In the past, any conversation around in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) was limited to the films on flights or how business passengers could check their emails. Fast forward to 2023, and IFEC capabilities are continually expanding. In fact, the global in-flight entertainment and connectivity market is anticipated to reach USD 11.79 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 8.4% from 2023 to 2030.
IFEC has emerged as a necessity for airlines, making the IFEC Zone an unmissable feature at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX). It will highlight how the proliferation of Wi-Fi, alongside the increasing reliance on smartphones and an ever-increasing desire to be connected, has meant that the IFEC offering onboard has become a central component of the passenger experience.
With more than 50 exhibiting companies, there will be no better place for attendees to maximise the exciting growth and revenue opportunity that IFEC presents. Spanning halls B2-B4, the IFEC Zone provides a concentrated area of innovation, where attendees can gain a comprehensive overview of the market, with the ability to touch and test market-leading solutions. With products spanning wireless connectivity hardware and software, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), seatback systems, 5G, streaming platforms, content service and more, attendees can join key pacesetters of this exciting sector, including Astronics Corporation, ViaSat, Thales, Panasonic Avionics Corporation, and Inmarsat Global Ltd.
Consumers desire connectivity, and airlines are obliging
A recent survey by Inmarsat found that 82% of passengers globally said they would rebook with an airline that offered high-quality Wi-Fi, with 92% of business travellers and 90% of parents with children under 18 in agreeance.
To meet this demand, airlines are offering a more frictionless connectivity experience, in part thanks to the increasing sophistication of connectivity solutions on board. At AIX 2023, Inmarsat, a world leader in satellite connectivity, will demonstrate how satellite-based connectivity is an essential catalyst for the aviation industry’s sustainable recovery through its global high-speed networks, including European Aviation Network (EAN), SB-S and GX Aviation, the high-speed Wi-Fi solution recently chosen by Emirates for its new A350 fleet.
Also exhibiting in the IFEC Zone will be Panasonic Avionics Corporation who will demonstrate why its Wi-Fi connectivity has been installed on over 3,400 aircraft and whose systems power approximately 70% of the global IFE-equipped fleet. As long connectivity aviation pioneers, the company recently entered into a distribution agreement with OneWeb to offer and support its Low Earth Orbit (LEO) network for commercial aviation, adding to its geostationary orbit capabilities, enabling unprecedented levels of connectivity across the globe.
Meanwhile, demonstrating that connectivity doesn’t have to involve Wi-Fi is aeroLiFi, who will exhibit its high bandwidth wireless communication solutions based on LiFi technology, which uses only light to transmit data, and offers high data rates, maximum security, and robustness – an intriguing option for airlines requiring IFE content distribution.
BYOD – the new era of in-flight content consumption
Customers’ digital dependency and reliance on smartphones has meant that airlines are embracing bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) systems, enabling passengers to enjoy the variety of in-flight entertainment options the same way they might consume them on the ground. This trend has resulted in the world’s largest airline, American Airlines, removing in-flight entertainment screens on most of its narrowbody fleet, reasoning that over 90 percent of its passengers now carry mobile phones, tablets, and laptops with them on-board.
Helping attendees understand the next generation of integrated IFE solutions, Thales will showcase its Pulse – Smart Power Management. It integrates the use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) into IFE systems as a remote control, a second screen and a means to personalise the IFE experience.
Meanwhile, Display Interactive, the mastermind behind UGO wireless, will highlight how the comprehensive IFEC solution offers a full range of eCommerce features and allows multiple virtual shops to be deployed on board as well as traditional entertainment features – such as movies, videos, audio, games, and magazines.
Seatback is here to stay
Despite the proliferation in BYOD, there remains a clear demand for seatback services in IFE, with many airlines stating that customers prefer to have the choice of how they consume content in the sky. AERQ, a joint venture between LG Electronics and Lufthansa Technik, founded in 2019, understands the importance of the seatback viewing experience to enhance the inflight experience. Its AERENA in seat system not only offers a captivating 4K viewing experience, but its extensive local storage allows for easy installation and maintenance, maximising simplicity for the passenger and airline.
Another company making a splash in the seatback arena is Apios, who will showcase its newest product ‘Reflect’ – a low cost, low weight passenger content system. Reflect is a 13-inch seatback screen, that affords viewers a superb content consumption experience, as well as offering passengers the chance to sync their smartphones to the screen to watch their own downloaded content.
Streaming options continue to multiply
As far back as 2017, IAG Group announced it would equip several hundred craft with Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network (EAN), including some short haul aircraft within the group, delivering streaming options for passengers on short-haul flights. Streaming-based IFE has become another touch point for airlines, and many providers have recognised that.
FVS Entertainment will showcase its comprehensive range of international content, thanks to strong relationships with key partners and independent distributors. The company curates a striking selection of content based on latest trends and recent releases as well as developing bespoke strategies for airlines providing tailor-made content solutions, adapted to an airline’s specific budget.
Meanwhile, IdeaNova’s Inplay Suite is providing the ultimate streaming experience for passengers. Designed to fit seamlessly into existing IFE systems, its Inplay Players, state of the art solutions address demands for modern content delivery. For example, Inplay Live provides airlines with live TV content services with minimal investment to infrastructure, while Inplay VR provides a window to the future.
Ancillary revenue continues to be a key differentiator for airlines
There will be no shortage of ancillary revenue optimisation specialists in the IFEC Zone helping attendees understand how to generate revenue from goods and services onboard. Enhancing the retail experience in the cabin, AirFi, the global leader in portable IFE and inflight retailing technology, will showcase AirFi LEO. The lightweight offering consists of two small antennas mounted in the plane’s windows which facilitates transaction processing on board. It reduces fraud and increases cart size, both cutting costs and increasing revenue simultaneously.
Elsewhere, Bluebox Aviation Systems will introduce Bluebox Wow. Just the size of a lunchbox and easily deployed in overheard lockers, it provides digital services and content streamed to passenger devices in any cabin. These include revenue generating services such as onboard retail – including touch-free payments – advertising, and more traditional in-flight entertainment, including a wide range of film, TV, audio, games, and other digital content.
Polly Magraw, event director, Aircraft Interiors Expo, commented: “Passenger appetite for enhanced digital capabilities and the ability to be connected at all times continues to grow. The result is an astoundingly high level of innovation. We’re excited to host so many of the industry’s leading IFE players, helping airline buyers stay clued up on the latest trends and consumer habits when it comes to onboard connectivity. Covering the whole spectrum of IFEC products and services, there is no better place to do this than in the IFEC Zone at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2023.”
Visitor registration will open in March 2023. To register your interest to attend, visit the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) here.
 Grand View Research