A recent Intelsat survey points to future trends in Inflight Connectivity (IFC), as passengers screenings and air travel begin returning to pre-Covid levels.
In a blog post, the satellite operator says that it is no surprise that the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the commercial aviation industry. ”With global vaccination rates surging, however, airlines are optimistic that most passengers will soon return to booking both business and leisure trips. In fact, TSA daily screenings recently topped 1.5 million for the first time in almost a year, leaving airline executives very optimistic,” it says.
Intelsat’s survey asked airlines, service providers, and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) what they believe the future of IFC will look like. The survey aimed to gain an understanding of how inflight Internet demand and service requirements have changed in light of the pandemic.
At a high level, Intelsat found:
“These trends mirror what we’re seeing at Intelsat,” it notes. “Airlines are thinking creatively about how they can leverage IFC to increase brand loyalty while saving on OPEX. One example is the proliferation of cloud applications for real-time maintenance and monitoring, a use case that is becoming increasingly popular with airlines.”
Eighty-five per cent of survey respondents believe that ‘quality’ inflight connectivity is a key differentiating factor for airlines. This expectation implies an uptick in appeal for Wi-Fi that is not only available, but also strong enough to keep up with today’s digitally-savvy passengers, who expect to be able to connect, stream content and do everything at 35,000 feet they could on the ground.
Intelsat notes that global online content consumption soared in 2020, with consumers almost doubling their time spent engaging with content to six hours and 59 minutes a day during the pandemic. Connected TV options such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Peacock were the main beneficiaries of this increase. “With digital content consumption on the rise, airlines can see how their customers stand to benefit from a rich IFC experience,” it adds.
“While we see new content trends emerging during the pandemic, Intelsat survey respondents also identified top challenges preventing the average passenger from immersing themselves in content during their flight,” it advises.
Airlines are evolving their IFC product offerings to better align with their business objectives. For some, this means maximizing IFC take rates, while for others the goal is to maximise revenue.
If there continues to be a shift towards free Wi-Fi, it begs the question, who will pay for it? Intelsat found that, increasingly, the expectation is that this is someone other than the passenger.
“Not all airlines who want to offer free Wi-Fi are financially positioned to do so,” notes Intelsat. Instead, they may opt to first invest in free messaging and freemium models. This approach has still been shown to have a significantly positive impact on customer loyalty.
However, with consumer demand for in-flight Internet expected to grow by double digits (10 per cent) annually over the next decade, airlines are eager to develop modern ways to differentiate themselves and attract loyal customers. So, how can airlines achieve brand loyalty without breaking the bank?
Intelsat notes that market analysts believe that industry vertical integration creates efficiencies and a more cost-effective, end-to-end service for airlines and that streamlined services can accelerate growth and higher IFC adoption rates. “Similarly, our survey data found overall positive sentiment towards IFC ecosystem consolidation, with 65 per cent of respondents agreeing that industry unification leads to simplified service options,” it reports.
“Human connection is more important than ever. As we welcome more passengers back to the skies, we must be aware of how their needs are changing and how we can increase passenger satisfaction,” says Intelsat .
“Staying connected with others is a basic human need. At Intelsat, fulfilling this expectation is our fundamental mission. We firmly believe keeping passengers connected throughout their journey is now within reach for airlines, no matter what their IFC strategy is,” concludes Frederik vanEssen, Vice President of Aero at Intelsat.