• Rockwell Collins’ acquisition of Pulse.Aero expands the company’s strong passenger processing offerings beyond agent and self-service check-in to include new applications and services.

Annapolis, MD | January 4, 2017– Rockwell Collins (NYSE: COL) has acquired Pulse.Aero Limited, a UK-based company specializing in self-service bag drop solutions and airline applications, to enhance the company’s passenger processing services for airports and airlines. This acquisition further expands Rockwell Collins’ Information Management Services strategy to enable the connected aviation ecosystem.

“As passengers seek to take more control of their travel experience, this acquisition expands our portfolio of self-service passenger processing solutions, enabling us to streamline and simplify the passenger journey through a fully connected airport”
Tweet this

“As passengers seek to take more control of their travel experience, this acquisition expands our portfolio of self-service passenger processing solutions, enabling us to streamline and simplify the passenger journey through a fully connected airport,” said Dave Nieuwsma, senior vice president, Information Management Services for Rockwell Collins.

Pulse.Aero’s products and services will be integrated into the Airport Systems portfolio of Rockwell Collins’ Information Management Services business.

The self-service bag drop market is experiencing significant growth due to the benefits it provides both airports and passengers. Airports can increase passenger throughput without capital expenditure on building and facilities, and passengers can move through the airport check-in process more quickly and efficiently.

Rockwell Collins and Pulse.Aero have worked together on several successful deployments, including Dublin Airport, where new self-bag drop units were installed, reducing queue times and improving customer service.

Watch a video to see how Rockwell Collins’ self-bag drop solution has impacted Aer Lingus’ operations at Dublin Airport: https://youtu.be/OG_4zANwLXo.

France | November 26, 2016– Airbus is evaluating a new standard high-bandwidth architecture that will provide faster and more wide-reaching connectivity services on-board its modern, market-leading jetliners.

Using the in-house A330 testbed aircraft this autumn, Airbus became the first in the industry to flight demonstrate such a high-bandwidth connectivity platform – which will enable faster internet, mobile telephone services and support applications for passengers and airlines via high-throughput satellites.

Applying high-bandwidth connectivity is an important part of the company’s focus on providing a superior on-board experience – and soon will allow airline customers to choose from the range of new high-throughput satellite technologies such as Ka-band and Ku-band for continuous worldwide connectivity.

Constant innovation to improve the passenger experience

“Our goal is to extend our connectivity portfolio in new production aircraft and as retrofit,” explained Bruno Galzin, Head of Airbus’ Connectivity Programme and Upgrade Services. “Our initial testing in high-bandwidth connectivity is a new step to improve the passenger and crew experience. We already are working on new solutions in line with the latest, fast-evolving technologies so anyone can be connected on-board just like at home.”

In-flight connectivity is becoming increasingly important for passengers, who now expect to always be connected – using their own electronic devices to access the internet, exchange with those on the ground and enjoy social media.

Airlines also are demanding the need for connectivity solutions to enhance their operational communications, such as with digital cabin logbooks, telemedicine or for credit card authentication, as well as to generate ancillary cabin revenues.

Cabin connectivity for the future

With the start of testing successfully underway this autumn, Airbus is expected to be the first aircraft manufacturer to offer this standard architecture on its commercial airliners – with service entry for this solution planned for the third quarter of 2017.

Airbus’ high-bandwidth connectivity architecture will be available from multiple suppliers for applications on its A320, A330 and A380 jetliners, which supplements the A350 XWB – a “digital native” that entered service with high-bandwidth connectivity capability.

“The number of connected commercial aircraft is expected to grow from 5,000 to a volume of 16,600 over the 2015-2025 period, accounting for 62 percent of the global commercial fleet,” explained Galzin. “The innovative solutions we are currently developing will help passengers and airlines benefit from a new generation of high-throughput satellite technologies in the Ka-band and Ku-band frequencies.”

  • Nesma Airlines is AirFi’s first Middle East airline customer and the 21st overall
  • The carrier will deploy AirFi’s Wireless IFE solution on its A320 and A321 aircraft
  • The solution will launch with Nesma in six weeks

Singapore | October 26, 2016– Market-leading Wireless IFE provider AirFi is proud to announce the signing of its first customer in the Middle East – and twenty-first customer globally – Nesma Airlines.

Nesma plans to deliver a streaming IFE solution to passengers flying on its Airbus A320 family aircraft in November this year, less than six weeks from contract signature. With over 20 airline customers flying with the AirFi solution every day, the AirFi team is experienced in enabling such speedy fleet-wide deployments of its system.

AirFi’s fully-featured portable Wireless IFE platform allows passengers to access DRM and non-DRM movies and TV shows, games, chat, duty free and post-flight shopping and daily updated news and social feeds. To provide such a wide range of content, the company currently works with over fifty content providers both big and small, including its official regional partner, Onboard International.

Furthermore, AirFi’s acquisition of a European technology firm earlier in 2016 means passengers can also play with a state-of-the-art 3D moving map. This new feature showcases numerous points of interest and offers the opportunity for geo-fenced advertising.

Passengers can access the content using their personal electronic devices to connect to a free onboard Wi-Fi network created by the AirFi boxes, which are positioned throughout the cabin in overhead bins. AirFi will initially offer Nesma’s passengers content in English, with the roll-out of Arabic-language content due soon after the solution goes live.

AirFi CEO, Job Heimerikx, comments, “We are delighted to welcome Nesma to the AirFi family and to open up another new region here in the Middle East with our partner Onboard International. We are dedicated to a continuous program of passenger experience enhancements and ensuring that the AirFi platform leads the market as the best-in-class hard and software solution for safety, performance, cost and speed of deployment.”

Martijn Moret, AirFi’s Chief Innovation Officer and Director of Operations in Asia, adds, “We’re very proud to announce our first Middle East airline customer, because it’s a new territory for us. It’s a tangible result of our expansion in focus from solely Europe out to the rest of the world.”
AirFi made the decision to expand its global reach earlier this year. So far, it has eighteen European customers, as well as one carrier based in the Philippines and one based in Mexico. Moret also hinted that further confirmed customer announcements could be expected before the end of the year.

The top global mega-trends in airline travel clearly define the present and future of aviation travel today and a few of the changing keywords and phrases are defining terminology that drove the Singapore APEX show: Connectivity, Innovation, Individual Empowerment, and Productivity are just a few of the terms that stood out to us. Another way to put it is basically travelers are using technology to improve their travel experience, lifestyles, and their world in general. Makes sense! In fact, “Connected” was probably the most commonly used word and we heard and saw it in action all over the show, in the city offices/buildings/shops, and in travel – folks have their smartphones and tablets out everywhere and find them more interesting than just about anything around them. But more importantly, this connected, informational lifestyle change has affected the future of travel locally and internationally. You had better believe folks like the airlines, retailers, and Google see that connectivity is the future.

CONNECTIVITY & TRAVELING TODAY

The APEX Conference in Singapore clearly demonstrated that connectivity is the heart of travel by Millennials and the rest of the device focused population.  Interestingly, some 40% of passengers carry all 3 devices – laptop, smartphone and tablet – and, yes, we did the same! One expert noted that some 83% of passengers carry a smartphone onboard while over 50% of passengers value onboard Wi-Fi as a key criteria in airline choice. This certainly explains the unofficial show focus on the subject of travel connectivity. It is what is needed and so it is what’s happening.

Mobile services are becoming a big deal: an amazing 57% of travelers are using self-service for check-in and some 89% are aiming to implement mobile check in and boarding by the end of 2016. And there is no end to the airline apps that provide utility and reward for uploading. One technical meeting even tried to sort out all the data communication and ticketing communication issues that exist because every airline and ticket information collection effort is different and standards are in need of development.

Make no mistake, connectivity is a big deal today but it is about to get even bigger. Presently, some 4,982 airplanes are “connected” aircraft, but by 2025 there will be 16,560 connected aircraft, and when we refer to the connected aircraft we mean passenger connectivity and airline operations data as there are already connections to and from the flight deck for pilots and flight critical information. Further, reported digital ancillary revenues are tracking connectivity growth. For example, one speaker reported that in 2015 revenues were $40.5 Billion and by 2020 they are predicted to reach $130 Billion!

Today’s modern traveler, as one speaker stated, is “embracing connected platforms, living online, and discovering more through digital technology” and by just visiting an airport you will find that statement true. And, of course, Google sees a place (market) in pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight, connectivity options – smart folks! As one industry panelist said: “The digital world enables the discovery of the real world!”

During APEX the IFExpress team talked to some 50 to 60 companies and we found a lot of real stories that we will deliver in the coming weeks; however, we thought that we would give our readers some hints, thoughts, views and temptations of what is to come in the next month or so.

WHAT WE SAW – SOME SURPRISES, SOME EXPECTATIONS

1) From a general perspective, companies were focusing on the end-to-end experience for the passenger. For example, enabling the airline to engage the passenger via the airline app after ticket purchase but before the date of flight. Continuing the engagement process through the airport, onto the aircraft and until the arrival at the hotel/home. This is mostly being implemented through software upgrades, software hooks, and data mining but there were some new products and services in the offering. Airlines want to be able to ‘engage’ their passengers more throughout the trip – providing a tailored experience even in drudge class.
2) This was a year where IFExpress saw more focus on software iterations vs. new hardware/technology developments. Mind you, this is a broad generalization as there were some updates to existing servers with larger SSD and one or two new technology applications being exhibited. However, on a whole we saw a focus on utilizing existing hardware with improved software to enable data acquisition to enhance the passenger experience and improve the real-time evaluation of aircraft operations all enhanced by increased memory. Both of these have been longtime goals either by the airlines, OEMs or both.

3) IFE vendors were also focusing on the ability to provide the airline with operations information real-time. For example, this will enable the airline to reduce down-time of aircraft, increase turnaround time when there is a mechanical issue. The benefits of real-time data acquisition will be achieved by utilizing the various methods of communication now available to the airlines – broadband (satellite), Wi-Fi, 3G/4G cellular, and gatelink. The method of transmission is determined by the critical nature of the data and the transmission environment. For example, if there was an engine issue, it could be transmitted real-time to the ground so a repair crew could meet the aircraft upon landing, facilitating a quicker turnaround of the aircraft and maybe even keeping the next flight’s departure on time, possibly through an existing non-engine data communication network. Obviously, certification of these and competitive solutions will greatly affect these connectivity solutions. But, all of this saves the airline money in the long run. Obviously this would work with more certainty for an IFE screen that was malfunctioning or a seat that was inoperable over a cabin connectivity ground-to-air link.

4) The aforementioned services also provide the vendors with the ability to offer the service of monitoring and evaluating other non critical (or not as critical) data to an airline – especially if the airline doesn’t want to analyze the data in house. This is a potentially new revenue stream for the vendors and possibly a field for new vendors.

5) Much of the software iterations we saw at the show allowed the airlines to tailor their GUI and media in house and real-time. As an example, airlines now have the capability to analyze whether movie “A” is being viewed as anticipated, if the viewing falls short of anticipated numbers the airline can switch it out with another option prior to the current media cycle being completed. This not only keeps the media fresh but allows the airline to get better value from their media expenditure. Also, the ease of using these software tools allows airlines to potentially have a smaller number of individuals working on media management. We should mention that with this approach to content monitoring the possibility of linked content loading is also an example of real-time performance monitoring.

6) With the advent of Wi-Fi, gatelink, etc. we are seeing faster media load times. We also saw the ability to load new content while the aircraft was in use as mentioned above. This all saves time for sure now, and money in the future.

7) Broadband solutions are finally coming online to make the aforementioned a reality by providing global coverage. Some vendors are investing heavily in either their own satellites or purchasing dedicated transponder space.

AND MORE OBSERVATIONS

8.) There were a few of 100+ airplane IFEC hardware deals pending (and done) that may be a surprise to some.

9.) There were a few new IFEC entrants comprised of young, technical developers who want a piece of the IFEC business and we will watch their growth. And yes, some of the troops were from the old school companies that have less to offer, or offer nothing at all new today.

10.) One company, and one company alone, offered a true Bluetooth in cabin wireless connectivity solution with both low data and high data solutions.

11.) USB – C is here and the folks from IFPL will have more to say about it in another story.

12.)  As Ka-Band connectivity makes the scene we might even see lower competitive data products, but that is, of course, a prediction.

13.) One company in the flight path mapping arena blew our minds with the way their ‘Silicon Valley’ Top Dog showed IFExpress his plans to deliver a planned and plotted solution to your travel plans, in the air AND ON THE GROUND.

14.) Some new entrants to the IFEC madness have a couple seemingly good ideas that we had never heard of and plan to surprise us all soon!

15.) It is always a surprise to visit a vendor that told us what was coming last year and we missed the big picture – only to get a personal awakening this year. ‘Passenger connectivity before, during, and after a flight’ is the subject and the folks at SITONAIR really had their act together about it.

16.) Happy 25th Birthday GoGo!

17.) There is no place better on earth to throw an outdoor reception than Singapore: The top of buildings provide a view unlike no other on this planet, and they feature the best of everything. Thank You Gogo, Panasonic, Thales, APEX and everyone else that provided an incredible list of evening entertainment and hosting – you folks are the best! Be sure to check out our flckr link for expo images!

OTHERS SAID
IFExpress talked to many attendees about the show and we decided to share some of their comments with our readers:

1) Attendance was noted: “I was surprised how well-attended it was, considering all the people from North America that I knew would not make the trip.”
2) “Education Day on Monday before the EXPO had some very good presentations – Hopefully they should all be posted on the APEX website soon (audio and PP slides).”
3)  We asked about technical/products announcements that made sense and one respondent noted: “FTS Technologies’ flight attendant app for the smartwatch was the best that I saw.”
4) Another area that really counts is networking and the value of getting together: “The networking was great – events were fun and talked with a lot of people.” We couldn’t agree more.
5) Industry news is always a big deal and we asked one news expert and she told IFExpress: “The biggest news had to be the Rockwell acquisition of BEA, depending on their strategy for ‘hands-off’ management vs integration into the Rockwell family. If RCI takes a hands off approach and lets BEA continue to operate on its own, then the news might be different. If RCI tries to integrate it into RCI operations or develop an IFE system to sell with seats as a package deal, then it’s possibly even bigger news!”
6) One vendor told IFExpress: “I don’t know if co-locating with AIX Asia and FTE really achieved any cross-over attendees that would not have gone to APEX anyway – every time I went down to see AIX and FTE the floor there it was really dead.”
7) Another IFE vendor told us; “Except for the wireless apps, no real standout technical or new product announcements that we saw.  Probably the next most interesting things were the VR experience by Neutral and the Immersive Glasses by Skylights.  Also, Ron Chapman’s Bluetooth text communications product working over Iridium is real interesting too.”
8) Another show goer told us we could also add a mention about the new APEX Awards and the fact that they were expanded from 2 to 8 categories this year. “It’s a step in the right direction since IFEC is too diverse a subject to shoehorn all the products and services into a couple categories.” And, we couldn’t agree more!

Lastly, we need to say that Joe Leader and his team of real experts did a great show job. Thank you for inviting us and keep up the good work!

Cedar Rapids, Iowa | October 18, 2016– As airlines and airports come together in Singapore for the Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) Expo and Future Travel Experience (FTE) Asia Expo, Rockwell Collins will be there showcasing its powerful portfolio of solutions that deliver a complete end-to-end experience for passengers.

At APEX, the focus will be on the company’s PAVES in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems, Inmarsat GX Ka-band connectivity and applications and value-added services — all aimed at engaging, connecting and entertaining airline passengers.

“Airlines are interested in how they can provide their passengers with the best experience in the airport, onto the aircraft and through to the final destination,” said Jeff Sare, vice president, Sales and Marketing, Air Transport Cabin Solutions for Rockwell Collins.

He continued, “We offer extensive experience in a connected aviation ecosystem. Airlines are already taking advantage of our latest solutions with unprecedented reliability and we look forward to meeting with airlines at APEX to find solutions that meet their specific needs, especially in the area of of Ka-band connectivity.”

At FTE, Rockwell Collins will promote and demonstrate its next-generation airport solutions that are improving efficiencies in passenger processing, security and passenger experience.

“APEX and FTE attendees will have the opportunity to experience the breadth of Rockwell Collins expertise across the entire curb-to-curb experience, including integrated passenger processing, biometric identity management, self-service baggage handling, and interactive flight information and wayfinding,” said Chris Forrest, vice president, Airport Solutions for Rockwell Collins. “Rockwell Collins is in a unique position. We’re excited to showcase how we can support the entire aviation ecosystem.”

Atlanta, Georgia | October 11, 2016– SITA today announced that JetBlue has selected the global IT provider to support 531 check-in and automated passport control (APC) self-service kiosks across 56 locations in the USA and Caribbean.

This three-year agreement will see SITA, the air transport industry expert, provide 24/7 remote and on-site service of JetBlue’s devices ensuring maximum up-time and the highest levels of passenger service across current and new destinations.

Eash Sundaram, Chief Information Officer, JetBlue, said: “Over the past number of years we have worked with SITA and become familiar with its expert global service provision for airlines and airports. Our kiosks, used by our customers for check-in and fast immigration processing, must be up and running at all times. SITA’s round-the-clock support will ensure that any problems can be identified and resolved faster than they were before, minimizing impact on service to our customers.”

Service quality is key in the airline industry and SITA’s contract with JetBlue includes tight service level agreements (SLAs) for the end-to-end support of the kiosks. SITA matched JetBlue cost reduction objectives by seamlessly combining its advanced remote management capabilities with field engineers available at airport locations.

Randy Pizzi, SITA President, Americas, said: “JetBlue is renowned for the high quality of service it provides to its 35 million customers and with the move to passengers using more self-service technology, it is important that this service excellence is guaranteed at every touchpoint. We at SITA recognize this and are providing proactive management of JetBlue’s kiosks so the airline’s passengers have them available for use at all times.”

SITA End User Computing offers airlines and airports an end-to-end managed service. It combines both advanced real-time monitoring technology with a global footprint of field engineers at airports. SITA’s central management platform manages devices including desktop PCs, thin clients, laptops, kiosks, monitors, bag tag and other printers, with real-time status all over the globe.

SITA’s dedicated multilingual operations team provides monitoring and support 24/7, ensuring global business continuity through a flexible service model. This ensures operational agility, accessibility and continuity – anytime, anywhere. With its truly global presence, SITA industry specialists can reach end users at 400 airports (including airside) and outstations in more than 190 countries and territories to offer a seamless end-user experience.

Berkshire, UK | September 20, 2016– The typical premium longhaul passenger is highly engaged with current events and uses print media alongside other channels to stay informed at the airport and inflight.

That’s the headline finding of an authoritative new study of media consumption among US travellers, commissioned by Dawson Media Direct.

The survey also turned up a stat some industry watchers might find surprising: that the so-called Digital Generation is marginally more engaged than its elders, with “staying informed” cited as more important to travellers in the 21 to 39 range than to those aged 40-plus.

‘Gen D’ is a more avid consumer of conventional print media too, despite owning multiple devices, and considers paper publications the best resource for reading longer in-depth content.

“DMD wanted to learn exactly how those key first and business class passengers use print and digital news content, in daily life and flying longhaul”, says Heather Browand, SVP for US sales and marketing, “so we worked with the independent travel industry specialist Atmosphere Research to develop a unique online survey of premium fliers in our market.”

The study targeted passengers aged 21-70 who in the last 6 months had taken at least three fully paid premium-cabin round-trips between the US and Africa, Asia- Pacific, Europe, India, Middle East or South America.

About 400 surveys were completed and analysed, revealing that print media becomes tangibly more important to this audience on a longhaul trip than otherwise.

77% of premium passengers view flight time as a key time to read the press, and 54% of them read some print media at the airport or onboard.

Premium fliers also tend to read more printed press during air travel, with the number spending over an hour a day reading newspapers increasing by a third compared to everyday behaviour.

38% of them rank reading a printed newspaper or magazine among their top three activities under surveyed conditions, placing it ahead of digital news content, print or digital books.

“The study throws up so many positives for us as a provider of both print and digital publications to the industry, says Browand.

“It affirms that both sides of the business are in good shape, and that by-and-large we’re delivering the media our premium end-user customers expect and value.”

Stockhom and Carlsbad, CA | September 8, 2016– SAS, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, has been focused on bringing innovation to its passengers since 1946. With a passion and vision to ‘make life easier’ for Scandinavia’s frequent flyers, SAS is making investments of MSEK 500 across its entire short and medium haul fleet – from installing the fastest WiFi on the market to completing a full cabin upgrade. By partnering with ViaSat, SAS can offer onboard WiFi speeds of 12 Mbps and higher to each passenger; ensuring time spent on board will be more productive and more enjoyable with streaming TV, music and movies.

“Many of our customers are frequent flyers and we play an important part in the lives of many people. The upgrade we implemented on our long haul aircraft gained a very positive reception and we are now upgrading our short and medium haul fleet, which will also include high-speed WiFi with speeds that enable time on board to be utilized for work or to relax and enjoy a streamed movie or TV series. As both passengers and crew on board are now connected, we can take our personal service to greater heights while continuing to develop our digital, smart solutions that make life easier,” says Rickard Gustafson, President and CEO of SAS.

Giving Passengers a Seamless WiFi Experience
SAS is committed to delivering seamless WiFi travel experiences where passengers can access all of their content and information from anywhere: at home, at the airport or on board. The new onboard high-speed WiFi service gives passenger’s gate-to-gate internet access with the fastest speed available on the market.

In addition to streaming, social media and traditional workplace applications, passengers can also expect to get better assistance from the cabin crew, which have been recently equipped with iPad Minis that will be connected to the WiFi system. With new high-speed WiFi capabilities SAS crew will be able to access flight and passenger information – before take-off, during the flight and after the flight lands. This includes helping passengers check if their flight is on time to the status of connecting flights, check their EuroBonus account or even book a EuroBonus flight, shop in the EuroBonus store, rent a car, book a taxi to meet them at the airport or even tell SAS crew members what they thought of the service – all while on board.

The first aircraft with the new WiFi-system will enter service in the second half of 2017. Onboard WiFi will be free on short haul flights for all SAS EuroBonus members and SAS Plus ticket holders.

“In working with SAS, we are making the internet accessible, fast and easy-to-use at 35,000 feet. Only by coupling the ViaSat end-to-end service platform with Eutelsat’s European satellite connectivity, can we enable airlines, like SAS, to offer a best-in-class onboard WiFi service in Europe for free to EuroBonus-members and SAS Plus passengers,” says Mark Dankberg, chairman and CEO, ViaSat.

Upgrading the Cabin for a Better Overall Experience
The first aircraft with the refreshed cabin interior will be SAS’s new A320neo, which in addition to extra leg room, new and more comfortable seats, a lighting system that aligns with the time of day and USB outlets at seats to keep personal devices charged, will also offer 15-20% lower fuel consumption. The interior design is in line with the new cabin offered on SAS long haul routes, which was launched in 2015. The new interior quickly became very popular with both Scandinavian and international customers.

In addition to 30 new A320s, 70 existing cabins will also be upgraded between 2017 and mid-2019. The WiFi onboard and cabin upgrades are expected to amount to a total investment of approximately MSEK 500 over a three year period.

  • Airlines invest to keep passengers connected on the ground and in the air

Beijing, China | July 27, 2016– Airline passengers in China are heavy users of technology both in their everyday lives and throughout their travel journeys. Nearly one quarter perceive themselves as ‘hyper-connected’ – they value efficiency and use self-service technology more frequently. Airlines are meeting their needs with 80% adopting connected aircraft and 100% investing in mobile-based services and the Internet of Things.

In the 2016 SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey, conducted across China and representing almost 60% of the country’s passenger traffic, IT provider SITA analyzed the behavior of four different types of passengers. The Careful Planner, Pampered, Hyper-Connected and Open-Minded Adventurer profiles each uses technology in different ways. China has the highest proportion of ‘hyper-connected’ passengers worldwide with 24% compared to the global average of 14%. These passengers tend to use technology, such as mobile devices to book, check-in and manage their trip, more frequently than the other profiles.

Airline passengers across the globe are so comfortable with technology today that they are choosing to use it rather than interacting with people. This is particularly evident in China where SITA reports 98% of passengers carry at least one mobile device and 49% carry a tablet. They also score very highly on an index of online and mobile service usage in their everyday lives at 7.1 out of 10 and increasingly are using mobile services for travel. Today nearly 17% of these passengers check-in using a mobile app and airlines are predicting a jump in adoption over the next three years.

Having the ability to make the passenger experience a fully-connected one with connectivity on the ground and in the air is vital. Today Chinese airlines are leading the adoption of connected aircraft because of their comparatively modern fleets. In fact, 80% of Chinese airlines already fly, or are just taking delivery of connected aircraft versus a 45% global average.

May Zhou, Vice President, SITA China said: “In today’s connected world of travel passengers prefer to use technology. SITA’s research shows that they expect to be connected and have services delivered to their mobile devices at every step of their journey, including during their flight. Today we see that airlines in China are responding to the needs of these ‘hyper-connected’ passengers by focusing their investments in connected aircraft, mobile-based services, and the Internet of Things. With this strategy they can meet passengers’ growing demands for information and services to their mobile devices.”

SITA’s survey shows that 40% of Chinese airlines believe that the key benefit of connected aircraft will be improving the passenger experience and 100% plan to invest in wireless in-flight services for passengers over the next three years. Already in China 58% of passengers use their mobile devices onboard for in-flight entertainment.

The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is also high on the agenda of airlines in China with 100% planning to invest in IoT over the next three years and 78% are planning major programs. Currently the only IoT initiative already implemented at Chinese airlines is fuel/engine monitoring and this by just 10% of airlines. The main areas of focus over the next three years are smart bag tags, asset tracking and monitoring the aircraft cabin environment.

  • SITA-operated center is key to managing airline’s reservations across 13 destinations


Baghdad, Iraq | July 4, 2016–
With the help of global aviation IT provider SITA, Iraqi Airways has opened its new reservation contact center in Amman, allowing the airline to better manage its reservations across 13 countries. The center will be operated by SITA.

As the airline continues to rebuild its international business, it requires reliable infrastructure that allows it to manage it reservations globally and at home from a single reservation center. It also needs to accommodate a growing demand from passengers for multi-channel support, including voice, email and chat.

Leveraging SITA’s Unified Communications portfolio has allowed the airline to consolidate voice, data and audio into one platform while the cloud-based infrastructure delivers secure, reliable connectivity which effectively links the airline to its far-flung destinations. With SITA’s global presence in more than 200 countries and territories as well as more than 1,000 airports, it was possible to connect all 13 destinations seamlessly to the central reservations center.

Having SITA’s Horizon® Passenger Management & Distribution system already in place, Iraqi Airways was also able to integrate the new center with the airline’s reservation, ticketing, e-commerce, inventory and departure control systems. Using a new-generation graphical interface, agents are quickly and speedily able to make or change bookings.

As part of the management agreement, SITA recruited all agents and trained them to use the various elements of the passenger services system.

Osama Al Sadr, CEO of Iraqi Airways, said: “As we continue to expand of our network across the globe, we needed a world-class reservation center that could assist our passengers across our network 24/7. SITA was able to quickly provide us with a global presence with a fully-trained team. It also ensured that the center was able to accommodate our future growth as our network and operation continues to expand.”

Hani El-Assaad, SITA President, Middle East, India, and Africa said: “SITA’s global presence and infrastructure made it possible to quickly develop a reservation center to support Iraqi Airways’ international network expansion. We understood, as an emerging airline, they needed a solution that was both world-class and efficient. That helped us deliver a solution that fits and supports their business.”

The reservation center will be manned by agents who are able to assist passengers in English, Arabic and Kurdish.

  • Next-gen passenger management platform ensures a premium experience at every step

Riyadh | June 20, 2016– Sky Prime Aviation Services, a leading Saudi private aviation services company, is to deploy SITA’s next-generation passenger services system (PSS) to manage its new VIP flight service being introduced to its premium passengers.

Targeted at the region’s premium traveler, the success of the new service relies heavily on providing the very best customer service each step of the journey, from the moment a passenger makes a booking to when they leave the aircraft.

SITA has worked with Sky Prime to understand the aviation group’s new flight program to ensure the group is able to deliver a world-class passenger experience. Leveraging the functionality of the Horizon® Passenger Management and Distribution solution, SITA will provide a broad portfolio, ranging from a leading-edge mobile platform which allows passengers to book and manage their flights directly from their smartphones and tablets to ensuring a smooth and on-time departure. All systems are interconnected in real time to one database, providing instant access to any required service.

SITA recognizes that a successful journey starts with the first step. iTravel® and Reservations make it possible for passengers to book and manage their flight through a variety of channels – via a call center, website or mobile application – delivering a uniform experience across all platforms. Horizon® Loyalty will enable Sky Prime to provide tailored treatment to each of their VIP customers while seamlessly integrating their loyalty program with the service’s reservations and departures systems.

A memorable passenger experience is dependent on the smooth passenger operation. Here the Horizon® platform will help Sky Prime manage every aspect of their passenger operation and ensure quick and efficient boarding and departures through SITA’s Departure Control Services. At the same time, Horizon® Weight & Balance will support planning by centralizing and streamlining Sky Prime’s operational processes on the ground, improve safety and enable greater fuel efficiency.

Salem Abaid Al Muzaini, CEO of Sky Prime, said: “As Saudi Arabia’s leading private aviation operator, we have customers that demand the very best experience from the moment they make their booking to when they leave the aircraft. SITA has recognized our unique requirements and through the Horizon® platform are able to provide a solution that positions Sky Prime as the best aviation services company in the region.”

Ibrahim Saleh, SITA Vice President Sales for Middle East & North Africa, said: “Our Horizon® platform is used by more than 100 airlines across the globe. Yet its flexible infrastructure is able to meet the unique requirements of each airline, no matter what their operating model or size. This has allowed us to help Sky Prime position themselves as the region’s best private aviation operator.”

Sky Prime provides a wide range of services including in-house maintenance and technical support, ground support and consultancy services as well as aviation project and airport management.

  • SITA’s Horizon® portfolio to help ease passenger flow, speed up aircraft turnaround

Shajrah | June 1, 2016– With a rapidly growing global network served from regional hubs across the Middle East and North Africa, Air Arabia is to introduce SITA’s next-generation passenger management system to extract even greater efficiency across its operations.

Air Arabia carried close to 8-million passengers in 2015, serving 101 destinations spread across the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Europe from five hubs in the UAE, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan. SITA’s latest passenger service system will help the airline better manage the boarding of passengers across all destinations while streamlining the turnaround of the airline’s aircraft.

Through the Horizon® Passenger Management and Distribution portfolio, SITA will provide the airline with its latest departure control and weight and balance systems.

Horizon® Weight & Balance will increase fuel savings for the airline by providing full load planning capabilities, including a graphical user interface framework, for all the functionalities required to load and dispatch an aircraft. This includes all legally required documentation for both airlines and ground handlers. SITA’s Horizon® Departure Control Services (DCS) is a fully integrated multi-host system for automated check-in, boarding and load planning and has been used to check in more than 167 million passengers worldwide.

Air Arabia has also renewed SITA’s Type B Messaging Service, underpinning every operational aspect of the airline business by facilitating the sharing of crucial operational updates across the globe.

Hani El-Assaad, SITA President, Middle East, India and Africa said: “For any airline getting all passengers onboard on time while managing every aspect of an aircraft turnaround is an extremely complex operation. Our Horizon® portfolio brings all those elements together, providing Air Arabia with the tools it needs to maintain the smooth running of it growing operation without compromising on the passenger experience it offers.”

  • Top film releases, newspapers and magazines available to download from Heathrow ‘EntertainMe’ kiosks

2016 Air Transport IT Summit, Barcelona, Spain | May 25, 2016– Passengers departing from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 this summer will be able to access recent Hollywood movie releases on their iPhones or iPads to watch during their journey. Using Heathrow EntertainMe kiosks movies, magazines and newspapers can be quickly downloaded in around a minute to enjoy at the airport and in-flight.

Two Heathrow EntertainMe kiosks offering a mixture of free and paid content will be located at gate level in each of Terminal 5’s satellites as part of the initial trial. Alongside local and international newspapers and magazines, recent movie blockbuster releases and classic titles will also be ready for quick download. Passengers can simply select their content on an interactive screen and pay via ApplePay or with their contactless credit or debit card. Once the passenger has downloaded their content, they will be able to enjoy it during their trip without having to access Wi-Fi or data services.

Heathrow’s EntertainMe kiosks have been developed by SITA and its partners, Orange Business Services and Adaptive Channel, to allow easy access to the latest entertainment. Today 90% of passengers are carrying a mobile phone or tablet and the 2016 Passenger IT Trends Survey reports that 46% of them are using their devices to access entertainment.

Roberto Segala, Heathrow’s Head of Commercial Services, said: “We are constantly looking to enhance the travel experience for passengers at Heathrow and these new EntertainMe kiosks designed by SITA will provide a unique entertainment solution for our customers.

“The initial trial will take place in Heathrow’s iconic Terminal 5, which serves more than 30 million passengers a year. We are very excited about this newest addition to Heathrow and look forward to seeing our customer’s reaction to this innovative product.”

Dan Ebbinghaus, Senior Vice President, Communication and Infrastructure Solutions, SITA, said: “We know passengers want access to the latest entertainment on their mobile devices and Heathrow’s EntertainMe kiosks make that quick and easy. Passengers get the content in seconds and can then access it without needing, or paying for, any data connection. Having these SITA-designed kiosks at Heathrow Terminal 5, which was voted the ‘World’s Best Airport Terminal’ for the fifth year in a row, is a great testing ground for this innovative service.”

The Heathrow ‘EntertainMe’ kiosks include a range of the latest newspapers and magazines, movies, TV series and, of particular interest to many travelers, city guides, destination video tours and similar items. They will be regularly updated to include new movie releases and other key content as they become available.

  • ‘Internet of Things’ coming to airlines and airports worldwide

Geneva, Switzerland | March 8, 2016– Over the next three years passengers will be enjoying seamless self-service with airlines and at airports as the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) comes to travel. This is according to The Future is Connected, the latest industry report from SITA, the leading global IT provider to the air transport industry.

Today, 83% of passengers carry a smartphone and this is now the unifying technology in transport that will provide a connected end-to-end experience. SITA’s report shows that smartphones are reshaping travel behavior and with growth rates of around 80% or more at the check-in and boarding pass stages it is clear passengers are keen to use their own technology.

The groundwork by the air transport industry to establishing the infrastructure and processes that enable more seamless travel experiences is well under way and gathering further momentum. Over the next three years the vast majority of airlines and airports are planning to invest in mobile services for passengers and most airports will also be financing self-service processes.

SITA’s analysis shows that during the same period the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Fast Travel Program will reach a critical threshold. IATA’s target is to achieve a self-service experience for 80% of global passengers by 2020. This covers six key stages in the journey: check-in, bags-ready-to-go, document scanning, self-boarding, flight rebooking and bag recovery. Last year the initiative reached 29% of passengers with the goal of 40% this year. In the report SITA presents a detailed analysis of the readiness of airlines and airports at each stage of the journey and the expectation of adoption by 2018 on the way to reach this vision.

Nigel Pickford, Director Market Insight, SITA, said: “The air transport industry has already embraced self-service and now it is turning to the ‘Internet of Things’ to deliver a more connected experience to travelers. Half of airlines expect to have IoT initiatives up and running over the next three years meanwhile airports are building out the infrastructure to support IoT. Together these will deliver improved operations and will lead to a step change in the passenger experience.”

The Future is Connected combines SITA’s global research with commentary and cases studies from airports and airlines that are moving to fully-connected travel. Those featured include Changi Airport Group, Mumbai International Airport, Air New Zealand, Miami International Airport, along with industry perspectives from Airports Council International (ACI).

For further details download SITA’s full report – The Future is Connected.

  • Airline passengers want to use technology more often throughout their journey

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | January 11, 2016– Airline passengers in Brazil are happy to use technology throughout their journey and are moving in big numbers to use self-service on their smart phones, personal computers and at kiosks. These are the results of a survey released today by global air transport IT provider, SITA.

The SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey 2015 was carried out at eight international airports in Brazil that together manage 62% of all the country’s passenger traffic. It reports that Brazil’s passengers are very positive about using self-service technology.

When it comes to checking in for flights, 80% of passengers in Brazil are positive about web check-in and 76% about self-service kiosks. This compares to only 65% of passengers being positive about checking in at a desk.

At the moment, more than half of the passengers surveyed checked in at a desk, which is higher than the global average of 43%, but looking ahead the trend is dramatically moving away from this. In fact, when asked which technology they would use for their next flight, face-to-face check-in was only picked by 28% with a strong move to using personal computers (35%) and mobile devices (24%).

Elbson Quadros, SITA Senior Sales Director, Brazil, said: “Rising passenger numbers can put a strain on services at the airport but by using technology such as web and mobile check-in airlines and airports can reduce the pressure. Here in Brazil it is encouraging to see that passengers are happy to use self-service and in fact, would like more. Airlines and airports can be confident that focusing on self-service technology, especially mobile services will make passengers happier.”

Though nearly three quarters of Brazilian passengers (72%) feel positive throughout the travel experience, this is lower than the global average of 80%. It demonstrates passengers’ desire for new services which take advantage of mobile and web technologies. Passengers here are connected, 83% carry smartphones – higher than the 23% ownership rate across the general population[1] – and they want to use them when travelling.

Some new services have real appeal in Brazil: 83% of passengers would definitely use flight updates to their mobiles, while 72% want updates on their baggage collection. This is a clear opportunity for airlines and airports in Brazil to improve the passenger experience by providing information that the passengers want sent directly to their mobile phones.

The survey also shows that more passengers check-in bags at airports in Brazil than in other parts of the world. Here again they have a desire to use self-service. Currently 17% of passengers use self bag drop services but this is set to grow to 35% over the next year.

The passengers surveyed were happiest during dwell time at the airport, the time between clearing security and boarding the flight. There was a peak of 93% positive emotions at this stage of the journey with 84% valuing entertainment and 83% eating and drinking, considerably higher than global averages. These statistics are encouraging for those airports in Brazil that have focused on the concessionary model and are providing high-quality entertainment and food and beverage services to their passengers at this point of the journey.

For the past three or so years we have known PXCom’s Cyril Jean and from a personality point-of-view, he is one of the nicest in the industry. Lately, he has been on our radar as a potential industry tree-shaker. Let us explain.

While he has been in our industry, Cyril has towed the straight line when it comes to the application of entertainment content for the travel industry- specifically as we know it, inflight entertainment content and information solutions. In the past, he and his company have been looking into a ‘more evaluative solution’ …our words, not his. By that, we mean, his solutions have been (till now) standard inflight entertainment and travel destination related. However, we recently got an interesting press release and Infographic from PXCom that got our attention on the Personalization Cycle.

In the link, it noted “Now it’s time to take traditional screens already built into passenger seats and bring them into the digital revolution. With new available technologies, these screens have become an actual digital media with the capacity of communicating directly with each passenger’s smartphone. This is a revolution that offers incredible opportunities!” which really caught our eye. Not only does the piece poo-poo the old pop-up window advertising concept, it outlays a new concept for that process that focuses on ‘personalized message content’“People more readily accept ads that are targeted to their immediate situation. If not, the advertiser risks being permanently blocked by an ‘ad-blocker’. In other words, all of the marketing tools being developed are currently focused on personalizing message content.”

“In this environment, PXCom has launched a research program aiming at creating a model to personalize services depending on the destination. This model takes into consideration the latest technology available in current passenger entertainment systems, and anticipates future evolutions.” We had to find out more, so we contacted PXCom’s chief, Cyril Jean and asked a few questions:

1. IFExpress Did you develop this yourselves or did you use an outside source?
Cyril: We developed PXCom-bound topics by ourselves. Our goal with this infographics and article is to try to federate the IFE stakeholders. As you can easily understand PXCom alone cannot do anything. This personalization cycle involves the IFE manufacturers’ teams. And yes, we are already exchanging with some of them on that topic.

2. IFExpress: Is this new concept considered an adaptive technology?
Cyril: Software experts will answer no, since we do not use adaptive algorithms. Yet, we can consider it is ‘adaptive’ since the weights of the factors change with the pax usages. (Editor’s Note: Cyril told us that personalization data companies like Google, Facebook or Tripadvisor are far-ahead of the IFE industry when it comes to personalization and we have to agree.)

3 IFExpress: This is the first of this technology we have seen for IFE, is that correct?
Cyril: Correct.

4. IFExpress: Please describe how this concept (or the software) works?
Cyril: Well, it’s all about data gathering and the core software is on the back office for data matching.

5. IFExpress: Can you give an example of how a user would input their preference or is there another way to get the preference data for the computer?
Cyril: A simple example is:
· Flight 1 : you browse the destination guide and open some “Arts Galleries” points of interest.
· Flight 2 : You’re flying to NYC, and the IFE has included in your “Personalized Selection” the latest exhibition at the MoMA (+ a skip the line offer), and the latest art gallery sponsoring its property.
· Flight 3 : The system is informed that you’re flying with your kids, and you find in your “Personalized Section” a special offer for LegoLand.

6. IFExpress: I say ‘computer’ but I really don’t know what I am talking about? Can you give a bit more info about operation?
Cyril: It’s all about the pax profile. Far more easy to implement with BYOD IFE. Regarding seatback screens, it mainly works thanks to the Companion App. Since the players (Airlines, IFE Manufacturers, PXCom) can access your inflight profile, everything can be stored in the IFE server, and downloaded/uploaded once the aircraft lands for back-office batch processing. The only intelligence which has to be loaded onboard the IFE server is PXCom’s software in order to match the factors.

7. IFExpress: I assume the passenger preference is determined by some pax-system ‘testing’ in the front end of the trip… but I do not have clue how the pax interaction with the system works. Can you help?
Cyril: The system records the browsing path, favorites selections and booking options for each flight. These records are used for the next flights.

8. IFExpress: What, exactly then, is the passenger profile?
Cyril: Our PAX profile relies on a list of characteristics as described in our infographics. Each point of interest/destination activity is tagged according to the same mapping. The platform operates the matching between the tags in real time.

9. IFExpress: How is it determined? Do passengers input any personal data so your system can determine ‘what they want or like’?
Cyril: Our platform’s requirements feature a special module enabling passengers’ inputs. Yet, there is currently a paradox well described in this article.

As explained in this article, pax are not ready to share personal data, except on social networks. Hence the solution may be found in partnerships with companies whose core business is social data gathering & analysis. In the “on-the-ground” world we are at the dawn of personalization-driven marketing. Passengers no longer understand a technological gap between on-the-ground and In-flight technology. Hence, the IFE industry has to listen carefully to the trends which are arising.

Inflight media has always been considered a premium relying on the sole quality of its affluent & captive audience. The IFE industry has an absolute opportunity to maintain this position… for the airlines’ ancillaries sake.

10. IFExpress: Is there any interest by airlines?
Cyril: To be fully transparent for the moment we do not exchange much on that topic with the airlines. They know what our goals are and agree with that, but the immediate future is to provide pax with our innovative services.

11. IFExpress: Is there any test being done by an airline… and what is the airline interest?
Cyril: It is far too early. Yet, I know that some players such as SITA OnAir have both technology and agility to perform this with PXCom.

12. IFExpress: What do advertisers say?
Cyril: Guess what? They love it, of course. Advertisers are more likely to pay when they have the ROI insurance. And such personalized offers are in the current marketing trends. PXCom “mission” is to participate in transforming the IFE from a tactic media (global broadcast of ads) to a strategic media (promotion of extremely targeted ads) focused on destination-related services.

Finally, Cyril told IFExpress: “PXCom is currently studying some partnership proposals with major retailers and big brands of fine delicacies in order to onboard the service in the early 2016. The competitive edge for these brands relies in PXCom solution’s portability from one IFE platform to another without any additional development.” Stay Tuned!

For more information, you might contact Cyril  and
in conclusion, it might be interesting for the APEX or AIX crowd to consider a new discussion/research category – The Personalization Cycle?


MORE NEWS

1) AIX 2016 will welcome more than 50 new exhibitors for the first time, along with long standing exhibitors including Airbus, B/E Aerospace, Boeing, Panasonic and Zodiac Aerospace. It will be taking place as always in Hamburg, from 5-7 April, with the Passenger Experience Conference on 4 April.

2) Recently, we got an interesting letter from Boeing retiree, Bob Bogash about his efforts in the aviation safety area. Now we know, this is an InFlight Entertainment and Connectivity newsletter but Bob’s research into aviation safety is complete, data driven and available to read on his website.
When we asked about his data accuracy and his “recent” piloting certification, he responded: “I just report the FACTS, as derived from public documents, and where I give my opinion, I state it as my opinion. As far as “recently obtained pilot skills” goes, I got my Pilot’s License on July 15, 1964 and have been flying for 51 years”… Sorry Bob!

3) Hah! You thought we made a mistake in last week’s edition of IFExpress when we quoted the Gogo 2Ku flight test speed trial at 5 to 6 GB/sec… but you knew the answer was higher than it should be, yes 5 to 6 Gb/sec is correct. Our readers were tested and here is the first “winner” to note the discovery – Peter Lemme. And thank you for your input!