The World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) is looking to rebrand as the Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) group to broaden its scope and reflect an evolution in the industry that sees in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) providers working more closely with aircraft interiors specialists to improve the passenger experience.
"If you talk to most of the airlines, their investment in seat-back technology is not just about entertainment. It's about enhancing the customer experience. As we look to the future, these seat-back systems and all the technology wrapped around them, including the way they are integrated into the seat, is becoming more and more important," WAEA president Patrick Brannelly told ATI and Flightglobal in an interview today.
"This really reflects what is happening across the world. Managers within the airlines are no longer saying: 'I'm in the movie provision business for customers'. Instead they are looking at the passenger experience, from the point of booking through check in, to baggage handling at the airport, through the onboard experience and right through past the point that the passenger gets off the plane," adds Brannelly, who serves as Emirates' vice-president corporate communications, product, publishing, digital and events.
The WAEA's board of directors has been actively discussing the change for about 18 months, and many senior members have already verbally endorsed the plan. All WAEA members will have until 7 May to vote on whether or not to rebrand as APEX. A majority vote from the electorate is simply needed for the measure to pass.
The move comes at a time when aircraft seat and IFEC vendors are working closely on integrated IFEC seat designs. Notably, Panasonic Avionics last year unveiled its Integration Smart Monitor concept, which combines ultra-lightweight, touch screen IFEC with slim seats in a truly cohesive design. Thales is also understood to be working on seat/IFEC integration projects, as are others in the field.
"Clearly the industry needs to have seat vendors working more closely with the IFEC vendors. That has been talked about for 20 years. And when they do work together, some brilliance is created," says Brannelly.