• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Bespoke in-flight connectivity at its best

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Airlines are really upping the ante as they bid to satisfy the demands of today’s traveller. Topmost among the services to present a wonderful onboard passenger experience is the in-flight entertainment and connectivity.

When it comes to passenger experience, a variety of significant investments are made right across the business, and many with a particular emphasis on improving the passenger experience, as airlines try to compete for premium payers.

The fight to become established as the leading airline for premium passengers is really heating up with mega carriers making big strides as they aim to set a new passenger experience benchmark.

One of the airlines, Etihad Airways, which has  become one of the few airlines in the world to offer fleet-wide in-flight connectivity services, has witnessed a dramatic surge in internet and mobile phone usage in 2014.

Reflecting the broader trend for people to use their personal devices for work and entertainment when travelling, the growth was largely driven by people logging onto Etihad Airways’ Wi-Fi network, with usage rising by 80 percent last year.

Increased demand for onboard mobile services also contributed to the surge in usage, with 2.6 million devices connecting to the airline’s onboard mobile network in 2014.

In-flight texts and mobile phone calls increased by 62 percent and 61 percent respectively, compared to the same period in 2013.

iOS was the most popular operating system onboard, with 55 percent of the airline’s guests connecting to the internet with their iPads and iPhones, while 30 percent used devices running on Android’s operating system.

Etihad Airways’ Live TV service is also attracting strong interest and receiving great feedback from travellers, with an average of 50,000 hours of live news and major sporting events being viewed each month.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer, who spoke on the development said: “We continue to redefine our guests’ air travel experience with innovative products and services, the latest communication technology and entertainment systems that best fit their needs. When people travel, they want to stay connected with their work, their friends and their family. They also want to be kept up-to-date with 24 hour world news services. This is now possible for the entire journey on an Etihad Airways flight.”

The services comprising Wi-Fi, mobile connectivity and live television, combine the “Etihad Wi-Fly” solution, powered by the Panasonic Avionics Global Communications Suite, and OnAir’s inflight connectivity solution.

The high-speed broadband services enable guests to access the internet from laptops, tablets and smartphones over Wi-Fi, allowing them to send emails, log onto their favourite social media sites, upgrade seats, change travel plans and much more, all from the comfort of their seats at 35,000 feet.

The mobile connectivity service allows guests to use their mobile phones and smartphones to make and receive phone calls, send and read SMS text messages or email, use mobile data services to browse the web, and much more.

Now available on 43 wide-body aircraft, the Live TV service brings quality content from seven television channels including BBC World News, Sport 24 and CNN, the top three most viewed channels, and CNBC, euronews, Japan’s NHK World Premium, and Sky News Arabia.

The airline’s connected fleet comprises 92 passenger aircraft including 29 Airbus A319/320/321s, 26 A330s, 11 A340s, one A380, 24 Boeing 777 family aircraft and the first B787 Dreamliner, which serve routes across six continents. All future aircraft scheduled for delivery through 2015 will also be equipped with inflight connectivity.

Packages to access the internet start at $5 and can be purchased using credit cards, PayPal and a range of other convenient payment methods. Mobile telephone usage will be billed by the guest’s mobile service providers based on the international roaming rates levied by the service providers.

All Etihad Airways’ narrow-body aircraft offer a mix of Wi-Fi and mobile services, or mobile services only.

Etihad Airways began operations in 2003, and in 2014 carried 14.8 million passengers.

From its Abu Dhabi base, Etihad Airways flies to 111 existing or announced passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

The airline has a fleet of 110 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and more than 200 aircraft on firm order, including 70 Boeing 787s, 25 Boeing 777-X, 62 Airbus A350s and nine Airbus A380s.

Etihad Airways holds equity investments in airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Aer Lingus, Alitalia, Jet Airways and Virgin Australia, and is in the process of formalising an equity investment in Swiss-based Etihad Regional, operated by Darwin Airline. Etihad Airways, along with airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Alitalia, Etihad Regional, Jet Airways and NIKI, also participate in Etihad Airways Partners, a new brand that brings together like-minded airlines to offer customers more choice through improved networks and schedules and enhanced frequent flyer benefits.

SADE WILLIAMS