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  IFEC REPORT

Connectivity

CHAT After its merger with Virgin America was complete, Alaska Airlines launched a comprehensive inflight program at the beginning of the year by RICK LUNDSTROM

Recaro supplied the leather seating for the Alaska Airlines Premium Service cabin

T

he year’s first major promotion of an airline’s inflight entertainment product had the industry talking and passengers chatting. A Free Chat feature was launched early this year on Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. Already, the airline has seen the importance of giving its passenger base access to connectivity in ways that allows them to easily communicate with family and friends. Alaska Airlines is allowing its passengers to happily trade news and gossip through iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger on all the airline’s Gogo Inflight equipped aircraft. Full Internet access is not required. In January, passengers were accessing the Alaska Airlines Wi-Fi network and selecting the “Free Chat” option by signing in with their Gogo account or creating a complimentary account. “We are very pleased with the early performance,” David Scotland, Alaska Airlines’ Manager of Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity. “We have seen nearly a 60% increase in guests using our Gogo Internet system since launch, and anecdotally we have heard very positive feedback from guests enjoying the service.” In early January, Alaska Airlines was in the “beta phase” of the promotion

that will soon lead to a more streamlined process, where passengers only need to connect to the aircraft’s Wi-Fi network, select the Free Chat option and complete a “captcha” prompt. “Additionally, during the beta period, we are closely monitoring customer care chats to understand if there is anything we should change in how we have communicated the product to our guests,” said Scotland. He said the airline intends to offer the Free Chat promotion complimentary for the foreseeable future. From a supplier standpoint, modifying the onboard connectivity involves a few simple steps. Lowell Bike, Senior Product Manager of Inflight Entertainment at Gogo said the company’s Gogo Messaging Pass product enables all three messaging programs that are now available on Alaska Airlines. “We often partner with our customers to recreate a better passenger experience for them,” said Bike. “Alaska offering Free Chat and Free premium content is a prime example of that. “This is the first time we have done free messaging to all passengers, but we have offered it on a limited time or on weekends or for partners in the past.” Alaska Airlines is part of a vast network of customers for Gogoequipped aircraft around the world. As

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of the first of this year, Gogo inflight Internet was installed on 16 airlines and 2,900 commercial aircraft. “Our focus has been the installation of our 2Ku technology, the next generation in satellite technology,” said Bike. “We’ll work through most of our installation for 1,500 aircraft over 12 airlines through 2018.” Other features were also involved in the Alaska Airlines celebration of its merger with Virgin America. The airline is rolling out its new Premium Class service on selected routes and offering upgrades that ranged from US$15 to US$79. Through the end of March, the Alaska Airlines is offering unlimited access to its catalog of entertainment that it streams to personal electronic devices. A number of Hollywood hits were available in January. At the end of January, Alaska Airlines began boarding new food and beverage products, most notably wines and beers. Among the wines are those from Washington state’s Chateau Ste. Michelle, craft beers, Bourbons and a sparkling La Marca Prosecco from Italy. The launch of the new cabin product has been years in the making and follows a number of other changes. Nearly half of the airline’s 737 fleet has

PAX International AIME/MRO Dubai 2017  
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