Viasat dominates the conversation at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, Hamburg, Germany, 9 - 12 April 2018
AIX, the Aircraft Interiors Expo, held in Hamburg, Germany each spring, is the world’s biggest passenger experience event. Viasat was the star of AIX 2018, with huge interest in our IFEC products shown by IFEC managers, procurement directors and engineers from dozens of the world’s leading airlines.
The sun shone in Hamburg for the Passenger Experience Conference, which preceded the three-day AIX. This was an opportunity for airlines and vendors to focus on the passenger, with presentations and panel discussions on every aspect of how commercial aviation can continue to make travel easier and more enjoyable for airline passengers. Of course, ancillary revenues (the revenue generated by sales to passengers beyond flight tickets) are critically important to airlines, and it’s clear that happy passengers tend to spend more with the airline, as well as being more loyal. With 3.8 billion flyers annually, $57 Bn ancillary spending, that’s $15-17 per customer that airlines can tap into, and look to expand.
JetBlue: We believe in life uninterrupted
Mariya Stoyanova, Director of Product Development at JetBlue, joined Colin Sage, Business Development, Commercial Aviation, Viasat (both pictured, above), on a panel discussion about ancillary revenues, and the JetBlue experience in offering the best Wi-Fi in the sky for free to all passengers stole the show.
Mariya talked about, how through JetBlue's partnership with Viasat in building a brand platform onboard, the airline has boosted customer loyalty.
Colin added that “Integrated sponsorships are an untapped gold mine. To make this work, brands want to align with a reliable system that is fast, full, free. We think one choice, which is free, is the right thing to do. The pain point is the transaction, which is enough for me to question if I value that time online, when I don’t know if it will even work as I need it to. When you can provide it free, and enable streaming, it’s the best of both worlds.”
Mariya concluded that brand loyalty is key for JetBlue. It enables partnerships and revenue opportunities, bringing the conversation back full circle to the passenger, loyalty and the revenues that great in-flight Wi-Fi can deliver to airlines.
The panel moderator, Dr Gary Edwards, Golfdale Consulting, was excellent, full of insights, summing up perfectly: “If I was an airline, I would want to have free, end-to-end connectivity so I can sell more things to passengers.”
Driving passenger benefits
AIX proper kicked off on Tuesday, and Viasat’s booth was rammed from the minute doors opened. Our design team opted for a bright, open and inviting booth. And it paid off. While our business development team (bursting with top Viasat talent drawn from across our global locations) had a full meeting schedule for every day of the event, we had a huge number of walk-ons, airline representatives who were on scouting missions for new technology, and who found it really easy to engage with us, to learn more, to see how we are technology-driven, but we always focus on passenger benefits.
The medium is the message
Colin made it two for two, with another compelling presentation, this time at the Passenger Technology Solutions event, a new innovation for AIX 2018. With a disruptive billing, The Medium is the Message presentation described how having an at-home Wi-Fi experience in the air is a whole new media experience, with commercial opportunities that the aviation industry has only begun to explore. Talking about JetBlue, where we provide 12-20 Mbps internet speeds to each and every passenger, with take-up rates of up to 70%, Colin said that “Tech-savvy companies want to align their platform with a company that creates a good experience. Nobody wants to deliver their message on an internet platform that breaks or doesn’t deliver an awesome passenger experience.” Colin continued: “People are cutting the cord with linear TV, and switching to streaming. On-the-ground behavior is very similar to what we find in the air, so passengers need to be able to stream content at 35,000 ft.”
With JetBlue serving Viasat Wi-Fi to 30,000,000 passengers annually, the rewards are brand loyalty, driven by the delivery of the same award-winning service at scale.
Streaming at scale at 35,000 feet
The topic of scale came up at the FlightGlobal panel discussion, which featured Don Buchman, VP Commercial Aviation, Viasat (pictured, right), with a number of other top-level speakers from across the industry. Don stressed that people are more comfortable streaming on their own devices, pointing to the trend of ‘what I want to watch when I want to watch it’ and how we’re seeing the same trends on the ground travel to the sky. So the same experience can only be delivered with equivalent speeds/capacity that you see at your house or on the plane. In addressing the confusing messages that some IFC providers put out, Don put it simply and succinctly: “One person's streaming on a flight doesn’t equate to streaming at scale.” Nailed it.
Across three days, we witnessed every major player in the commercial aviation space, and lots of smaller players too, as they showed their wares (or hid behind walls!) and engaged in conversations and networking events. The entire Viasat team performed at full capacity, with multiple new business opportunities coming to life, and the satisfaction of learning that the industry knows that our technology is light years ahead of anything else in the space.
But probably the most rewarding aspect of AIX week for us, was how so many of our airline partners are true friends, feeling so comfortable to spend time relaxing on our couches, not just talking business, but talking about life and our experiences in aviation. And that’s what we do. We connect.
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All photos by Viasat Team