Aircraft in the multimedia era
Onboard comfort is the new hot topic for airlines as they compete to win over and keep satisfied customers. Wi-Fi connectivity, multimedia content, virtual reality and more… Aircraft manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to design the innovative products that will make flying as memorable as possible.
« Welcome aboard. We advise you to keep your smartphone on »: though it seemed unthinkable just a short time ago, this type of announcement by cabin crews could well become commonplace in the near future. Connectivity is now a fast-growing area of development in the air transport sector. This should come as no surprise: Wi-Fi is now such a major part of our daily lives that no-one can imagine being out of contact while travelling, even on a turboprop with a maximum flight time of an hour and a half! An Inmarsat/GfK study carried out in 2016 on 9,000 passengers in 27 countries revealed that more than 9 out of 10 people would like to have broadband internet access in flight, and 7 out of 10 travel with at least two personal electronic devices (smartphone, tablet and laptop). What’s more, 54% of those questioned said they would prefer Wi-Fi rather than a meal! As a result, connectivity is one of airlines’ major expectations with regard to aircraft manufacturers.
CabinstreamTM by ATR
To adapt to shifts in passengers’ onboard habits, as well as current digital usage, new ATR -600s now offer CabinstreamTM as an option – the In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) solution launched by ATR in 2018. It offers airlines the possibility of integrating a wireless connectivity solution into their aircraft cabins, enabling users to access a broad range of multimedia content (newspapers, music, films, TV series and even travel guides available for downloading) from their own electronic device. The CEO of Tunisair Express recently confirmed the airline’s order of three ATR 72-600s with these words: « The ATR 72-600 stood out as the best choice for our regional network, thanks to its profitability and eco-friendly performance (…) And we are sure our passengers will love its modern, spacious cabin, especially the seats – the widest on the market – and the new state-of-the-art Cabinstream™ technology, which offers them an outstanding in-flight experience. » Comprising a simple, easy-to-fit IFE box, Cabinstream™ is available as an option on all new ATRs, but can also be integrated easily into aircraft already in service.
Virtual reality on board
Generally speaking, new technology is opening up new perspectives in terms of in-flight entertainment. Virtual reality, in particular, is poised to take off. British Airways recently announced that some of its passengers will shortly be able to take advantage of this option.
By the end of 2019, SkyLights headsets will be offered to first-class passengers on some London-New York flights, with a selection of 3D films and documentaries available for viewing. Even better, the airline plans to offer guided meditation and sound therapy sessions, specially geared to customers with a fear of flying! Elsewhere, Iberia, in association with Inflight VR, is currently testing a similar device on its Madrid-New York flights.
It’s safe to say that flying is no longer synonymous with a digital detox!