2022 was a year of financial recovery for the aerospace industry, thanks to borders opening up and governments loosening health requirements for air travel. Even with record fuel prices, international flights increased to 69% of pre-pandemic levels. We anticipate that 2023 air traffic will continue to improve, and airlines will turn their focus to revamping their in-flight entertainment and securing their digital future.
Trends to Watch in the Aerospace Industry in 2023
2023 will be a year of innovation for the aerospace industry. But which components and topics will be the industry’s focus? Axinom explains.
At Axinom, we plan to spend 2023 extending our On-Board Cloud capabilities. This solution offers a single point of management for passenger, cabin, and crew systems. It also centralizes the ingestion, management, and deployment of data, content, and services on an aircraft. Through an isolated deployment approach, Axinom On-Board Cloud reduces the lengthy certification process and manages content at a granular level.
From in-flight services to infrastructure building, the aerospace industry is entering a period of accelerated innovation. Our decision to focus on development is based on the trends that we observe in the aerospace industry, which we share with you below.
In-flight texting and 5G streaming will become a reality (but only in Europe)
EU air travelers will soon be able to call, text, and even stream using their own smart devices. This won’t be the case for U.S. passengers yet, since American 5G frequencies require much higher altitudes than those used in the European Union.
The deadline for EU member states to reserve frequency bands for in-flight 5G coverage is June 30, 2023. European vessels will employ picocells to reduce signal jumping as smart devices transit between communication towers. Unable to offer 5G connectivity due to technological constraints, U.S. airlines will probably hurry to retrofit their planes to improve altimeter sensitivity or add metal shielding to prevent communications interferences.
Since 5G will take some time to reach American airspace, United Airlines, Delta, Southwest, Alaska Airlines, Air France, KLM, and JetBlue are marketing free inflight messaging. Becoming the best free Internet provider will be on everyone’s mind, with Southwest Airlines already offering free internet access on some routes. In-flight WiFi service providers such as HBCplus will be key in this technological competition, by enabling airlines to switch bandwidth suppliers without needing to install additional hardware.
Satellite-based connectivity will also get a boost in 2023. Inmarsat has partnered with Orbit Communication Systems to offer a lightweight, compact terminal compatible with Jet ConneX. In addition, Inmarsat has also announced the launch of Swift Jet, an IFC service for business aviation that was made in collaboration with Honeywell. Meanwhile, WizzAir has expanded its fleet with satellite Internet access to include 19 aircraft.
Airlines will bid for exclusive content
The process to load new media on-board is now as fast as 24 hours. One of the first in-flight premieres was “…And Just Like That”, the “Sex and the City” sequel series which was broadcasted on a LATAM flight just one day after it was released by HBO. Emirates has partnered with streaming platform Shahid to offer exclusive new content. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific added HBO Max to its entertainment catalog on both short and long-haul flights.
Services like Axinom On-Board Cloud have made a shorter release cycle possible. In the case of the On-Board Cloud, media is synced between ground servers and vessels using containerized deployment. This isolates the content from other airline systems, reduces the length of the certification process, and allows controlling the media and its monetization at a granular level.
IFE systems will offer more games, sports, and shopping (all contactless!)
Airline passengers will soon enjoy a wider variety of video games. Companies such as Ubisoft and Gladi8tor have already signed agreements to offer their games in-flight. Educational K-12 games and content are also part of this trend, as proven by the partnership between Quivertree with Kokoro Kids.
In the near future, more carriers will also embed e-commerce sites into their IFEs. This will also integrate real-time checkout systems and delivery service bookings. To reduce data bandwidth costs, airlines could opt to update the servers onboard before every departure. Singapore Airlines is already offering IFE shopping, while Thales has partnered with e-commerce specialist Airfree and digital revenue Omnevo to revamp its in-flight sales system.
Live sports will fly high thanks to key partnerships. Panasonic has secured the in-flight distribution rights for the sports channel Sport24. Through a partnership with Viasat, Panasonic will live broadcast Sport24 to JetBlue and Qatar Airways aircraft. In addition, Air Canada has announced they will start streaming national TV channels on domestic flights, so passengers don’t miss current sporting events or the latest news.
Driven by post-pandemic hygiene concerns, more passengers will have the option to control their in-seat IFE screen with a personal device. Wireless IFE interfaces can be built using Axinom On-Board Cloud, which can also manage the connection between seatback screens and personal devices. China Airlines has already equipped its Airbus A321neos fleet with touchless entertainment systems, while Thales expects to release its own contactless service in early 2023.
Portable IFE devices will become more popular since their size is similar to the one of a lunchbox, and can be easily deployed in overhead bins. This kind of IFE allows up to 100 passengers to use their phones, tablets, or laptops to access streaming content and digital services through a local cloud. Some early adopters of portable IFE devices are AirFrance, Air Belgium, Malaysia Airlines, LOT, Air Cairo, Azerbaijan Airlines, Air Senegal, Fly Baghdad, Air Côte d’Ivoire, and Canada Jetlines.
Satellite interests will drive aerospace M&A
Mergers and acquisitions will increase in the aerospace industry, particularly among companies dedicated to launching and managing communication via satellite. Although Viasat announced its intent to acquire Inmarsat in November 2021,and the transaction will probably happen in 2023. Viasat expects this acquisition will benefit their international growth in the maritime industry (by launching satellites) and African markets (via a partnership with Microsoft).
Similarly, France’s Eutelsat plans to buy its British rival OneWeb to establish a European satellite network that can challenge the market share currently owned by Space X. Eutelsat’s GEO satellites are better suited for weather and broadcast use since they work at high altitudes. Meanwhile, OneWeb’s lower-altitude satellites excel at low-latency data transfers. Through this merger, Eutelsat plans to offer both B2B and B2C communication services to the European and global cruise markets.
Sustainable initiatives go global
The 41st ICAO Assembly announced the international aviation’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Therefore, more airlines will ally with tech partners to optimize fuel use and transit routes, as Gulf Air has done with Honeywell tech. Transport Canada will start implementing its Aviation Climate Action Plan for the period 2022-2030 by starting a re-evaluation of projections and setting interim goals.
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) initiatives will grow as airlines strive to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. Latin America could be a major provider of raw materials to produce SAF, with a capacity to satisfy 30% of the global SAF needs by 2030. Airlines like Virgin Atlantic, LOT, Cathay Pacific, and Korean Air have signed agreements with SAF suppliers to start supplying their fleets with this sustainable fuel. Governments will continue to incentivize SAF production during 2023, as the UK transport secretary has done to create a price stability market for this fuel.
Airlines will prepare to compete in the UAM and eVTOL markets
Even though no eVTOL has been certified by the FAA, airlines will continue to make small moves to prepare for when it happens. Some, like United Airlines and Delta, will continue making investments in eVTOL companies throughout 2023. Infrastructure is still the hardest challenge for air taxis, thus companies will continue working on finding locations to create a future Urban Mobility network.
The best trend we foresee for the next twelve months is that air traffic will continue improving. This will entail more passengers that are both eager to fly, and also want to be entertained while up in the air. By choosing the right partners, such as Axinom, you can rest assured that you will offer a great travel experience while also keeping things manageable for your cabin crew and ground team. Here’s to clear skies and safe travels during 2023!