Brazilian operator TAM is a Super Trouper, and not simply because it offers Abba's greatest hits on its excellent in-flight entertainment systems (see pic). The carrier, which is readying to join the Star Alliance in April, today announced a heaping big deal with Amadeus to replace scads of legacy systems with the IT giant's Altea customer management solution. Read all the details here.
First of all, let me tell you that TAM is serious about in-flight connectivity. The carrier already offers satellite telephone functionality plus basic text messaging and email through its IFE systems on international aircraft (I tried the former and got through to Bedford, Pennsylvania without a bother - a price of $6/min might force one to keep such calls short, however). Side note: Isn't it ludicrous that wired - and wireless - calls are happening throughout the world, but the USA continues to hold some sort of baseless, anti-phone attitude?
Anyhoo, TAM doesn't roll like that (thank goodness). The carrier is getting ready to bring OnAir's mobile connectivity solution to Airbus A320 narrowbodies. "The first aircraft is coming this year with the system," says TAM vice-president commercial and planning Paulo Castello Branco. As such, TAM will become the first company on the continent to offer the Airbus/SITA joint venture's offering.
TAM tells me that the system is expected to be operational by the second half of 2009, "but it depends on the approval of ANAC and Anatel (National Agency of Telecommunications), as well as the legislation that authorizes cell phones use only when the airplane is landed and with its doors opened".
Okay, RWG, you jump from Amadeus to integrated IFE to OnAir, what gives? Well, despite the fact that these things seem mutually exclusive (to some), they don't have to be. The Altea solution keeps passengers' flight histories and individual preferences referenced, and so it is just the sort of IT platform that will help usher in THE CABIN OF THE FUTURE (cue Star Trek soundtrack).
So, let's lay out the scenario. You're an airline and you've got vital customer profiles - care of Altea - at your fingertips. And, lookie here, you've also got a robust in-flight connectivity link (care of OnAir or AeroMobile or Aircell or Row 44 or Panasonic, etc). Maybe now you can customize the passengers' in-flight experience in real time. And the passengers can feel like you (the airline) really care about them and all their interests and pastimes (perhaps a carrier should try to flog Mamma Mia tickets to Runway Girl, for example).
What if you're a passenger on a delayed flight and you need to rebook a connecting flight? Well maybe you'll be able to do that through your IFE system, which might know the carrier's inventory (and be pulling it from Altea's inventory tool).
"The scenario you described is very feasible using Altea," says Amadeus director global airline IT Jean-Philippe Mesure, noting that certain data "can be fed to individual seats".
He adds: "The ease of integration [with Altea] allows a lot of new business opportunities for the airline."
Knowing me, knowing you, it is then...