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Trends Shaping the In-Flight Experience: 2022 and Beyond

Passengers' expectations on-board an airline is really a reflection of their preferences and lifestyle on-ground. As people spent quite a lot of time at home over the past few years, they embraced digital technology for work, entertainment, and socializing. Latest Air Transport IT Insights from SITA indicate that the airline industry is looking to stay on top of this digital shift. With most airlines expecting growth in their IT spend in 2022, 61% predicting an increase from the previous year.

As air travel begins to pick up, what does it now take to keep people engaged on an airplane 30,000 feet in the air? And what are some emerging trends and key developments surrounding the in-flight experience? Here is a round-up

Accelerated Digitalization


Digitalization was already underway in the aviation industry, but airlines have undoubtedly speeded up implementation. One such digital transformation is the advent of IoT (Internet of Things) into aircraft. IoT uses the data generated by a connected network of devices and sensors on-board to open a range of applications. This includes smart cabins, connected travel, predictive maintenance, freight/luggage management, and many more.

We are also increasingly seeing the introduction of all-encompassing portals that allow passengers to interact with the airline and cabin right from their personal devices. Such portals are packed with functionalities like access and control over in-flight entertainment and connectivity, interacting with the crew, and accessing retail, e-commerce, and destination services.

Touchless Travel


We see the emerging popularity of touchless technology for safer, healthier, and more streamlined air travel. According to insights from SITA, 90% of airlines plan investments in wireless in-flight services, a key enabler of touchless in-flight experiences. Personal electronic devices (PEDs) play a massive role here by assisting with contactless check-ins, airline updates, and meal ordering, as well as remote control pairing with IFE systems.

BYOD (bring your own devices) has been a pre-existing trend in the aviation industry but has gained traction with contactless air travel. People tend to surround themselves with several different devices for watching videos, playing video games, as well as working online. As passengers, they will carry this habit in the air as well. Airlines are also using QR codes to support the distribution of information with minimal physical engagement.

Insatiable Demand for Connectivity


People across all ages are now dependent on internet connectivity to carry out integral day-to-day activities. Being on the move will no longer be a barrier, and passengers will expect the airborne internet experience to match what they are used to on the ground. Moreover, the surge in demand for streaming services in-flight is also a strong proponent for high bandwidth internet connectivity. An Inflight Connectivity (IFC) survey conducted by Intelsat revealed that 85% of respondents believe that quality inflight connectivity is a key differentiating factor for airlines.

Personalized In-Flight Experiences


Personalized digital experiences are a prominent factor in the digital platforms of today. We see airlines following suit with personalized in-flight offerings that move away from a standard set of options to a highly curated experience. Everything from the IFE (in-flight entertainment) content to on-board meals and shopping as well as the advertising will reflect passenger’s preferences. Such experiences help in building stronger relationships with passengers and are supported with passenger data and integrations with third-party services.

Growth in Retail Services


Digital shopping is now a normal part of life and can be a lucrative source of ancillary revenue for airlines looking to leverage on their captive audience. Ancillary revenue is expected to have increased by $7 billion in 2021 from 2020, according to CarTrawler’s Worldwide Estimate of Ancillary Revenue report. We expect to see a rise in partnerships between airlines and popular digital retail and e-commerce providers.

Bringing Them All Together

Making these in-flight experiences a possibility requires the unification and seamless management of many components, including on-ground and on-board systems, passenger and on-board devices, as well as own and third-party applications. A unified software infrastructure enables airlines to centrally manage own or third-party digital services, prepare them to be delivered to the vessel, and deploy such services on-board, with accessibility from the passenger, cabin, and crew portals. It reduces operating and maintaining multiple hardware servers for numerous services.

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