With the post-Covid momentum in the aviation industry, airlines are renewing their fleets and equipment such as passenger cabins. Improving the in-flight entertainment (IFE) experience must also keep pace with technological developments and passenger expectations. Initially deployed on long-haul flights, IFE technologies are now being introduced on medium-haul and VIP aircraft.
The improvement in the passenger experience for IFE is part of a broader framework, that of improving cabin comfort with new seats. For example, Air France presented its new long-haul Business Class seat, designed and assembled by Safran Seats, which will be fitted on its fleet of twelve Boeing 777-300s starting in September. This 180 million euro investment is part of the airline’s strategy to move upmarket. These more comfortable seats feature new Safran 4K screens, which are wider, anti-glare and have a better image resolution, guaranteeing an optimal IFE experience. Passenger entertainment options are also being expanded, with a wider range of content available. For example, Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) officially unveiled its brand new IFE system, Beyond, at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2022. It contains more than 5,000 hours of HD content, including movies, Western and Eastern TV shows, as well as a library of e-books, weather reports, shopping, meal orders, flight information and timeline.
In the U.S., Delta Airlines just inaugurated its first flight on Boston-San Francisco in an Airbus A321neo with an enhanced first-class cabin. And to enhance the IFE experience, Delta plans to roll out Bluetooth headset support. This frequently requested feature is being tested in conjunction with the introduction of the airline’s first Airbus A321neo. The plane’s 20 first-class recliners each have a 13-inch high-definition entertainment system that supports Bluetooth connectivity. This means travelers will be able to connect their AirPods or other Bluetooth wireless headphones without any additional cables. In-house startup Delta Flight Products develops the company’s entertainment systems, and that team is responsible for the Bluetooth testing. The results of this testing period (aimed at making sure the system is reliable and free of interference) will help make a decision on whether to roll out this feature more broadly. The airline wants to make sure the technology is ready for prime time across its fleet before committing to a plan to roll out the feature in the coming months and years.
Photo Chris Rank / Delta
Finally, if passengers do not wish to use the entertainment system offered in the plane, they can then use the Wi-Fi connection: many airlines are looking to improve their connectivity and reliability of their in-flight internet connection. For example, Southwest Airlines said it is testing “next generation” equipment from Anuvu. Southwest hopes its Internet will reach faster speeds and higher capacities, and is allowing all customers free access to the 40 planes where these tests are taking place.
Astronics Corporation (a leading provider of advanced technologies for industries such as aerospace and defense) has formed a strategic partnership with LG Display to bring OLED technology to the aviation market, specifically to in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems for business and VIP aircraft. The system, named “Avenir,” offers native 4K video distribution via the industry’s highest bandwidth Ethernet network system. The system has been showcased at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland, May 23-25, 2022.
Avenir uses fiber optics and Power Over Ethernet (POE) to deliver audio and video content. The design and installation of this onboard system is greatly simplified compared to traditional CMS/IFE systems. In addition to 4K video streaming, the Avenir system offers other enhanced features such as wireless or wired intra-system streaming of all content, audio/video-on-demand (AVOD) streaming, and an interactive 3D map. The experience is fully customizable, right down to the graphical user interface.