In 1988, the Airvision company introduced the first back-of-seat inflight systems using LCD technology for Northwest Airlines. The introduction of this new boredom-busting feature received an overwhelmingly positive passenger response as the new generation of inflight entertainment was born.
Today, however, the most dated feature of airplane flights is arguably the very same, “clunky”, inflight screen.
It may be ambitious for the current inflight technology to deliver a personalised, heightened experience to frequent flyer members which arguably ceases upon boarding.
Are in-flight screens becoming redundant technology?
Over the past decade, there has been online debate and discussion around how to bring inflight technology into the new century with some critics querying whether there is still value in having inflight screens on the back of seats at all.
Enthusiasts, however, reference the associated convenience of having a back-of-seat screen due to the device not occupying the limited fold-out table space, as a laptop or tablet might. For example, think of how often a traveller will be enjoying a meal while watching a movie.
Others recognise that inflight screens are extremely expensive at $10,000 on average per individual unit and approximately $3 million to outfit an entire plane. Displays at each seat also add significant weight causing planes to consume fuel at an incremental rate.
While inflight screens could be a great way to deliver a personalised experience or enable a loyalty program, airlines are questioning if they are an inferior technology for entertainment, information and convenience to potential alternatives.
What are some alternatives to in-flight screens?
Some airlines such as American Airlines have already been phasing out inflight screens on short-haul flights, encouraging travellers to stream content from their own mobile phones, tablets and laptop devices via a content server hosted on the flight.
Airlines could follow a similar evolution route or look to potentially have a limited number of tablets on board for passenger use. The more expensive alternative would be to continue with the back-of-seat concept, however, upgrade the technology more frequently.
Irrespective of delivery, the future of such entertainment portals will need to enable a hyper-personalised experience powered by the rich customer data obtained via the associated frequent flyer program.
Director of Media Services at Panasonic Avionics, Dominic Green concurs that by “creating a truly personal travel experience is one of the strongest service points that an airline can offer its customers.”
How can airlines evolve in-flight technology to elevate inflight member exclusivity?
If inflight screens or an alternative entertainment method continue to be a part of plane journeys, there are some ways they can be utilised as a loyalty vehicle.
The greatest opportunity is to continue to provide the technology to everyone, with full features only available for Frequent Flyer members.
Non-members would get access to much of what they do today, which is a highly generic selection of entertainment, world news, flight information and basic games.
Frequent flyer members, however, could be provided exclusive access to expanded features in the following areas.
The number of points/miles earned on the journey could be updated in real time as the journey progresses along with a suggestion of what members can spend points on post the trip.
Members could be provided additional information about the destination as well as news and current affairs from the origin, destination or globally.
Customer information should be populated giving details on the current flight, connecting flights, delays etc., allowing for a seamless journey beyond the flight.
FOOD AND REFRESHMENTS
Members could be presented with exclusive menu options, meal preference selection and beverage orders.
At a glance, members should be able to check lavatory availability or request a seat change. An alert to the air host/hostess for assistance with potential request could provide a discreet solution for delicate matters.
The most alluring of features could be associated with in-flight entertainment such as passenger chat, digital games (earning of FF points possible) and through SSO, provide members access to social media and the content they are used to streaming at home i.e. Netflix, Stan etc.
Members could gain access to an exclusive range of In-flight duty-free store purchases and partner discounts.
INSIGHT AND EDUCATION
Partnerships with strategic providers could provide educational services where the member could complete an online course, this could be within their specific professional discipline or associated with the travel such as Duo Lingo lessons for the destination language.
Virtual Reality capabilities could promote potential destinations of interest and personalised recommendations for the journey.
What’s next for inflight member exclusivity?
Loyalty consultants are patiently watching the airline loyalty space post Covid-19 to see which carrier will revolutionise their inflight offering first.
With such a captive audience for an extended period of time, the opportunity to enhance customer enjoyment during flights and more specifically member exclusivity is a worthwhile investment.
Have you been on a flight that offered exceptional frequent flyer service or benefits? We would love to hear about it. Contact us today.