtaining regulatory approvals – it is one of the key areas in which we stand apart from other providers,” said Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir. “We are firmly committed to delivering consistent coverage so passengers can be connected with their family, friends and colleagues throughout the flight, wherever they are in the world.”

THAI is the 20th airline to operate OnAir connectivity and the seventh in Asia. Internet OnAir and Mobile OnAir are widely available across the world and are used by over four and a half million passengers each year.

  • SIA’s first AeroMobile-connected aircraft takes inaugural flight from Singapore to London

London, UK | September 27, 2013– Singapore Airlines’ first aircraft equipped with AeroMobile’s inflight mobile connectivity service took its inaugural flight from Singapore to London on 27 September 2013.

SIA’s new Boeing 777-300ER is the first of eight aircraft being delivered with cutting-edge inflight entertainment and connectivity (WiFi and GSM) solutions and hardware from Panasonic Avionics Corporation. The inflight mobile service, powered by AeroMobile,provides passengers with a way to stay connected during the flight.

Through AeroMobile’s inflight network, SIA customers will be able to use their own mobile phones to send text messages as well as browse the internet, with seamless service coverage between Singapore and London.

Travellers using any of the UK’s major mobile phone networks will be able to access the service. The same applies for subscribers of Singapore’s three main mobile operators; M1, SingTel and StarHub. AeroMobile also has roaming agreements with 220 other mobile operators worldwide.

“We’re delighted to add Singapore Airlines to our growing list of airline partners. They join the likes of Emirates, Etihad and Virgin Atlantic, all of which are contributing to the increases we’re seeing in inflight mobile use,” said Kevin Rogers, CEO of AeroMobile.

“Asia is a significant growth area for us, with more airlines scheduled to launch the service in the coming months. As well as Singapore Airlines we’re looking forward to working with Thai Airways and Garuda Indonesia in the not too distant future,” continued Rogers.


OnAir working with mobile operators to cut inflight mobile rates

Geneva, Switzerland | April 2, 2012–Oi, Brazil’s leading mobile phone company, is working with OnAir and TAM Airlines to halve the cost of using OnAir’s inflight GSM mobile phone network. The promotion, starting on April 1st, is designed to make inflight connectivity more popular on domestic flights.

During this promotion, Oi Postpay customers travelling with TAM will pay 50% less for using their own mobile phones, smartphones and tablets for calls, texting, emailing and synchronizing applications during flights.

OnAir’s inflight GSM mobile phone service is available on TAM routes within Brazil. TAM has a critical mass of 31 aircraft equipped with inflight connectivity, meaning the service now reaches a significant passenger population and more aircraft will be equipped during 2012.

“Now that OnAir connectivity has been deployed across so much of TAM’s fleet, the time could not be better for Oi, TAM and OnAir to promote the innovative connectivity service intensively,” said Ian Dawkins, Chief Executive Officer OnAir. “Our ultimate aim is to ensure inflight connectivity is affordable for everyone by bringing the cost closer to terrestrial prices.”

“TAM leads the deployment of inflight connectivity in South America, providing convenience to our customers. We want to bring this onboard technology to more and more people, so we are working to expand the reach of the service by making it better for passengers”, said Manoela Amaro, Marketing Director of TAM.

“With truly global presence, we have a critical mass of passengers using our products,” said Dawkins, “and we are working with mobile network operators to bring down inflight costs. It is a win for everyone, the airline, the mobile operator, the passenger and us.”

“This is another Oi action to give our customers complete freedom to talk and access the Internet wherever they are, and now for much less. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, our customers want connectivity everywhere and we are always looking for ways to help them achieve that,” said Eduardo Aspesi, director of Segments of Oi.

OnAir inflight GSM mobile phone and Internet services are currently available on 16 airlines across the world.

LAKE FOREST, California – 29 March 2010 – Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic), the world leader in state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment and communication (IFEC) systems, today announced a new strategic agreement with Deutsche Telekom. Under terms of the new arrangement, Deutsche Telekom with its T-Mobile brand will be the preferred wireless internet service provider for Panasonic Avionics’ Global Communications Suite.

“Panasonic is excited to announce our new relationship with Deutsche Telekom because we believe that the T-Mobile brand offers the perfect complement to our Global Communications Suite,” said Paul Margis, Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation. “T-Mobile is an established, best-in-class brand that offers an impressive portfolio of global roaming agreements and an excellent experience in terms of customer care, billing and support. In fact, in many instances, T-Mobile and its roaming partners already enjoy strong relationships with many of the same passengers that the airlines and Panasonic intend to serve. By combining these T-Mobile advantages with the unique connectivity capabilities of our Global Communications suite, Panasonic and Deutsche Telekom have the potential to offer airline passengers and crew an unmatched experience in broadband internet, data and voice communications.”

“Joining forces with Panasonic Avionics Corporation in the field of in-flight connectivity and bringing in our expertise of customer insights and telecommunication trends opens huge opportunities for both partners,” says Philipp Humm, Chief Regional Officer Europe of Deutsche Telekom. “We are looking forward to a successful future and to elevate communication services to new heights.”

Panasonic’s Global Communications Suite provides high-speed broadband internet, data and voice communications services to passengers and crew, using a GSM or Wi-Fi -enabled device. Under the terms of this new agreement, Deutsche Telekom will manage the internet gateway and handle passenger billing and customer support for Wi-Fi services. In addition, Deutsche Telekom will provide marketing and promotional support to drive utilization of the services.

The Panasonic Global Communications Suite can be used as a stand-alone service or be integrated with the aircraft’s existing IFEC system. It offers airlines the flexibility to provide passenger connectivity through passenger-paid access to the Internet or through advertising-supported content and sponsored Internet sessions. The Global Communications Suite supports popular passenger online activities, such as accessing corporate VPNs or intranets, browsing the Web, personal e-mail and instant messaging, social networking and online shopping.