Passengers want connectivity today and demand keeps on growing. Everyone is mobile, everyone is connected from the earliest age – just look around you while you are travelling. Your mobile phone becomes your personal assistant. Without it you are lost.
Airlines are also using connectivity, trying to ease the passenger experience. In the early days, they were charging for inflight Internet, but free Wi-Fi as an onboard amenity is becoming the norm from the gate to gate. Airports, and before that hotels, understood how to provide a smoother customer experience to connected travellers.
That is only the beginning. The new high throughput networks are opening up a world of applications for crews to offer an even better passenger experience. Weather information is a key point. You can have weather information coming in the cockpit in a more dynamic and sophisticated way to pilots’ tablets compared with current flight management systems, for example. Instead of information that you need to interpret, you have more visual elements that can be displayed using real-time data to enable in-flight decisions to help optimise your route. This is only the beginning of what the connected aircraft will deliver.
So what will it be like to fly in this new world? Here is how I see it.
When I sit down, the flight attendant comes along – having checked his tablet – and says, “Hello Mr Rodriguez. Welcome back. I’m glad to see you’re in your preferred aisle seat. I’ve got a low-fat meal for you and I’ll make sure you know which gate to head to for your connecting flight.”
Once I’ve caught up with my emails, making sure I put my phone on silent, I can start streaming a film onto my iPad using the same app I used to connect to the network. I always prefer to use my own electronic devices when I can: I know my way around them. After dinner and the film, it’s time to do some work, using my laptop connected to Wi-Fi. It’s just like working in a hotel. I can also book my Uber driver to pick me up when I arrive; it slipped my mind earlier.
Just before we land, the flight attendant sends the map of the airport to my personal app, showing where the next gate is. He has even come to tell me how long it will take to walk there. When I get there, I look at my bag tracking app and see my bag is right underneath me waiting, as am I, to get on the next plane.
There is also a lot going on behind the scenes that passengers typically don’t see, but which makes the flight quicker, smoother and more efficient.
My next plane is being worked on by a maintenance team. The fault was reported during the previous flight so the team was ready and waiting at the gate, with the right equipment. That means there won’t be a delay.
I also know this airline has flight tracking technology, so the flight operations team knows exactly where every aircraft is all the time. That’s very reassuring for me and my family at home.
In fact this isn’t the future. Everything I have described is already happening somewhere in the world today. The connected aircraft is here.
And it is about to get much better. We’ve run trials using the GX Aviation connection – you can see how it went in the video below.
The new world of applications is going to be amazing. There are two things in particular that make GX Aviation so good for SITA OnAir as a service provider. The first is its true broadband speed – up to 50MBs to the aircraft. And the second is that it will be consistent everywhere in the world.
I can’t wait to experience it as a passenger and, as a service provider, open up all those operational opportunities for airlines.
About the author
François Rodriguez is Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer of SITA OnAir. He is responsible for a wide range of SITA OnAir’s marketing and strategy functions including corporate strategy, product portfolio, global marketing, and integrated corporate and marketing communications.
François previously held the position of Director of Strategy and Marketing at OnAir.
Prior to joining OnAir in 2012, he spent several years in the Telecom industry, latterly as head of multimedia propositions with responsibility for developing multimedia services to support France Telecom Group’s growth in a number of target countries. He participated in the launch of the Orange Switzerland operator, holding several Product Marketing functions.
Francois has marketing and management diplomas from universities in the UK and Switzerland.