The future of air travel is connected, and it should come as no surprise that passengers onboard commercial flights will expect access to in-flight internet in the increasingly connected world, we live in. But while many airlines have worked to bring that cabin connectivity to their flights, often there have been issues with delivering a high-quality connection. This is typically the case because of the specific technical demands of connecting to a network while flying hundreds of miles an hour tens of thousands of feet above the Earth.
However, as Connected Aviation Today reported previously, there is increasing importance on delivering cabin connectivity, especially with passengers returning from a year where connectivity was a critical part of life. By and large, passengers’ expectations for ease of access continue to exceed where they were in February of 2020. While this may be a notable challenge for some in the aviation industry, there are many avenues that airlines can explore to better provide connectivity in the cabin.
This was the crux of what Alexis Hickox, Head of Marketing for Commercial Aviation and Networks Services at Collins Aerospace, said in a recent interview. Hickox, whose expertise and background lies in the technology of connectivity, shared that airlines must work to meet customers’ expectations but added that, “clear return on investment through operational as well as ancillary benefits” cannot be overlooked.
The benefits of increased connectivity are not just passenger-facing. In fact, as we reported earlier in the year, there is a multitude of benefits that extend to improving inflight operations as well These are the ancillary benefits that Alexis is referring to. There is a great reason to expect that with the recent efforts towards using Low-Earth and Middle-Earth Orbit (LEO and MEO, respectively) satellites, airlines can begin to enjoy these benefits shortly.
“There is absolutely no doubt that LEO and MEO will bring a lot of advantages for the airline industry as a whole,” Hickox continued. “It’s adding capacity, capability, and options for the market, plus a lot of opportunity for a premium passenger experience.” That premium passenger experience will likely be a defining part of air travel as the industry continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hickox further touched on the ability to provide that connectivity, and more specifically, the technology to power it, noting that organizations like Collins Aerospace have been working on cabin connectivity solutions for quite some time. “From an operational perspective, we’ve got a number of ways we can help,” she remarked. “We integrate our CabinConnect solution with smart routers or aircraft interface devices which facilitate Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) over IP, and also connected applications like live weather.” She noted that these solutions, in addition to empowering a premium passenger experience, can help bring about savings from fuel, MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul), and AOG (aircraft on ground) costs as well.
As the industry continues to recover, it may become more difficult for vendors to differentiate themselves from the others that exist. However, Hickox was optimistic that in the end, cabin connectivity will be a staple. “I think we will see more vertical integration happening, and a continued consolidation of the mix of players within this space.”
In the end, cabin connectivity is the future, and getting ahead of the curve should be a key part of any airline’s conversation moving forward. To learn more about what services Collins Aerospace has available for airlines looking to offer in-flight connectivity, click here.