The Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas (AIX) and co-located Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) exhibitions in Long Beach are fast approaching and, true to form, I feel like a chicken with its head cut off (here is how chill I looked before the beheading).
I've taped a quick and dirty video to talk about just a few of the themes emerging in advance of the two shows, and to highlight the fact that Flightglobal's crack team of journalists (who do not use illicit drugs), will be in Long Beach en force to generate show daily magazines, and to bring you all the latest news, blogs, images, video and tweets via this special online landing page. (UPDATE: The page has been temporarily disabled. Check back later.)
Here is my quick and dirty (complete with dog barking):
When one is relegated to a "less than two minute" video time slot, one can't possibly list all the exciting things that are happening in the world of in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) and aircraft interiors. So, for your edification, here is a list of the stuff that this chicken is stuffing her head with right now.
Southwest Airlines is getting vocal about its equipage of Row 44 in-flight connectivity systems, saying in a recent blog post that 13 aircraft have been fitted with broadband and 60 will be equipped by year-end. The carrier even gives a little dig to Gogo airline customers. Naughty! Row 44's latest injection of cash from Kellner and friends is no doubt helping to speed Southwest's equipage schedule along.
Speaking of in-flight connectivity, GuestLogix - which supplies point of sale (POS) devices and in-flight advertising services to carriers - has issued a new white paper on how airlines can maintain control over the dynamics of in-flight retail. GuestLogix believes in-flight Wi-Fi would be more widely used by consumers if it were integrated into a full-fledged onboard store offering (presumably they'd benefit too).
British Airways, meanwhile, has rolled out its new economy and premium economy products on a Boeing 777-300ER. This is great news for Thales, which is providing the in-flight entertainment as part of a mammoth deal announced in November 2008 covering installations on BA's 777-300ERs, as well as its new Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s. Thales' win of the BA deal frustrated the hell out of Panasonic Avionics.
But don't cry for Panasonic, Argentina. The truth is the firm is busy as ever. Delta Air Lines has confirmed it is launching Panasonic's Integrated Smart Monitor with Weber Aircraft's slimline seat on the 747s formerly operated by merger partner Northwest Airlines (but we already knew that). I'm now hearing that the proposed LAN-TAM tie-up in Latin America is going to bode really well for Panasonic.
One piece of news that really caught my eye today is Air Berlin's decision to branch out into the entertainment industry under a new joint venture with German media firm kick media. The content created through this endeavour will be shown over Air Berlin's in-flight entertainment systems.
Key quote from Air Berlin CEO Joachim Hunold:
"80% of our 167 aircraft have video equipment on board and almost all our planes have audio connections. We have been paying high licence fees for the film and music programmes that we have used in the past. Together with [JV partner] kick media, we now want to produce music and video programmes to which we ourselves own the rights."Responding to the news, one of my work colleagues said: "Is Air Berlin going to use 'the Hoff' as the main star of their new media company? He can sing and act, the perfect combination."
Too true. But on a more serious note, Air Berlin's announcement must be giving content service providers even more pause about their ever-changing role in the industry, not that they haven't been considering it for a while. Check out Spafax's blog post: "The death of the content service provider?"
BMIbaby's "enterplanement" campaign is also redefining in-flight entertainment content. Here is a video from that campaign:
That's a pretty high octave! Speaking of things that are high (up), let's return to the Ka-band connectivity issue and Inmarsat's decision to jump into the market with its Global Xpress service. Oh not again, Mary. Yes again.
Chris Quilty in a Raymond James research report pours some cold water on the idea that customers (yeah, that includes airlines) will adjust their current connectivity strategies to wait for Ka, saying:
While the industry surely took notice of Inmarsat's announcement, end-users are unlikely to adjust their near-term purchasing decisions based upon the promise of a better service four years hence. In addition, Inmarsat is likely to encounter initial skepticism regarding its Global Xpress service due to a historical perception that Ka-band satellites are less reliable due to the effects of weather attenuation.This might sound like music to Panasonic's ears, but company director of corporate sales and marketing Neil James says if and when Ka becomes available, "we will offer an upgrade that will optimize our existing [Ku-band-based] eXConnect solution for Ka".
If Inmarsat is unable to achieve sufficient network reliability, customers may well choose to stick with existing Ku-band services that have proven quite capable of handling extreme weather environments.
The final challenge for Inmarsat is to construct a pricing model that is both attractive to end-users and yields a sufficient return on investment - a task perhaps easier said than done. One major risk that Inmarsat faces is that, if the Global Xpress service is priced too low, it will likely cannibalize Inmarsat's existing L-band service and thereby destroy the company's
return on its I-4 constellation.
Responding to this concern, management indicated that the loss of "high value" customers on the I-4 satellites would free up capacity that could then be used to target other applications such as M2M and voice services. However, it is highly unlikely that Inmarsat will ever be able to attract enough of these subscribers (monthly ARPUs of about $50 and $10, respectively) to make up for the loss of high value maritime customers billing $2,000 to $5,000 per month.
So it seems we can't drum up a little bit of controversy even when we try. Not so fast RWG! There may be a little bit of controversy a-brewen and it has nothing to do with satellites.
It seems that airline survey specialist SkyTrax isn't the biggest fan of APEX's moniker for the new Passenger Choice Awards (which I will be emceeing). I spotted the following not-so-subtle message on SkyTrax's FaceBook page. The update is dated 28 July so perhaps this fence is already mended?
(Photo of smokin chicken from nukeit1 Flickr photo stream)