Airlines in the Asia-Pacific have become more proactive about flight tracking, and are also looking at more innovative connectivity options for passengers.

Bill Peltola, vice president of aviation, Asia-Pacific, at satellite provider Inmarsat, says that in addition to just tracking flights, airlines are also increasingly interested in bolstering connectivity through other systems, such as the Aircraft Addressing and Reporting System, (ACARS), and using satellites to gather better data around events such as bad weather and turbulence.

Peltola spoke with Flightglobal at an event hosted by Inmarsat to mark the opening of its largest office in Asia-Pacific, in Singapore. The new facility comprises labs, demonstration rooms, training areas and a customer support centre.

Inmarsat played a pivotal role in the hunt for MH370, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that disappeared on 8 March 2014, while operating the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route. With 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard, for reasons still unknown, the aircraft shut down all communications, turned west over the Gulf of Thailand, and finally crashed in the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

“Handshake” data from Inmarsat’s satellite network was crucial in locating the area where the aircraft likely entered the sea. The aircraft has yet to be found.

The incident put a spotlight on flight tracking, spurring ICAO to propose that flights report their location every 15 minutes.

Peltola also touched on the nascent area of onboard passenger connectivity. He acknowledged that airlines tend to fall into two camps: providing expensive onboard wifi that is used only by a select few passengers, or offering cheaper wifi that can be slowed down by too many users.

He suggests that low-cost carriers in the region flying short sectors can provide passengers wifi “that costs no more than a drink or a cup of coffee,” which provides basic connectivity for applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and SMS.

“Long-haul, you could offer a higher quality of service,” he said.

Source: Cirium Dashboard