How Personal Electronics Are Changing Inflight Entertainment

How Personal Electronic Devices Are Changing Inflight Entertainment

There haven’t been many substantial changes to how people fly in the second half of the 20th century. Except maybe the addition of contained boarding ramps, banning smoking on all planes in the 1990’s and increased security, none of which are  noteworthy in 2020, being an air travel passenger has been a relatively static experience for the past 40 or 50 years.

Other than passengers having more control over inflight entertainment and seatback monitors, IFE hasn’t seen any radical transformation in the same period of aviation history either. Giving passengers options other than one movie on the bulkhead at the front of the seating area was significant, but not exactly in the same way smartphones have drastically changed passenger experiences.

Smart devices and Wi-Fi proliferated at roughly the same time. Seemingly overnight the two technologies completely altered the way the average person approaches air travel. Having a USB port for charging devices has become one of the most indispensable features in airport terminals and aircraft cabins. In the event a traveler’s phone dies in the airport or on the plane, their entire journey can go from enjoyable to a nightmare of boredom or unproductivity.

It’s astonishing when you consider just a handful of years ago passengers would be resigned to reading physical books or magazines for hours on end. Now they have the ability to play games on their device, binge- watch Netflix or HBO’s seemingly limitless offerings, watch the latest Blockbuster action movies, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, or have access to virtually any song,  all from the comfort of their pocket.

Personal electronic devices represent a cataclysmic shift in the inflight entertainment sphere, one that has some important ramifications for airlines and business aviation companies.

Is Existing IFE Infrastructure Obsolete?

It’s hard not to feel sympathy for any airline that invested a considerable amount of money in now antiquated cabin enhancements at the emergence of this personal computing  phenomenon. Headphone jacks in armrests, which allow passengers to listen to preprogrammed inflight music or the audio for  seatback movies seem like a quaint reminder of yesteryear – but companies invested millions of dollars into  multiple systems that are now essentially pointless for many fliers.

At one time those systems were viewed as vital IFE that served as either a differentiator to set one airline apart from the competition or at least a measure to maintain parity in the passenger’s IFE experience.

There are still some  who think seat-back displays were the most substantial advancement in IFE and represent the pinnacle of air travel distraction technology. They view plans to do away with this option as borderline sacrilege.

As recently as 2016 this was likely true. A survey conducted then suggested 44 percent of passengers who watched a movie on their flight exclusively used the seatback IFE. Even then, that group was slightly outflanked by personal device owners, 46 percent of whom used their own personal device for IFE.

When asked about future IFE use, 65 percent said they’d prefer to use their own devices.

In a 2017 survey, 60 percent of passengers considered Wi-Fi a necessity, not a luxury. About the same percentage considered solid connectivity a more important factor for their flying comfort than onboard IFE. Maybe more telling, 45 percent of those who considered Wi-Fi a necessity said that, given the choice, they’d rather pay for Wi-Fi than use  free IFE options on a flight.

The same survey suggested brand loyalty can be won through Wi-Fi, with 44 percent of surveyed passengers willing to change their normal preferred carrier if they couldn’t offer good connectivity compared to its competitors.

Presently, there’s a significant change in passenger experience taking place, but it’s clear the numbers are trending away from seat-back IFE options and towards Wi-Fi and personal device entertainment. So much so that a majority of travelers are willing to base their airline choice on connectivity.

Should airlines tear out  seatback IFE systems and software they invested so much money into over the past 20 years? No, that probably Wouldn’t be the wisest financial choice. However, incorporating new features that can integrate content from PEDs with existing IFE would essentially bridge the gap between the two correlated systems. Rather than forcing passengers to choose between seatback and personal device options, integrated systems allow them to take advantage of both, creating a more personalized experience.

Talk to the Experts About Incorporating Personal Devices Into IFE

Companies like Rosen Aviation have been at the forefront of IFE technologies for decades. There’s still room for both options, and  crossover space represents an untapped differentiator, especially in the private aviation sector.

Existing cabin technologies allow passengers to connect their personal devices to onboard monitors and TVs. Passengers may have a much more pleasant experience with access to a bulkhead monitor or personal armrest display where they can watch content streamed from their phone or tablet.

If you’d like to learn more about the possibilities, or inquire about customized IFE and connectivity solutions, contact Rosen Aviation at 888-668-4955.