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Posts from the ‘In-flight’ Category

In 2015, connectivity is about bandwidth

March 21st, 2015

Kinny Cheng

I’m curious about how high-level executives, at any relevant airline, can argue against the bases of what validates the general concept of in-flight connectivity.

In 2015.

Mary Kirby’s post, titled “Norwegian wants to move 737 health data over broadband”, was a generally-interesting read as far as discussing the airline’s intent and experience with their connectivity efforts was concerned.

But what was more interesting were the comments made by Norwegian’s head of business development, station and inflight solutions, Boris Bubresko.

…Boris Bubresko proclaimed that the airline is a “true believer in connectivity”, having already equipped 96% of its 737 fleet with Global Eagle’s Ku connectivity system.

That is an impressive number. Indeed, Norwegian was one of the earlier adopters of in-flight connectivity, where the airline began retrofitting their Boeing 737s with relevant hardware since 2011.

On the #PaxEx front, Norwegian on average sees “about 35-40%” take rates, and predictably higher usage on longer flights. The quality of this free service “depends on what passengers are doing on board. If everyone is doing emails; everybody is fine. If everybody is trying to download a movie; they all suffer,” admits Bubresko.

I’ve flown with Norwegian on several occasions, and I would always try to get online whenever the service was available. A general, non-systematic and -scientific head-count on most of my flights will agree to the 35-to-40% usage rates — mostly consisting users of smartphones, while lesser for tablets and laptops.

As it was free for everyone to use, the quality-of-service would always be questionable…

Thinking back to my most-positive usage experience, a passenger’s best bet would be to stick with apps that go easy on data consumption. Granted there can be a bit of wait time, which is an inherent issue with satellite-based Internet. Twitter, in most cases, would function reasonably well — but not so much for Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, which can hog the connection with endless picture-loading requests!

Hence, Bubresko’s example of a scenario where “everybody is trying to download a movie” would be virtually impossible, because it could never really happen (good luck trying to even get to the page that hosts the video!)

Norwegian is rumored to have only contracted for half a transponder’s worth of Ku capacity [read: not a lot] to cover its connectivity needs, leading to mixed results for passengers.

That figures. But let’s not forget about the free-for-all nature of the service, which lends Norwegian an excuse of not having to meet any (realistic) levels of in-flight broadband expectations (not as if they have made any efforts to established these!)

Almost all passengers in the world have been conditioned with the premise that the Internet isn’t usually available on planes. So, when you give it to them, for free, many would be happy that it’s there for the using — and expectations are non-existent because it’s both nice-to-have and, most importantly, zero-cost.

But Bubresko insists that the conversation should not be about bandwidth. Rather, he says, it’s about “are passengers able to do what they would like to do?”

How is the conversation not about bandwidth when we are talking about connectivity?

It’s easy to say “let’s install Wi-Fi on all our aircraft so that everyone gets to surf the Web when they fly with us!” But without consideration for the overall fleet’s capacity requirements, measures to control data use on a per-aircraft basis, and appropriate service expectations for passengers, asking that subsequent question becomes a truly futile and senseless act.

But if I was to say “I’d like to watch my Netflix”, then how is Bubresko going to respond?

Not about bandwidth? In another world, perhaps.

“Premium economy” should be the new norm?

October 7th, 2014

Kinny Cheng

Mike Carrivick, writing for Aviation Week:

Profitability will always be a prime challenge for airlines, but jamming more and more passengers into smaller and smaller spaces for hours on end is counter-productive. Time for a re-think!

If airline management had any ethical sensibility, there would most certainly be a more-positive level of innovation in the passenger experience space.

A good read to put the current state of affairs into perspective.


October 7th, 2014

Kinny Cheng

Mary Kirby:

“In terms of lighting, we’re in lighting already; Panasonic Corp is the largest LED manufacturer in the world and we think we have some pretty cool technology in that space [for cabins]. We showcased that at the Aircraft Interiors Expo as part of our cool room, but we’re already in the middle of a couple huge RFPs with OEMS, and talking to airlines about it. We know we can control LED color and distribution better than anybody. The technology is all ours; and we obviously already make the cabin management systems (CMS) so we’re already able to control lighting, and change mood lighting at different phases of flight.” says James.

Not sure if I like the attitude, though.

Total and complete control has its benefits and drawbacks.

Finally: NFC support for on-board payments?

September 12th, 2014

Kinny Cheng

Mary Kirby:

As Apple has moved to support contactless EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) payments on the new iPhone 6 via near-field communications (NFC), there is renewed discussion amongst ‘passenger experience’ industry stakeholders about supporting this functionality on in-seat inflight entertainment systems.

So it’s only when Apple shakes the tree that we get some kind of proper involvement by “industry stakeholders”?

Remind me again why many passengers are almost never truly satisfied with their on-board experiences?

While Apple Pay also relies on NFC for contactless EMV payments, the new methodology of the payment process is what raises eyebrows. Credit card fraud is a known issue with various airlines, specifically those that do not use a connected system for live verification.

We should learn more about Apple Pay after its introduction in the US next month (October). In the meantime, this New York Times article, shedding more light on the efforts leading up to the creation of Apple Pay, makes for some informative reading.

BYO “IFE” ≠ cheaper fares (well, not yet anyway…)

September 4th, 2014

Kinny Cheng

Hugo Martin, for the Los Angeles Times:

Airlines that ask passengers to bring their own laptop computers, tablets or smartphones to watch in-flight movies and television should pass on the airline’s savings to fliers.

That is the sentiment of an overwhelming percentage of passengers questioned about in-flight entertainment.

“Should” does not necessarily translate to “must”.

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