In Perspective: Sue Pinfold On Meeting Passenger Content Expectations

By April 1st, 2016

The annual Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) kicks off next week in Hamburg, Germany and in case you missed it, Spafax will be there. AIX is aviation’s largest and aircraft interiors event – reeling in 14,000 delegates and 500 exhibitors in 2015.

Given the importance of the event, we felt it the perfect time to debut our Spafax Perspectives series, where leaders from across our global network share the latest on topics that have our industry talking.

In this edition of Spafax Perspectives, our Executive VP, Inflight Entertainment, Sue Pinfold discusses the challenges of tailoring in-flight entertainment (IFE) to various demographics, meeting passenger content expectations but also helping them find the unexpected.

Access to Wi-Fi and on-demand streaming services on the ground have changed passenger IFE expectations. How can airlines, big and small, best adapt to these changing expectations?

First would be to try and offer an experience as close as they possibly can to what passengers experience on the ground, and part of that is just quick access – being able to send an SMS, an email or to stream. Obviously that will be mostly budget-dictated… whether airlines want to invest for that wider facility to be available for premium passengers or all passengers, that will be an economic decision.

What challenges do airlines face when catering their content to different demographics?

If airlines are looking to offer a content experience similar to what passengers have on the ground, they’re looking at short-form content like YouTube-type content however this type of content is aimed at a much younger demographic. If you put access to a YouTube compilation in front of a 20 year-old they would love it and would hopefully be really quite impressed. On the other hand, you’ve got your classic, business-class demographic who might think it’s horrendous. You then face the question on how to market it without alienating core passengers, because it’s not “traditional”. Airlines must decide whether they offer enough variety so they can tick all the boxes while making sure each demographic knows that their type of content is available on board.

We have a number of products in the pipeline that will deliver targeted content and we’re working with airlines to identify a suitable way to present it within their GUI and how it can be communicated to the right people, even before the flight.

Research by Spafax shows that over a third of passengers find it difficult to navigate a high volume of entertainment options. How can airlines and CSPs improve this aspect of the passenger experience?

First of all, the earlier the airlines involve the CSP the better, as they have a wide understanding of what pitfalls they’ve come across before, and that experience can save time and considerable amounts of money.

“Our objective is to try and help passengers find the unexpected.”

Secondly, we have developed a mature promotional strategy that we work on with all our clients. Different clients have different promotion requirements and our production team work to create short form or longer promos to draw out the highlights of the content on board any one flight. That’s the kind of the thing we are trying to do all the time. We’re trying to guide passengers around different parts of the GUI so that they always find something they didn’t expect to be there. Our objective is to try and help passengers find the unexpected.

Is there currently a low-cost carrier offering its passengers an entertainment experience similar to what passengers experience at home?

Norwegian is doing this quite successfully. They don’t have a legacy IFE system so they’re starting ahead of the curve. Offering Wi-Fi is a lot easier for them because their passengers don’t have anything to compare with.

For passengers travelling on board legacy or embedded systems, they have the advantage of getting much newer content, especially much newer movies compared to anything that is streamed. What legacy carriers lose in excitement (because it’s expected) they gain in access to early window content. That’s what airlines need to market.

Is the future of IFEC driving ancillary revenue for airlines through à la carte pricing models or will airlines move towards free/sponsored service models?

The challenge for airlines will come when the novelty of being connected in the air has worn off. What will people really want to do on board? Passengers are very much looking for value and to mirror what they do on the ground. Whether that’s browsing a webpage or streaming and viewing content, there’s less of a perception of difference between the ground and the air.

Airlines on the other hand are looking for any way they can possibly save money and offset costs or generate revenue. Creating net revenue is the Holy Grail for airlines. Most of the clients we’re talking to are open to any suggestions on ways to achieve this. Obviously if you can actually make money – do more than just offset costs – then that’s just fantastic.

Please join us at Stand 2E60 as we make our Aircraft Interiors Expo debut in Hamburg April 5-7, 2016. Come see our latest creative content concepts along with exciting new developments for our ICON family of digital products.