Along with the tremendous development in technology and increasing demands of humans, travel service providers are also constantly trying to improve their service quality. In recent years, the aviation industry has continuously applied technology to their new products and ideas to serve customers better day by day.
Recently, the global aviation industry has suffered extremely great losses due to the Covid-19 epidemic. However, the industry’s potential is still actually huge when the pandemic is under control. Therefore, airlines and aviation companies are now preparing actively for the future. One of the highly focused investing trends nowadays is boosting technology. The innovation in technology will be a very important factor for an airline’s success post-pandemic. That’s the reason why brands have utilized this break time for further plans by equipping modern in-flight technologies.
The technology race is becoming dramatic among aviation companies and airlines
In the past few years, airlines and aviation companies have copulatively announced many innovative technology products, especially after the pandemic broke out globally. As the needs related to safety, health, convenience, and rapidity are getting more attention than ever, technology will become the key.
In-flight Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
In this mid-year, United Airlines announced to add Bluetooth in their aircraft to help customers feel more comfortable and have better experiences in flights. This is a part of United Airlines’ upgrade plan called “United Next”.
This summer, passengers of United Airlines can connect to the seatback entertainment systems on 737 Max 8 aircraft. It is expected that by early 2023, 737 Max 10 and Airbus A321neo aircraft will also be equipped with Bluetooth.
Nowadays, there are more and more people using Bluetooth headphones, so this plan of United Airlines is really worth the wait. However, the airline must solve the connection and interference problems among too many digital devices.
In a press release, United Airlines’ representative said they planned to buy over 200 Max jets for a transformational effect on the customer experience. It’s informed that these new 737 Max planes will include 13-inch high-definition screens in every first-class seat and 10-inch HD screens in all economy seats for passengers to entertain.
Besides that, United Airlines claimed the new 737 Max and A321neo will use “the industry’s fastest in-flight Wi-Fi”, expected to begin in 2025.
Wi-Fi has long been an indispensable part of people’s lives. Inmarsat’s Inflight Connectivity survey in 2018 showed that 67% of passengers would rebook with an airline if high-quality Wi-Fi was available. Consequently, airlines are constantly improving this service.
At the moment, there are quite many airlines offering in-flight Wi-Fi but only some of them allow passengers to use free Wi-Fi such as Emirates, JetBlue, Air China, Philippine Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Nok Air, etc. The quality and price of in-flight Wi-Fi depend on four things: Airline brand, aircraft, the in-flight Wi-Fi provider, and the region you’re traveling to and from.
However, in-flight Wi-Fi is often slower and more expensive than on ground. This is easily understood as hundreds of people are using it simultaneously at a speed of more than 800 kph and a height of over 10 kilometers. Anyways, it is just the current story. Who knows in the future, in-flight Wi-Fi will not be inferior compared to on-ground Wi-Fi.
In-flight ordering app and even more
Previously, passengers needed to prepare food in advance or wait for the crew and their food cart if they wanted to eat or drink onboard. While waiting, they probably fell asleep or were no longer interested in food. Now, this problem has been solved by some airlines.
Starting on 19 July 2021, British Airways has allowed customers in Euro Traveller economy cabins to order additional snacks and drinks mid-flight by its new mobile app. Food and beverages will be quickly brought directly to the customer’s seat.
This ordering system complements British Airways’ current “Buy Before You Fly” offering. The airline encourages customers to order from its Speedbird Café menu before taking off. There are dishes made by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge. After onboard, passengers can use this new app to order more or buy new food if they did not buy it before.
United Airlines also developed an app allowing users to order before or in flight, based on the “United Next” strategy. Customers who buy food and beverages on the plane can pay with a contactless tap by their credit or debit card.
The app also supports users with many other useful and convenient features including Agent on Demand and Travel-Ready Center. Agent on Demand allows passengers to get help from a live United agent by video, text or chat, while the Travel-Ready Center feature is beneficial for those flying abroad. Travelers can upload their passport, visa information, vaccination information, and entry forms for a particular country in order to have it validated, thereby saving time in the airport. The app also helps travelers to know what tests are required to enter a country and allows them to schedule a rapid COVID test.
In-flight space innovation
LED lighting is a simple and efficient way to spice up the ambiance in the aircraft cabin. In 2018, Collins Aerospace introduced a new product named Secant Luminous Panel which could be applied to aircraft ceilings or cabin walls and can display any image. With this, the boring grey space will become much more exciting and eye-catching, easy to attract passengers.
Airlines can also utilize LED lighting systems to provide information to passengers or promote their brand in each flight. This technology produces no heat, so it will be easier for crews to maintain a comfortable temperature on board.
Secant Luminous Panel was a finalist in the 2018 Crystal Cabin Awards, but it is yet to make its way onto an aircraft. However, in the scenario that airlines have been searching for new ways to stand out in the upcoming competitive market, Secant Luminous Panel will probably be an idea to meet their concerns in the near future.
In-flight digital magazines
The more technology develops, the more people tend to update everything on mobile digital mass media such as smartphones, iPads, laptops, etc. Therefore, print newspapers or magazines have been disgraced gradually. It is predicted that sooner or later, in-flight seatback magazines and direction books will be replaced with a more modern technology item called in-flight digital magazine.
Using print magazines, airlines have to spend much on printing and maintaining. According to research from Boeing, removing the weight of print newspapers and magazines equates to an annual savings of over 4.5 million USD for a fleet of wide-body aircraft operating 1,000 flights per day. Magazines need to be checked and replaced regularly if they get removed or damaged. This leads to more work for the flight crews and requires a surplus stock to always be onboard.
In the context of sustainability on top, removing paper magazines will be a quick win for airlines. Moreover, after the Covid-19 epidemic broke out severely, passengers are worried about touching an object that has been used and potentially coughed or sneezed upon by others, and that object is hard to sanitate because of paper material.
Airbus obtained a patent for an innovative idea of Digital Magazine to replace traditional print magazines. Digital Magazine uses a super slim and super flexible OLED screen to display the contents in a familiar, yet futuristic format. Passengers will be able to view the magazine in their seats, without using their own devices.
With rapid and easy updates capacity, airlines can regularly change their magazine contents on Digital Magazine. They also can integrate in-flight food order features as well as direct and quick payment via screen. Besides, Digital Magazine’s lightweight screen will save weight and will be easier to sanitize than a paper magazine.
Airbus said this new invention has not yet been commercialized, but it will soon be tested in-flight.
The in-flight technology race in the aviation industry has just begun. No one knows which airline will break through successfully and take the lead. But it can be seen that in the future, passengers will be able to experience so many attractive and safe utilities in every flight.
Technology innovation is generally a win-win for both airlines and passengers as well as related parties. Nevertheless, airlines need to upgrade and solve some important issues in technology such as connectivity, line speed or accessibility. By great investment in in-flight technology, airlines promise to continue to win the trust and confidence of more customers post-pandemic.