High-Speed In-Flight Connectivity Helps US Carriers Compete in the Latin American and Caribbean Market

Delta Air Lines and Gogo have announced the installation of Gogo’s next generation 2Ku technology, which can deliver peak speeds of 70 Mbps, on 250 of the airline’s narrow-body aircraft serving long-haul domestic, Latin American and Caribbean routes and on new international aircraft as they enter the fleet. Installation of 2Ku systems on existing aircraft will begin in 2016.

Steven Nolan, director of Public Relations & Communications at Gogo, tells us that use of this service “definitely leans towards the business traveller today,” but there are also many applications of the technology that would also be attractive to those passengers headed for the beaches. “Social media is certainly a big activity, but passengers can definitely use the service to research and access destination related information,” Nolan points out.

This new Gogo installation is strategically advantageous to Delta Air Lines, as spokesperson, Paul Skrbec, explains. With the current air-to-ground systems, “connectivity ends once the aircraft goes beyond approximately 100 miles outside of the continental US,” he tells us. But the higher-speed 2Ku connection is delivered by satellite, which extends the range of coverage. “This phase introduced a shift to satellite-based service rather than air-to-ground largely because aircraft needed to be connected while they routed over large bodies of water,” he says.

Skrbec tells us that Delta’s passengers enjoy using Gogo’s services whether they’re traveling for business or pleasure, though he indicates that it is impossible to track specific numbers of passengers using the connection for each of these applications at this time.

“This phase introduced a shift to satellite-based service rather than air-to-ground largely because aircraft needed to be connected while they routed over large bodies of water.”– Paul Skrbec, Delta Air Lines

“Feedback from our customers tells us that offering in-flight Wi-Fi is important regardless of the reason why they are traveling or activities they use Wi-Fi for in flight,” says Skrbec. “Our goal is to improve their travel by offering a service that is helpful.”

JetBlue, which offers Fly-Fi high-speed Internet connections on its aircraft, has recently restated its commitment to the Latin American and Caribbean market, including further expansion of its charter services to Cuba.

By adding Wi-Fi service to its Latin American and Caribbean routes, Delta is now better poised to compete in this hot market. “Latin America and the Caribbean continue to be an important focus for Delta. As a global carrier, having a strong network at all points of the globe is important to ensure customers have the most options when they travel,” says Skrbec.

In Conversation: APEX Middle East With Claudius Boller

Claudius Boller UM

Claudius Boller
Vice-president, Digital and Business Development
Universal Music MENA

As VP of Digital and Business Development at Universal Music MENA, Claudius conducts Universal Music’s digital and brand strategy for MENA and brings the local Dubai operation and business to life. Before joining Universal Music, Claudius was vice-president, Business Development at Arvato in Dubai and Hamburg for four years. In both positions Claudius has developed customized services for his clients in more than 35 countries.

There has obviously been a lot of conversation about music onboard aircraft in the past year; what is Universal’s latest thoughts on the role of music in IFE?

Music onboard aircraft is essential as a relaxing and entertaining experience, and to make it more appealing Universal Music Group is working on a licensing program for carriers to offer more content and formats according to different platforms and marketing needs.

How music gets licensed seems to differ from country to country, what can you tell us about licensing music in Middle Eastern countries?  What role do music licensing companies play, if any?

The demand for music licensing and the music offering differs from one carrier to another. In the Middle East, carriers license the music master rights directly from content owners or in some cases via aggregators and service providers. Universal Music MENA also represents Warner Music Group in the Middle East and offers a combined license for carriers in a direct relationship. We will see how licensing companies and service providers can support the basic licensing, while Universal Music aims to support its existing and new airline partners with additional marketing support, content productions, digital services, artist activities and more.

“But real differentiation and innovation comes with more content and formats such as music videos, concerts, interviews that are tailored to the route and destination.”

Late last year, you announced a partnership with Turkish Airlines.  What are some of the highlights of that relationship?

The partnership with Turkish Airlines includes many exciting elements. Universal Music delivers customer-curated music service, activation services going beyond a great music service. A curated music service, music recommendation, dedicated content productions, artist messages and marketing support help Turkish Airlines achieve their brand and marketing objectives in a new innovative way.

What can our industry do better to address cultural or regional expectations when it comes to product and service?

In-flight entertainment has undoubtedly become a key differentiator to enhance the entire travel experience and journey. Presenting the top international music chart hits on aircraft is a basic and essential feature that passengers expect from almost any airline. But real differentiation and innovation comes with more content and formats such as music videos, concerts, interviews that are tailored to the route and destination. Furthermore, loyalty, brand exposure and customer interactivity can be augmented by integrating the carriers digital platforms for pre and post-flight customer engagement.

Something that never ceases to amaze you in your industry of work?

After 12 years in digital distribution we see that new technologies continuously evolve to offer more and more new possibilities. In this dynamic and fast changing environment, it is incredible how many ways exist today – and will be developed over the next years – to make digital content accessible from everywhere at any time, and how it is part of everyone’s life and identity.

What’s the best seat on the plane?

Front row window seats are my first choice. It is quick and easy to get on and off the plane, there is less noise when you are ahead of the engines – and with noise reduction headphones I can enjoy the relaxing sides of the all-digital age.

Don’t miss Claudius at APEX Middle East March 24th  for his session on audio performance rights.

Making Room for Suite-er Airline Business

With the introduction and greater availability of lie-flat seats over the past two decades, long-haul business class cabins have greatly improved. Competition to attract these high-revenue flyers is hot, and airlines tempt business customers with offers of greater privacy and more room to stretch out. As a result, the best of today’s business class cabins are far better than the best of yesterday’s first class cabins.

Recently, B/E Aerospace’s Apex Suite has earned airlines’ business because of its clever design. The Apex model is staggered, allowing forward-facing seats in a denser 2-2-2 cabin configuration, and gives all passengers aisle access with enough private space to earn the ‘suite’ label.

Korean Air has announced that it will introduce the Apex suite on its Business class cabins which it will market as ‘Prestige Suites.’

Oman Air introduced the Apex on its new Airbus A330-300 aircraft this past December.

Japan Airlines (JAL) has also adopted the seat with enough passenger enhancement features to rate the airline’s overall business class experience among the industry’s best. JAL stands out for its decision to reduce the total number of seats on its retrofitted 787 Dreamliners, giving passengers more room in all classes. The airline introduced B/E Apex suites in business class on the 787 giving 38 lucky passengers their own private, peaceful place to work, play and rest.

As Adam White, director at Factory Design, London, explains:

“There is a lot of work currently underway with seat makers and airlines to ‘up the game’ for the specification of a standard business class seat into something more like a mini-suite.”

White believes this is a new trend, akin to the previous introduction of lay-flat seats to business which are now available on most carriers. “The more that can be done the better, with regard to shutting out the outside world, and the smart money is on ever improved privacy in this trend. This should be seen in combination with trying to achieve aisle access from all seats without having to climb over anyone!”

This push by airlines to dramatically improve the business cabin forces some to think of new ways of keeping luxury travelers happy in first. When it announced the introduction of the B/E Aerospace Apex suite, Korean Air said that it will introduce a new first class concept which would complement the ‘Prestige Suites.’

To go beyond the experience of an Apex business class suite, airlines may be inspired by the full-sized VIP suite designs onboard select aircraft flown by Asiana Airlines, China Southern AirlinesEmirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines.

Either of these suite products, business and first, set standards so high that it’s difficult to imagine how airlines and their suppliers will come up with even better cabins tomorrow.

We don’t doubt the skill of the industry’s best designers and manufacturers, but see additional opportunities for differentiation in “zero-footprint” features, such as better overall travel technology implementations, state-of-the-art IFE systems with innovations like some we’ve featured from Panasonic and Thales, better and more readily available onboard connectivity, and a wider selection of tailored on-demand entertainment content on both embedded and wireless IFE systems.

APEX Hollywood Shortlist: Fifty Shades’ BO Domination Wanes

The DUFF, Lion's Gate
The DUFF, Lionsgate

Despite a steeper than expected drop, Universal’s Fifty Shades of Grey easily whipped up the stamina for another first place finish at the weekend box office. Adding another $22M to it’s impressive $129M domestic haul, Fifty Shades is proving to be an even bigger hit overseas where it’s closing in on the $300M mark  just 10 days in theaters. And though sequel plans remain foggier than the view from Christian Grey’s penthouse at the moment – word on the street is that Fifty Shades author E.L. James is hoping to pen the script for Fifty Shades Darker herself. Fans should expect to see many more shades of grey in the years ahead.

Also hanging tight in second and third place were Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service and Paramount/Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Squarepants: Sponge out of Water which raked in another $18M and $16.5M, respectively.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Paramount Pictures
Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Paramount Pictures

But the biggest shocker of the weekend – aside from John Travolta’s strange face-touching antics at the Oscars – was the fact that a tiny, female-driven teen comedy, with no major stars to speak of landed in fifth place with $10.8M. Lionsgate and CBS Films’ girl-powered The DUFF, definitely surpassed expectations. Paramount’s Hot Tub Time Machine 2, the  sequel to one of the buzziest cult hits of the past decade, floated to the weekend’s seventh spot with $5.9M.

Based on Kody Keplinger’s darkly funny 2010 young adult novel of the same name, The DUFF (which stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend) is striking a chord with young female audiences and should prove to be a modest word-of-mouth hit for Lionsgate and CBS Films over the next few weeks.

McFarland USA_Disney
McFarland USA, Disney

Also opening wide over the weekend was Disney’s cross country racing drama McFarland, USA. Featuring the unofficial king of all sports movies Kevin Costner doing what he does best – inspiring a team of underdogs to victory despite the odds – McFarland took in $11M over the weekend. Directed by Whale Rider writer/director Niki Caro, McFarland is proving to be something of a sleeper hit and should have strong legs, both onscreen and at the box office, for a while.

Complete Box Office Results – February 20-22, 2015

Title/Studio Weekend/Total Gross
1. Fifty Shades of Grey/Universal $22M / $129M
2. Kingsman: The Secret Service/Fox $18M / $67.9M
3. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water/Paramount Pictures $16.5M / $126M
4. McFarland, USA/Disney $11M
5. The DUFF/Lionsgate $10.8M
6. American Sniper/Warner Bros. $10M / $320M
7. Hot Tub Time Machine 2/Paramount $5.9M
8. Jupiter Ascending/Warner Bros. $3.8M / $39.6M
9. The Imitation Game/The Weinstein Company $2.5M / $83.8M
10. Paddington/The Weinstein Company $2M / $67.8M

Far Beyond Tokyo: ANA’s ‘Tastes of Japan’

Fukushima Wine Jelly
Fukushima Wine Jelly

Beyond the bright lights of Tokyo, there’s a whole other side to Japan that most travelers don’t get to see… or taste. ANA, Japan’s largest airline, is out to change that with their “Tastes of Japan” program. Launched in September 2013, ANA is shining a delicious spotlight on the lesser-known prefectures of Japan via entrees, drinks and desserts both on their planes and in their lounges. You may never have heard of Shizuoka, Ishikawa, or Oita, but with “Tastes of Japan,” ANA is out to prove they really are All Nippon Airways.

The program highlights different regions every three months and beginning in March, the focus turns to Fukushima, Osaka, and Tottori – Japan’s smallest prefecture. At the ANA Suite Lounge in both of Tokyo’s airports, Haneda and Narita, passengers can expect to see baby green peaches from Fukushima in a wine-flavored jelly or Osakan satsuma tangerines turned into the classic pastry cream, crème Chiboust. At “DINING h,” their full-service lounge restaurant in Haneda, travelers can opt for heartier monthly specials: thick-cut Kozumi bamboo shoots accented with a sweet-and-sour soy sauce in April or prime wagyu steaks flown in from Fukushima in May.

In the air, business-class flyers can indulge in Koura-yaki, a traditional crab and egg dish from Tottori while first-class passengers on flights from Japan to the US get to enjoy an exclusive dish of grilled Tottori wagyu beef with potatoes and shiitake mushrooms.

Enticing passengers with food is nothing new for ANA. While they aim to expose flyers to authentic regional Japanese cuisine in Japan, flights out of their other major markets connect their premium cabin flyers to their flight’s departure city. In December, they created route-specific partnerships with top chefs from Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and the United States, including multi-course meals from one of Los Angeles’ finest chefs, Joachim Splichal of fine-dining mecca, Patina. It all goes to show that on ANA, your taste buds are traveling just as much as the rest of your body.