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Airline Trends OPINION


Connected crew


Besides equipping their cabin crew with tablets featuring customer information, so crew can serve passengers in a better way (think BA, Iberia, KLM, Emirates, Qantas), airlines are also looking to use crew tablets to increase ancillary revenues onboard. For example, American Airlines has provided 17,000 flight attendants with Samsung Galaxy Notes that, besides customer service applications, are being used for onboard transactions such as purchasing food in flight. On a similar note, Delta Air Lines recently equipped 19,000 cabin crew with Nokia Lumia smartphones. As this crew tablet market grows, providers such as SITA (CrewTablet), MI.Airline (Connected Crew) and Allegiant Systems (FlyDesk) are among the third party suppliers that have developed solutions for airlines. For example, Allegiant Air’s flight attendants are using the FlyDesk Cabin app to sell snacks and beverages. The app manages the snacks and beverage inventory on an iPad, and a hardware add-on enables flight attendants to process passengers’ credit card payments.


In-seat


Following early initiatives from low-cost carriers such as Virgin America and flydubai, airlines are also beginning to harness the power of retailing through their in-seat IFEC systems. GuestLogix recently announced partnerships with IFEC providers Thales and Panasonic to integrate GuestLogix’ transaction processing engine into the suppliers’ IFEC systems, enabling payment acceptance via seatback screens.


Passenger devices


The number of wifi-equipped aircraft will expand quickly in the coming years, but today only about seven percent of passengers is willing to pay to use inflight connectivity. In a response, airlines and wifi providers such as Gogo, as well as wireless IFE suppliers such as LH Systems and Panasonic, are turning to merchants with last-minute inventory, such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation


Says GuestLogix’s Brett Proud, “Integrating a fully-optimised retail programme into IFE will not only supplement the costs but can actually turn seatbacks into profit centres. This represents a shift in the way airlines think today about monetising assets, not just stripping back costs.”


Through the company’s


technology, airlines can open virtual stores in the sky that operate in a self-service model. For passengers, this means the convenience of purchasing entertainment, duty- free items, destination-related content (think theme park tickets and passes for events, concerts and local attractions), and food and beverage directly from their seats without having to order through a flight attendant. For the airlines, this allows retailing to occur throughout the entire duration of a flight rather than a limited time when the flight attendant walks the aisle. According to GuestLogix, the average number of duty free purchases on a flight is about five, but if self-service via seatback screens or passenger’s own devices is enabled, there are three to five-times more transactions.


Facing page: Retail sales on GuestLogix's seatback IFE Above: Allegiant Systems' FlyDesk (top) and MI Airline Connected Crew Below: American Airlines' Samsung Galaxy Note (left) and Virgin America seatback IFE


companies, and companies dealing in duty-free goods or event tickets, to develop a retail environment as part of their onboard internet portals. For example, in the US, Delta provides passengers on its domestic wifi-equipped fleet free access to Amazon.com via its wireless onboard portal, receiving a commission on sales made. Passengers can access Amazon in-flight by accessing the Delta Connect wifi portal and then clicking on to an Amazon banner.


In the near future, passengers accessing the onboard server via their personal devices will also be able to order and pay for duty free and food and beverage with transactions appearing on crew tablets for fulfilment. According to LH Systems, the latest version of its BoardConnect wireless IFE app, allows passengers to choose their meals, order drinks or purchase goods from an onboard shop. GuestLogix regards mobile apps as the ultimate extension of the onboard store, which passengers can access wherever they are on their journey. Says GuestLogix’s Proud, “At present I see apps as the best opportunity for personalisation for passengers. With in-built itinerary management, an app will know when you are in the duty free area, or waiting for your flight at the gate, and can use that information to put tailored offers in front of you. Before any of that happens, however, airlines will need to get their basic retail operations to work right and focus on the simple stuff, such as selling transport to and from airports.”


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