Beyond Manga: JAL Rolls Out Adaptive AVANT IFEC System

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Japan Airlines Sky Manga. Image via Japan Airlines

Remember how the iPod changed how we listened to music? Look past portability: It was all about the shuffling. Radio stations began blurring their formats to include more popular music, offering an iPod-like experience over the airwaves.

Smartphones and tablets are doing the same thing to in-flight entertainment. The days of a single film shown way up at the front of the cabin may as well be written about in hieroglyphics, so far have we come. Today, IFEC designers must compete with − and take advantage of − passengers’ own devices.

Thales has rolled out AVANT, an IFEC system that uses two touchscreens for a deeper entertainment experience: an experience that includes shopping and ordering drinks as well as watching movies and playing games.

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Thales’ IFEC system, TopSeries Avant

Aside from the touchscreen interface and smartphone-like secondary screen unit, AVANT offers the ability to evolve. Based on the Android operating system, airlines can adapt AVANT to create thrilling opportunities in terms of service and branding.

著しいです! | That’s Remarkable!

Japan Airlines is the first Asian carrier to use AVANT on a B787 Dreamliner, and they’re already putting their stamp on it by launching Sky Manga, the first of its kind in the world. Passengers will be able to read nearly 100 manga titles, a third of which are in English. Aside from presenting an iconic Japanese art form whose roots lie in 17th-century woodblock prints, Sky Manga speaks to passenger desire: according to an APEX Insights survey, nearly as many passengers read for pleasure as watch movies via IFE.

In a press release, vice-president and CEO of IFEC Dominique Giannoni said, “The launch of this new aircraft is a great milestone for all of us and we are confident that the quality, reliability and advanced technology of our systems will help Japan Airlines ensure their passengers continue to be satisfied by this airline’s exceptional level of service.”

Unleash Your Imagination

What would you do if you had a configurable IFEC system at your disposal? I’d create a digital postcard system for my notional airline: passengers could while away the cruising-altitude hours by writing missives to friends via branded e-postcards, which automatically send upon landing. Passengers solve the call-me-when-you-land problem, and airlines get a chance to reach people who aren’t even flying.

I’d also throw in networked printing. Those who actually use their laptops for work must still plug in at an office once they land if they need to print a document. A networked printer would be a great business-class feature. If only I could name my airline after myself: Air Jordan…

With configurable IFEC such as AVANT, you’re limited only by your imagination. You’re not just showing things, you’re making things: how exciting is that?

Major Airlines Celebrated Some Big Birthdays in 2014

Image via World Airline News
KLM celebrates 95 years. Image via World Airline News

Aviation is aging beautifully! In addition to the 100th anniversary of the first commercial flight taking place this year, 2014 saw some big milestones for a number of airlines. Over and above big cakes with lots of candles, we looked at how some airlines marked their birthdays.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, touted as the oldest airline, celebrated 95 years in October with a new “KLM 95 Years” logo on one of its MD-11 aircraft, as well as laying the first stone for a new KLM lounge at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

To celebrate 85 years, LAN Airlines treated passengers to an in-flight fashion show. Cabin crew modeled retro hostess uniforms from the 1950s onwards.

Delta Air Lines opened the Delta Flight Museum in Georgia to mark their 85th Anniversary of Passenger Service.

Hawaiian Airlines marked their 85th anniversary by distributing Wrigley’s gum, honoring a long-time tradition of assisting passengers with ear pressure.  South African Airways turned 80 this year, acknowledging various milestones throughout their history and announcing the addition of 20 new aircraft to their fleet.

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Hawaiian Airlines celebrate 85 years with Wrigley’s gum

British Airways marked their 40th anniversary by releasing a list of top 40 trips to take before you’re 40, while Air Malta turned 40 with a ‘look back’ video. Virgin Atlantic’s 30th was celebrated by a new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner called ‘Birthday Girl’.

The industry has grown experientially since that initial single-passenger flight 100 years ago, with airlines now flying over three billion passengers per year.  Celebrations continue into the new year with more airlines achieving milestone anniversaries. In 2015:

  • Qantas: 95 years
  • American Airlines: 85 years
  • Air India: 85 years
  • TAP Portugal: 70 years
  • Thai Airways: 55 years
  • Air Canada: 50 years
  • Ryanair: 30 years
  • Emirates: 30 years
  • EasyJet: 20 years
  • JetBlue: 15 years
  • Virgin Blue/Virgin Australia: 15 years

All Nippon Airways Helps Passengers Take their Mind Off Takeoff

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Although many airline passengers enjoy the experience of flying, there are those who simply don’t. For those passengers, even the thought of having to get on a plane can induce anxiety, stress and even crippling fear. There are seminars and personalized programs for anxious passengers, and just last week, All Nippon Airways (ANA) introduced a smartphone app that might just help.

The new “ANA Takeoff Mode” is a simple puzzle game that’s accompanied by relaxing background music. Currently available through the Apple store, a player tilts their iPhone or iPad to maneuver a ball over a grid, rolling over game pieces to add or lose extra points and time credits. There are multiple levels to the game, each more challenging, with portions of the grid popping up to block the movement of the ball. While the game is being played, the app “listens” to the ambient noise in the cabin, and when the aircraft’s engines are at full throttle during takeoff, a special animation and message is displayed.

ANA developed the app after commissioning a 1,000 person survey, investigating passengers’ feelings about airline travel. The survey found that the most anxious flyers find takeoff to be the most stress-inducing part of the journey. Interestingly, passengers ranked puzzle games second only to listening to music as their preferred way to relax during a flight. With changes in rules now allowing the use of personal electronic devices during all phases of flight, ANA saw the development of the app as a way to enhance passengers’ in-flight experience. “Now we hope that the ‘ANA Takeoff Mode’ will ease and relax flyers, allowing them to enjoy their flight with ANA from the very beginning,” says Masaki Yokai, VP Marketing & Sales, The Americas.

Since its introduction last week, the app has had over 1,100 downloads. Development of the app began in September 2014, and an Android version is expected to be available in early 2015.

Purely in the name of journalistic research, Your Intrepid Reporter yesterday installed “ANA Takeoff Mode” on an iDevice. After a short test, the impression is the app is much like an electronic version of the old “Labyrinth” game, in which a ball on a tilting platform is maneuvered along a path by turning mechanically-linked knobs. It was remarkable how engrossing Takeoff Mode became, accompanied by the app’s soothing music track. However, although many patrons were talking loudly, the ambient sound in the testing location (neighborhood coffee shop) could not be increased to match the noise level of a pair of mighty GE90-115B engines powering a Boeing 777-300ER to takeoff speed, so the app’s special takeoff animation was not observed.

APEX Hollywood Shortlist: Moses Parts Red Sea and Takes Down Katniss in Busy Weekend B.O.

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Fox, Exodus: Gods and Kings

Apparently President Snow and the Gamemakers at the Capitol have been going about it all wrong because, if this weekend’s box office results are any indication, all it really took to bring down Katniss Everdeen and company was a burning bush, ten biblical plagues and Christian Bale in a tunic.

After three straight weeks in the number one spot at the box office, Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 fell to second place over the weekend with $12.6M behind Ridley Scott’s sprawling, sword and sandals epic, Exodus: Gods and Kings which debuted in the top spot with $24.1M. And though that sum might not be everything home studio Fox prayed for − and is well below the debut of Paramount’s big-screen biblical tale Noah which opened with $43.7M in March − Exodus should continue to perform well, especially with faith-based audiences, through Christmas and beyond.

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Paramount, Top Five

Also cracking the top five this weekend was, appropriately enough, Top Five (Paramount) from multi-hyphenate Chris Rock, which opened with $6.8M. Buoyed by great reviews and an all-star cast of comedy kingpins like Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer and Kevin Hart, Top Five also garnered Critics Choice Award nominations for Best Actor and Actress in a Comedy for Rock and his co-star Rosario Dawson.

In other award season news, last week’s Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Golden Globe nominations gave several smaller films a box office boost as well. The Reese Witherspoon walkabout drama Wild (Fox Searchlight) moved up five spots to take the tenth slot at the box office with $1.5M and The Theory of Everything (Focus Features), Birdman (Fox Searchlight) and The Imitation Game (Weinstein Company) all held their own in an increasingly crowded award season field.

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IFC Films, Boyhood

But perhaps the biggest winner on the specialized front right now is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (IFC) which has secured Best Picture nominations from virtually every major nominating body to date and continues to perform well with audiences with a very healthy $24M (and counting!) total box office after 23 weeks in theatres.

The Top 10 Social Networking Apps and Sites for Travelers

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The sky is no longer the limit with these 10 social networking apps that have travelers connecting before, during and after their flights; peer-to-peer and biz-to-biz.

1. Here On Biz allows business professionals to connect during a flight or on the ground. Track where your contacts are and receive notifications when people of interest arrive in your town.

2. With the slogan Never Travel Solo, AirZolo pairs travelers on the same flight and in the same city. Users can view exciting travel updates in the newsfeed and add what they like to the app’s “Bucket List” feature, then share on Facebook to connect with people who have similar travel interests. “We offer wanderlust-worthy inspiration for [your] next trip,” says co-founder Andrea Neufeld, who seeks to keep users travel-enthused on a daily basis.

3. The Flying app supplies real-time flight information, your flight history and allows you to connect with friends and compete with others to see who has flown the most.

4. Facebelt offers a visual seat map of your flight with other Facebook users who have checked in. Browse their profile, change seats, or share a taxi once you land.

5. Wingman is a cheeky way to flirt on your flight before you touch down, because “the fun only lasts as long as your flight does. Or does it?”

6. Skycheckin believes that travel time should be both productive and enjoyable. Check in, then check around for who you might want to connect with privately or on a public discussion board. “We want to bring warmth to the atmosphere at the terminal and virtually shorten the seat distance between you and a potential friend or business acquaintance,” says Charly Wa, co-founder.

7. Royal Dutch Airlines’ (KLM) Meet and Seat lets you view Facebook and LinkedIn profiles of passengers to discover where they’ll be sitting and if you’re attending the same events once you land.

8. South African Airways now offers Check-In, allowing passengers to view traveler profiles and choose who they want to sit next to. 

9. Altitude Community is a branded platform for Air Canada’s own frequent flyers that allows them to share favorite travel spots and recommendations. Altitude members can personalize their feeds based on interest.

10. Mileways lets you earn miles every flight and redeem them on Milestore. Invite friends from your Facebook list to keep everyone in the loop about your trips and travel tips.