In-flight entertainment

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Travel Tech

In the battle for airlines to stand out from the crowd, flight operators are continually looking for innovative ways to make their particular service catch the eye of the consumer. One way in which the experience of travelling by air can be made particularly individual is via original in-flight entertainment. And given the high-quality technology now feasible for airlines on-board flights, there are a raft of in-flight entertainment options now available for the consumer.

Emirates appeals to the visually impaired

In addition to the motivation of trying to attract as many travellers as possible, airlines are also tailoring their in-flight entertainment options to be as inclusive as possible. The popular Emirates airline, notable for its sponsorship of the popular football teams Real Madrid and Arsenal, has recently created an industry first in this department. The Dubai-based carrier is introducing an audio description option as part of its in-flight entertainment programming, with the intention of providing a unique service to the visually impaired.

Travellers who are blind or suffer from impairment of vision now have the opportunity to follow sixteen feature films on the Emirates airline thanks to this new service. The airline has apparently cut a deal with Disney, as the movies available all hail from the infamous animation studio. The feature films in question include the recent mega-hit Frozen, Saving Mr Banks, Cars 2, Monsters University, The Avengers, Toy Story 3 and all four Pirates of the Caribbean films. Emirates has already announced that it will further expand this selection of films in the near future.

Monarch's green branding

However, whereas Emirates placed the in-flight emphasis on providing as inclusive a service as possible, other airlines take a different focus in order to differentiate their branding. For example, the budget airline Monarch has recently launched a form of ergonomic seating which is intended to make flying with the airline more comfortable for passengers, but also mark Monarch out as an environmentally-friendly airline. The airline is very much trading on its reputation as a family friendly airline, as well as pushing its green credentials. Monarch’s new setup enables them to save 255 kg of fuel on a single flight to Egypt.

In addition to taking advantage of modern design to make Monarch flights more comfortable for passengers, the airline has coupled the move with other innovations to improve the environmental performance of its aircraft. Monarch utilised lightweight materials and the most advanced modern design principles to reduce fuel emissions. This innovation has also enabled Monarch to significantly increase legroom within its aircraft.

As well as improving the ergonomics of its flights, Monarch’s new seating plan also provides an innovative tablet holder to serve the digital needs of its travellers. This is an interesting move which sees Monarch ditch its in-flight entertainment system. The airline is proclaiming this to be a first for the industry, and cites the fact that the new seating received exceptional customer feedback when tested on Monarch clients.

The Wi-Fi quandary

However, although Wi-Fi is increasingly viewed by travellers as an extremely useful and even essential part of the services offered in-flight, airlines shouldn’t necessarily ditch other forms of in-flight entertainment just yet. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on research which suggests that passengers love Wi-Fi on an airline when it’s free, but as soon as carriers begin to charge for the service usage drops off pretty rapidly.

Although several airlines have embraced in-flight Wi-Fi, and providers report that utilisation of the service has been extremely strong, Alaska Airlines’ experiment with charging just $1 for the service proved that passengers are disinclined to pay for Internet access while on board a flight. Access to Wi-Fi fell rapidly as soon as Alaska charged passengers.

In-flight entertainment still important

Despite the fact that many airline passengers enjoy using their own devices with their own particular media uploaded onto them, customers still care about in-flight entertainment. The air travel writing and reviews website, Skytrax, continues to include within its criteria ‘entertainment’, with the site still evidently considering this element of the airline experience to be of relevance and importance to customers.

As mobile Wi-Fi develops further, and the technology open to airlines becomes even more sophisticated, these trends will continue to evolve. But for the time being, airlines should very carefully consider which passenger demographic they are targeting with their in-flight entertainment, and the image and branding that they attempt to create.

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