Connectivity, when combined with other cabin technologies and comforts, is an important part of modern air travel. Connectivity allows passengers to conduct business, stream movies and music and communicate with people on the ground. Private and business aircraft equipped with IFEC packages including high-resolution displays, great connectivity and other comforts can make an aircraft cabin an ideal space to relax or get work done.
The brand loyalty of more than two-thirds of passengers is being heavily influenced by a carrier’s inflight entertainment and connectivity. But what is that worth from an airline’s perspective?
Net Promotor Score (NPS)
A business’s net promotor score is a measure used by many companies to determine customer loyalty both in terms of a client’s likelihood to become a repeat buyer and their propensity for recommending the business to friends and family. IFC is believed to have a significant impact on the NPS of airlines.
JetBlue, for example, has a current NPS of 68, which ranks it among companies like Samsung, Starbucks and Costco. Leadership at JetBlue has credited their free high-speed internet as one of the factors driving their NPS up in recent years. That being said, Southwest has managed to maintain a 62, and their connectivity, although relatively cheap, isn’t free or powerful enough to allow streaming.
The Profitability Question
If JetBlue’s investment in free Wi-Fi has been so effective for customer loyalty, why haven’t more airlines adopted it? Adding connectivity is a huge investment, and the calculations to determine whether that investment makes sense is complicated.
At American Airlines, for example, half of their 2015 revenue came from just 13 percent of their customers – primarily those frequent flyers who aren’t flying coach. That comparatively small group of passengers generated 6.7 times as much revenue as infrequent coach passengers who took an American Airline’s flight once a year or less.
There’s some interest in transforming infrequent flyers to frequent flyers but that’s also expensive and some people just don’t need to fly that often.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a big difference between inflight Wi-Fi that allows for browsing and social media and one that allows for streaming of bandwidth-intensive content. The IFC capabilities needed to let 100 people check Twitter and Facebook versus a system that lets 100 passengers stream Netflix on a personal device are much different in cost.
Business and charter aircraft have an easier time with this particular aspect of inflight connectivity. With fewer passengers the whole bandwidth pie can be divided into much larger pieces.
Using Connectivity Wisely
A lot of the average passenger’s stress when traveling is related to more than just their flight. They must also contend with security, finding ground transport quickly after debarking or getting through baggage claims or security. Software like FlightPath3D, which can be integrated with a number of wireless IFE, seatback or personal displays, can provide tailored information and even allow passengers to book Ubers or perform other ground-side preparations while inflight.
Some airline area also finding value in giving staff greater access to connectivity to improve each flyer’s experience. Attendants may be able to award frequent flyer points for problems, update a passenger’s inflight meal or help delayed passengers rebook flights so they don’t have to stress about running through a terminal to the customer service desk once they land.
Ease of Use
Both private carriers and the major airlines should be exceedingly careful with how they implement and advertise inflight connectivity. Cumbersome and confusing IFEC logins or unstable Wi-Fi may frustrate passengers more than simply not having any connectivity at all.
If charter carriers or airlines advertise connectivity the sign-up process should be intuitive. Southwest Airlines, for example, saw a 40 percent increase in Wi-Fi portal usage when they switched to a platform that allowed passenger devices to automatically connect to the plane’s network. When a passenger then goes to open a browser they’re instantly sent to a page where they can purchase time or view free inflight information.
Reliability is another problem that isn’t going away anytime soon. Inflight internet is imperfect and everything from satellite switching to congested local connections can result in a drop in bandwidth or even a loss of connectivity. Some airlines, like Air Canada, are trying to develop systems to better manage expectations and warn passengers ahead of time when there may be losses in connectivity.`
Connectivity Alone Doesn’t Guarantee Flyer Satisfaction
Simply having connectivity may be enough for some customers, but others do want unique, modern IFEC experiences brought to them by high-definition displays, exceptional lighting, comfortable cabins and ideal cabin noise levels.
Rosen Aviation’s team of engineers, designers and manufacturing experts are committed to developing the IFE and cabin comfort solutions modern flyers expect in a premium inflight experience. Call us at 888-668-4955 or browse through our website to learn more about our capabilities.