PAX TECH AIME Feb/March 2024

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Return on connection

As we put this issue together, one thing is clear: connected passengers are entertained passengers—and entertained passengers keep coming back. The focus for airlines is to come as close as possible to delivering an experience as good, if not better, in the cabin as passengers have on the ground.

Valour Consultancy’s report

The Future of In-Flight Connectivity (2024) notes the crucial role that inflight entertainment and connectivity play in achieving this world-class onboard experience.

“The adoption of new technologies that reduce costs and inefficiencies wherever possible will be the key to success,” reads the report.

PAX Tech contacted report author Summer Staninski to learn more about the potential of IFEC if executed well. She says the biggest opportunities are driving loyalty and capitalizing on an affluent captive audience.

“Airlines can differentiate their offering to best suit their brand

and offer a unique experience, perhaps by using regional, innovative or exclusive content, which enables them to stand out from the crowd and keep passengers coming back,” Staninski explains.

The report was developed with input from Viasat. In this issue, Don Buchman, Viasat’s VP and GM Commercial Aviation, tells PAX Tech that IFC is now one of the most important aspects of a passenger’s inflight experience. Results from a 2023 Viasat survey reveal that 83 percent of passengers are more likely to rebook with an airline that offers quality inflight Wi-Fi. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Nowadays, passengers expect a full entertainment experience during the flight, only possible with a seamless, reliable, high-speed connectivity service to power it,” he says.

PAX Tech is excited to bring you these insights and more in this issue. We look forward to sharing news and analyses throughout the year as your trusted source for news. | PAX TECH | 3

9 Features



Delta Sync allows passengers to connect multiple devices to Wi-Fi inflight, mimicking the at-home experience. More about the product’s features on page 22




Along with its major rebrand, Saudia is highlighting its digital transformation and ambitious plans to make the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a world-class tourism destination


Qatar Airways expands on its digital transformation, discussing its in-house application that enables cabin crew to deliver an even more personalized experience to passengers



SriLankan Airlines has partnered once again with Inflight Dublin for the provision of inflight entertainment, making the journey as enjoyable as the destination


PAX Tech speaks with Hernan Abbes, Vice President of Global Sales, Panasonic Avionics, about its partnerships with Saudia and Egyptair for Astrova IFE


Viasat’s Don Buchman discusses partnerships with Ethiopian Airlines and Etihad Airways, sharing survey results on passengers’ IFEC expectations


Ahead of APEX TECH, Ekrem Dimbiloglu explains Delta Sync’s features, how the system is changing loyalty offerings and the retrofitting process



Airlines and tech innovators are heading to Dubai for the biggest edition of AIME yet


PAX Tech speaks with APEX CEO Dr. Joe Leader about what to expect at APEX TECH

WHERE CABIN CONCEPTS TAKE OFF Aircraft Interiors Expo is the definitive marketplace where everyone involved in developing cabin interiors needs to be. 28 30 MAY 2024 Co-located with: 27 MA Y 2024 In co-operation with: Visit us at: 28 - 30 MAY 2024

Air India names RECARO as Premium Economy and Economy seating partner

Air India has selected RECARO Aircraft Seating as its Premium Economy and Economy seating partner for its wide-body aircraft. The partnership will see more than 22,000 RECARO seats installed on the airline’s fleet in both line-fit and retrofit programs in the next five to six years.

The airline selected the CL3710 and the CL3810 for Economy Class, and the PL3530 for Premium Economy. The initial phase of the collaboration will focus on retrofitting 40 of Air India’s 787 and 777 aircraft with CL3710 and PL3530 seats. RECARO will also line-fit 12 of the airline’s A350 and 787 aircraft, expected to enter service in 2025, maintaining the same seat configuration.

“We are thrilled to embark on this journey with Air India, as the recipient of this substantial award,” said Dr. Mark Hiller, CEO at RECARO Aircraft Seating and RECARO Holding. “RECARO is eager to begin collaboration, bringing our innovative seating solutions and exceptional customer service to complement Air India’s global standard of high-quality service.”

Touch Inflight Solutions and Aeromexico announce IFE partnership

Aeromexico and Touch are working together to deliver innovative

Touch Inflight Solutions and Aeromexico have announced an IFE partnership to deliver entertainment experiences that reflect the airline’s identity. The two companies will work together to elevate the passenger experience through strategic offerings.

“This partnership signifies our dedication to setting new standards for inflight entertainment,” said Aeromexico’s Vice President, Product and Onboard Services, António Fernandez Ojeda. “We look forward to pioneering the future of engagement and entertainment with Touch.”

“We look forward to working with Aeromexico to highlight the diverse and dynamic cultural fabric that makes Mexico unique,” said João Chaves, Touch’s Director of Customer Service. “Our exclusive content will enable Aeromexico passengers to feel connected to Mexico’s vibrant heritage and modern arts.”

RECARO’s Premium Economy reclining seat IFE content to passengers

Spafax and Lufthansa Group extend IFE partnership

Spafax has expanded its partnership with Lufthansa Group, extending the collaboration until 2028. As part of this agreement, Spafax will provide its existing Frankfurt Account Team with additional resources to support Lufthansa Group in the European market. The airlines of the Lufthansa Group included in the agreement are Lufthansa, Discover Airlines, SWISS, Austrian Airlines and Edelweiss Air.

Spafax will take on third-party advertising sales responsibilities to help Lufthansa Group secure suitable brand partnerships. Key aspects of the extended partnership include technical integration through the Spafax One technical innovation portfolio; Spafax will integrate next-generation entertainment solutions across Lufthansa Group’s digital touchpoints.

Strategic Revenue Optimization is also a key element of the partnership, with Lufthansa Airlines assigning International Media Sales to Spafax for the first time to increase revenue across its media portfolio.

Air India selects Thales’ AVANT Up IFE

Air India has selected Thales’ AVANT Up inflight entertainment system to elevate its passenger experience. Thales will upgrade and retrofit Air India’s fleet of 40 777 and 787 aircraft with the AVANT Up system, through 2025. Thales will also install AVANT Up on 11 of the airline’s Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

The AVANT Up IFE system features Optiq, 4K QLED HDR displays with in-screen USB-A and USB-C highspeed charging ports. It is the only display with two Bluetooth connections and built-in Wi-Fi. Passengers can pair wireless headphones and other devices to the display while simultaneously charging phones.

AVANT Up offers an interactive 3D map and immersive route-based programming to passengers. The Select User Interface also allows passengers to intuitively navigate through the catalogue of entertainment.

“We are committed to [supporting] the airline’s transformation

by delivering state-of-the-art AVANT Up technologies that transcend the ordinary to offer Air India’s customers world-class inflight experiences celebrating the vibrant culture and colours of India,” said Yannick Assouad, Executive Vice-President Avionics, Thales.

Thales’ AVANT Up IFE system
Spafax IFE services onboard Lufthansa Group’s five airlines


Along with its major rebrand, Saudia is highlighting its digital transformation and ambitious plans to make the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a world-class tourism destination

Saudia, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is experiencing a period of remarkable growth and transformation. Introducing a major rebrand, the airline is underscoring its strong vision for the future. In this exclusive interview with PAX Tech, Saudia CEO Captain Ibrahim Koshy discusses the airline’s impressive accolades and ambitious plans to bring the world to Saudi Arabia.

“There’s a lot of change happening in Saudi Arabia and people of all ages are excited,” Koshy tells PAX Tech. “We are targeting 330 million airport visitors annually by 2030.”

Rebrand, reinforce, reimagine Saudia officially revealed its new branding strategy and aircraft livery at a special event in Jeddah last fall. The carrier shared its plans for a complete strategic digital transformation, focusing on the goal of increasing tourism to Saudi Arabia as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative.

As part of the Kingdom’s National Aviation Strategy, Vision 2030 aims to turn Saudi Arabia into a leader in the global industry, enhancing the customer experience, maintaining safety and working toward a more

sustainable future. Saudia is collaborating with stakeholders to reach the target, and the rebranding strategy is the beginning of the new era.

The carrier’s primary focus in the rebrand is sharing Saudi culture and reinforcing its national identity. It has reimagined all products and services | PAX TECH | 9
Saudia’s rebrand includes new aircraft livery and brand colours in green, blue and sand
Saudia CEO Captain Ibrahim Koshy

that appeal to the senses: distinct fragrances, locally inspired cuisine and emotional connections. The goal is to invigorate the flight experience with the hospitality and welcoming spirit of Saudi Arabian culture.

The new livery and brand colours comprise green, blue and sand, representing Saudia’s aim to expand its fleet, destinations and visionary approach.

Impressive growth

In 2023, Saudia transported a total of 16.7 million passengers internationally, marking a 36 percent increase versus 2022. Koshy attributes this impressive growth to several factors, including the strength of the domes-

tic market within Saudi Arabia. He notes that international travel, both for visitors and connecting flights, has rebounded to 2019 levels.

Having predicted the growth early on, Saudia announced the order of up to 49 787 Dreamliners last year. Koshy says the order reflects the airline’s satisfaction with the performance of its existing 787 fleet, its dedication to working with long-standing partner Boeing and its commitment to transforming the Kingdom into a world-class tourism destination.

Continuing its significant fleet expansion, Saudia plans to add 20 more A321neo aircraft to its fleet by 2026 to accommodate the expected growth.

The narrow-body aircraft will be used domestically and for travel to Africa, offering passengers an enhanced experience with wireless charging and Bluetooth connectivity for a seamless ground-to-air experience.

Koshy also teased exciting plans for its A321 XLRs, featuring 4K screens and 30 percent less fuel burn.

Digital transformation

The digital transformation will incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as the virtual assistant named Saudia which helps travellers complete their transactions. Digitizing its services and operations ensures increased protection of personal data,

Saudia’s 787 Dreamliner First and Business Class cabin interiors

streamlined processes and strengthened partnerships with global partners.

“The very advanced digital transformation is one of the biggest projects that we’ve launched because it touches every aspect of the passenger journey and how they interact with Saudia,” says Koshy.

In December 2023, Saudia announced that it placed first in the Ipsos Saudi Arabia Reputation Monitor Survey for the year. It ranked as the “Most Trusted Organization” among 80 brands in the Kingdom.

“The achievement… stands as a testament to the success of our new strategic approach that emphasizes improving and enhancing guest

experience while optimally investing in digital solutions,” said Khaled Tash, Chief Marketing Officer of Saudia Group, in the December press release.

He added, “Trust and reputation are two crucial metrics for us as we continually strive for excellence, aiming to represent the Kingdom in the best possible light. I commend the efforts of all our esteemed collaborators within Saudia and our valued local partners for their unwavering support throughout the transformation journey we’ve begun.”

Other aspects of the transformation include updates to the website and app, and innovative communication tools for employees and

dispatch, such as real-time operations updates for flight planning, weather updates and maintenance.

The digital systems also provide a better passenger experience with suggested actions at every touchpoint prior to service disruptions. Koshy gives an example: In the event of a delay, passengers are immediately offered a digital voucher through the Saudia app for use at the café or restaurant nearest their airport gate.

Culture and connection

Koshy tells PAX Tech another major change underway in the Kingdom is the focus on travel and tourism. Geographically the largest country in West Asia and the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer. From the picturesque northwest coast with its resorts and beaches to the mountainous regions in the south, the country offers cultural attractions, museums and entertainment not only for Saudi natives but for visitors to the Kingdom alike.

At the end of 2023, Saudia Group announced its pledge to tree planting. In collaboration with the Social Responsibility Association of Jeddah and under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, the Group is participating in the Saudia Green Initiative to plant 10 billion trees across the Kingdom in the coming decades.

Koshy says Saudia is enjoying its pivotal role in “enabling travelers to explore the diverse terrain and cultures of the Kingdom, enriching connections to culture and nature.”

To boost connection, Saudia is part of The Saudi Air Connectivity Program (ACP). Established in 2021, the ACP supports tourism growth by developing air routes, connecting Saudi Arabia to new destinations.

Saudia has added several destinations in collaboration with the ACP, including Johannesburg, South Africa, Toronto, Canada, Birmingham, England and Beijing, China. | PAX TECH | 11
Saudia CEO Captain Ibrahim Koshy (left) and Aijaz Khan, Publisher, PAX Tech, at IFSA EXPO Long Beach 2023 The Group is participating in the Saudia Green Initiative to plant 10 billion trees across the Kingdom in the coming decades


Qatar Airways expands on its digital transformation, discussing its in-house application that enables cabin crew to deliver an even more personalized experience to passengers

Qatar Airways is expanding its commitment to passenger experience with the rollout of an in-house application that enables cabin crew to deliver personalized experiences to passengers. In its initial phase, the application offers real-time insights on passenger information, as well as flight and service information. Cabin crew will be able to view passengers’ profiles, including Privilege Club members and oneworld members, as well as all special service requests and preferences for a more personalized and integrated journey with the award-winning airline.

“The introduction of mobile devices provides a pivotal step to countless improvement opportunities, allowing the airline to provide an unparalleled service,” Qatar Airways tells PAX Tech in a February interview.

By embracing digital solutions, the airline is not only streamlining processes but is also demonstrating its commitment to zero waste to landfill at hub operations by reducing paper waste.

World-class service

Announced at the end of December 2023, the airline reached the first milestone in this phase of digital transformation by empowering more than 15,000 cabin crew with the new technology. Through the app, cabin crew can view passengers’ previous preferences and requests, and anticipate similar requests to reoccur during the flight. The mobile devices also flag medical conditions and potential missed connections for onward flights,

Qatar Airways has introduced smart onboard functionality for cabin crew to access real-time flight and passenger updates
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer, Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer

facilitating a smoother passenger journey and overall airport experience.

To help ensure world-class service, the app also indicates if it is the passenger’s first time flying on the aircraft. If so, the cabin crew will provide a thorough explanation of seat functionality and other details for the passenger.

The app also enables cabin crew to take meal orders and preferences in the app, incorporating passengers’ preferences and pre-orders, which are reflected on all crew devices as well as a dedicated device in the galley.

“This will also be beneficial in optimizing meal loading, reduce wastage and improve customer satisfaction,” Qatar Airways tells PAX Tech.

Cabin crew training

The application empowers cabin crew by providing access to up-to-date digital training materials. Qatar Airways provides the User Guide Manual and FAQs doc for crew, as well as several e-learning tutorial videos to provide

a step-by-step guide to the app.

One hundred BTUs were selected and have been enrolled in workshops, in-class trainings and ground air testing for more than a year, the airline explains.

Digital transformation in progress

“Since this is a continuous digital transformation, new features have been scoped and will be added as and when required. Our aim is to keep innovating according to the industry trends and making sure Qatar Airways is a pioneer when it comes to technology and customer experience,” the airline tells us. “We’re in the year 2024, and so much can be done with the new technological advancements.”

Qatar Airways will complete the roll-out of the new project in multiple stages, with plans to expand its scope to Hamad International Airport and overseas airports and lounges, integrating passengers’ unique itineraries and

requirements across all touchpoints. There are “countless opportunities for improvement,” Qatar Airways says.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer, Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer, said in the December announcement: “We, at Qatar Airways, are incredibly excited to introduce a new phase in the airline’s digital transformation, especially one that will enhance our world-class onboard experience. As leaders in industry innovation and digital adoption, Qatar Airways excels in identifying and responding to emerging trends for the comfort and convenience of our passengers and this project is a defining step towards a more connected and insightful interaction between our customers and staff.”

Qatar Airways has taken major strides in its digital transformation this year, including its collaboration with Google Cloud to explore data analytics and artificial intelligence solutions for enhanced passenger experiences and sustainability. | PAX TECH | 13
Qatar Airways has is equipping cabin crew with new technology that delivers real-time insights on passenger information

Curating memories

SriLankan Airlines has partnered once again with Inflight Dublin for the provision of inflight entertainment, making the journey as enjoyable as the destination

In operation since 1979, Sri Lanka flag carrier SriLankan Airlines is a member of the oneworld Alliance, serving 113 destinations in 59 countries from its base at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.

With a strong reputation for highquality service, comfort and safety, the airline has been rewarded with numerous accolades, including 2023 APEX Passenger Choice Awards® for Best Food & Beverage in Central/ Southern Asia; Best Seat Comfort in Central/Southern Asia, and ‘World’s Leading Airline to the Indian Ocean’ at the 2022 World Travel Awards. Not

resting on its laurels, the airline places a strong emphasis on attention to detail and the customization of its services to meet passenger expectations and enhance satisfaction. This includes the provision of inflight entertainment which is provided through a mix of Thales AVANT and Safran RAVE seatback screens on long-haul and short-medium-haul flights, and Panasonic on short-medium-haul routes.

“As a full-service airline, inflight entertainment plays a vital role in the overall passenger experience with SriLankan Airlines,” Maria Sathasivam, the airline’s Manager Product Development, tells PAX Tech.

The airline has worked with Inflight Dublin as its content service provider (CSP) since 2019, recently extending its partnership for a further three years.

“We are proud of the exceptional service we have provided to SriLankan Airlines, and we look forward to continuing to work together to deliver a world-class inflight entertainment experience to its passengers,” said Barry Flynn, COO of Inflight Dublin, in June 2023.

Sathasivam points to Inflight Dublin’s position as a leading CSP

Maria Manager Product Development, SriLankan Airlines
Passengers flying with SriLankan Airlines can enjoy a wide range of entertainment options, thanks to its ongoing partnership with Inflight Dublin

that works with more than 500 global content distributors and subsequent ability to provide a wide range of content, from Hollywood blockbusters, international films and much more, as the rationale behind the decision.

Speaking to PAX Tech, Sathasivam reveals that at present, the Dublin-based CSP provides inflight entertainment content throughout SriLankan Airlines’ entire fleet and manages an inflight entertainment webpage designed to offer customers a “sneak peek into the diverse entertainment options available on board even before they step onto the aircraft.”

On board, passengers can access more than 100 Hollywood and inter-

national movies, TV shows and audio content in the IFE catalogue, which is refreshed every four months.

In response to the prevalent demand for Western/international content, SriLankan Airlines provides a content distribution where 70 percent is Western/international, and the remaining 30 percent is dedicated to local and regional offerings.

At the time of writing, passengers can enjoy hits such as Barbie, the DisneyPixar animation Elemental and the latest chapter in the Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Regional content includes the comedy Bhool and action film Bachchhan Paandey.

In keeping with the passenger demographics on its key destinations, the IFE system provides a selection of five language options: English, Sinhala, Tamil, Chinese and Japanese.

Additionally, subtitles and captions in various languages are available, whenever it is provided by the relevant content distributors.

“Offering a diverse array of entertainment, the content also aims to educate passengers on what to expect and experience in their travels to Sri Lanka, be it for leisure or business,” says Sathasivam, adding that, “The content also covers special interests such as wildlife, food and beverage, culture and economy.” | PAX TECH | 15
SriLankan Airlines is extremely focussed on elevating the onboard passenger experience


PAX Tech speaks with Hernan Abbes, Vice President of Global Sales, Panasonic Avionics, about its partnerships with Saudia and Egyptair for Astrova IFE

Astrova continues to take Panasonic Avionics to new heights as more airlines around the globe select the innovative system. Last year, the company developed partnerships with both Saudia and Egyptair, expanding its presence in the Middle East and Africa.

As the tech giant looks ahead to what is next for its growth in the MEASA region at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Middle East (AIME) event, PAX Tech spoke to Hernan Abbes, Vice President of Global Sales, Panasonic Avionics, about evolving IFE solutions, industry trends and feedback from Astrova users.

Astrova impact in Middle East and North Africa

Abbes says the response from Saudia and Egyptair has far exceeded expectations.

“Astrova has a higher rate of selection than any of our previous IFE solutions. We’re very excited about our new system, and the response from the airline industry has been extremely positive,” Abbes says.

He notes that what separates Astrova from Panasonic’s previous IFE solutions is the design. The system features OLED 4K screens that are HDR 10+ with an infinite contrast ratio. The audio experience is elevated with high-fidelity multi-channel spatial audio tech-

Hernan Abbes, Vice President of Global Sales, Panasonic Avionics
Panasonic’s Astrova in First Class

nology. Astrova provides full cabin Bluetooth enabling passengers to connect personal wireless headphones to the system.

The solution’s in-seat power feature is also a draw for many airlines, explains Abbes. The system offers 67 watts fast-charging capabilities for mobile devices and laptops via USB-C; airlines can choose to offer up to 100 watts of fast charging.

Panasonic Avionics first announced Astrova had been selected by Egyptair in November 2023, marking the IFE solutions’ first agreement in Africa. The focus for the airline was on the line-fit program with its A350 fleet, “providing a system that could adapt to evolving consumer technology

while safeguarding their investment in IFEC,” explains Abbes.

Astrova’s modular design is also an asset to Egyptair’s business objectives. With airlines looking to reduce TCO (total cost of ownership), Abbes says the ability to keep up with consumer technology trends without switching to a new system is important to airlines in the MEASA region.

“It allows airlines to continuously update their cabin equipment with the latest technology,” he says. “In the past, airlines would have to select their cabin equipment one-to-two years in advance of the first aircraft delivery, resulting in outdated systems being installed in new aircraft. With Astrova, airlines can continuously upgrade their

systems as new technology becomes available, ensuring their passengers can always enjoy the latest consumer technology and experience they are accustomed to on the ground.”

The modular design lends itself to retrofitting simply and cost-effectively, reducing an airline’s operational expenditure. The IFE components can be upgraded independently of the other cabin elements, resulting in fewer service disruptions for the airline. According to Abbes, this is what makes the technology so appealing.

The agreement with Saudia, signed last June, primarily focuses on retrofitting the airline’s A330 and 777 fleets. Abbes says Saudia’s enthusiasm was driven by the system’s ability | PAX TECH | 17
Panasonic’s Astrova in Business Class Panasonic Avionics CEO Ken Sain (left) and Saudia Group Director General His Excellency Engr. Ibrahim Al-Omar signed the agreement for the Astrova solution in June 2023

to reduce TCO while elevating the viewing experience for passengers.

“At Panasonic Avionics, we believe that this approach to IFE allows airlines to continuously keep their systems up to date, even between full cabin retrofits. It also supports airline sustainability efforts by reducing the need to recycle materials and maximizing the lifespan of the system. Additionally, the significantly lighter weight of Astrova compared to previous IFE systems helps airlines reduce fuel consumption.”

Expanding opportunities for IFEC

As AIME heads to Dubai for its 14th edition, the industry’s focus shifts to the MEASA region, whose growing presence in the global aviation industry indicates that opportunities for tech innovators are expanding.

“Demand in these regions, and the aviation industry overall, have rebounded to pre-COVID levels, prompting many airlines to enhance their onboard offerings, including IFEC,” says Abbes. “We see significant potential for Astrova both in these regions and globally amidst this resurgence.”

Panasonic Avionics saw a higher global adoption rate— especially in the MEASA region— for Astrova, compared to the company’s previous IFE solutions.

Abbes adds that the combination of Astrova, IFC and technical

services available from Panasonic puts the company in a position to effectively meet the needs of airline partners in the MEASA region.

Elevating passenger engagement

“From our viewpoint, airlines are seeking to establish IFEC as their third digital channel,” Abbes says. “They desire increased control over the day-to-day management of content and digital services to optimize engagement with their passengers. This objective can be achieved by choosing the right IFE system, coupled with global, high-speed connectivity, digital solutions and global aftercare support.”

The company’s vision centers around “Engagement, Beyond Entertainment” and Abbes notes that an airline’s app offers an engagement opportunity based on passengers’ usage frequencies and durations, ahead of web and mobile channels.

“We are therefore seeing forwardthinking airlines recognize this

potential to enhance digital passenger engagement by building brand loyalty, improving [Net Promoter Scores], enhancing operational efficiency, and generating revenue,” he explains.

Panasonic Avionics helps airlines establish that digital third channel via Astrova to integrate the passenger digital experience from booking to the destination. They can use the App Manager to develop and deploy the third-party application to the seatback.

The company has also taken a new approach to its IFE operating system, allowing airlines to elevate the passenger experiences it delivers.

“Our OS encompasses a collection of shared system services and utilities that facilitate quicker delivery, streamlined maintenance, and accelerated innovation-to-market velocity. By leveraging our OS, which is equipped with well-defined, reusable capabilities and services, airlines can rapidly build, test and deploy new applications using industrystandard technologies,” Abbes says.

Panasonic Avionics announced the agreement with Egyptair in November 2023 Fast charging for passenger’s personal devices with Astrova
Panasonic’s Astrova in Economy Class
Copyright © 2024 Viasat, Inc. All rights reserved. Viasat, the Viasat logo and the Viasat signal are registered trademarks of Viasat, Inc. with our powerful, reliable, and global connectivity.

No missed


Viasat’s Don Buchman discusses partnerships with Ethiopian Airlines and Etihad Airways, sharing survey results on passengers’ IFEC expectations

Viasat is facing the inflight connectivity evolution headon, helping airlines deliver what passengers crave—a totally seamless experience. PAX Tech spoke with Don Buchman, VP and GM Commercial Aviation at Viasat, to learn more about the company’s partnerships in the MEASA region and beyond that are reshaping the onboard experience in the changing digital landscape.

In 2023, Viasat acquired Inmarsat and was selected as the IFC provider for both Ethiopian Airlines and Etihad Airways.

“Etihad Airways is a highly innovative, passenger-centric airline, consistently delivering stand-out passenger experiences to travellers across the

Middle East and beyond,” Buchman tells PAX Tech. “It has chosen Viasat as its connectivity partner on its new 787 Dreamliner fleet, demonstrating its trust in Viasat to deliver the connectivity its passengers want and need. Adding these aircraft in the Middle East to the connectivity we provide worldwide ensures that we can continue to meet our objective of bringing powerful inflight connections to passengers virtually anywhere.”

Viasat is equipping Ethiopian Airlines A350-1000 aircraft with high-speed inflight broadband for passengers through the Airbus Airspace Link HBCplus program In addition to serving travellers on domestic and international routes from Africa, Ethiopian serves more than 20 destinations across the MEASA region, providing reliable connectivity for passengers transiting through.

“Passengers [can] stream videos, browse the internet, shop online

Passengers using PEDs inflight with Viasat’s IFC solution

and enjoy social media all from the comfort of their seats and using their personal devices,” Buchman says. “This means that Ethiopian can deliver the experience we know travellers crave, being as connected in the skies as they are on the ground.”

Evolving expectations for IFE and connectivity

According to Viasat’s 2023 Passenger Experience Survey, 97 percent of respondents use personal electronic devices (PEDs) to access IFE. Etihad’s Viasat-equipped 787 Dreamliners, set to enter service this year, will meet this demand with live streaming capabilities on PEDs.

Once in service, Etihad aircraft will be connected to Viasat’s global satellite network coverage of owned and partner satellites. Viasat will enable inflight streaming of four international channels and one Arabic channel; BBC Arabic, BBC World News, CNN International, CNBC and Sport24.

“We know from our 2023 Passenger Experience Survey that the majority of passengers want access to Live TV and Live Sports inflight, so this is directly responding to this desire. After all, passengers want to be as connected in the air as they are in everyday life, and not miss out on the moments that matter even while they’re flying,” says Buchman.

Viasat surveyed more than 11,000 passengers worldwide in 2023. Results indicate that inflight Wi-Fi is now the most influential factor for passengers deciding who to fly with. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they would pay to access to Live Sport during a flight and said it is important to their onboard experience. Eighty-three percent of passengers said they are more likely to rebook with an airline that offers quality inflight Wi-Fi—demonstrating the value that airlines can reap from delivering on the experience their passengers want, Buchman highlights.

Seamless connection

As technology progresses, passengers are not only expecting access to seamless inflight Wi-Fi, but they also want the service to be complementary. And, according to Buchman, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Nowadays, passengers expect a full entertainment experience during the flight, only possible with a seamless, reliable, high-speed connectivity service to power it,” he says.

Simply being able to stream a live game or access an IFE selection from a personal device is not enough. Viasat’s survey found that 47 percent of passengers want unlimited social media access in the skies, while 22 percent want to game while onboard.

“This shows how many passengers now expect entertaining, edge-of-yourseat experiences from the comfort of the cabin,” Buchman explains.

Meeting passenger demands for free IFC and features such as live streaming or access to an IFE library via a PED are key elements shaping the future of the onboard experience.

“For airlines, this means that keeping up with these expectations should be top of the agenda, to ensure they unlock customer loyalty and keep passengers coming back for more,” Buchman says. | PAX TECH | 21
Meherwan Polad, Chief Commercial Officer, Global Enterprise & Mobility at Viasat (left) and Mohammed Al-Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer, Etihad Airways, with a ceremonial custom surfboard, a Viasat aviation tradition


Ahead of APEX TECH, Ekrem Dimbiloglu explains Delta Sync’s features, how the system is changing loyalty offerings and the retrofitting process

Delta’s connectivity and consistency in providing the latest IFE to passengers is part of how it has maintained strong brand loyalty through the decades. PAX Tech spoke with Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Managing Director of Customer Experience Delta Studio & Wi-Fi, about Delta Sync’s pivotal features, the impact on the passenger experience and the unique benefits available to Delta SkyMiles members. From the airline’s first passenger flight in 1929, Dimbiloglu tells PAX Tech

that the airline has taken pride in elevating the passenger experience.

“We’ve always understood that the journey is about more than just reaching a destination – it’s about the moments and experiences that unfold along the way,” Dimbiloglu says. “From the early days of playing cards and reading the daily newspaper to today’s new era of fast, free Wi-Fi-enabled entertainment curated for you, Delta has been at the forefront of shaping how travelers connect, unwind and discover while in the skies.”

Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Managing Director of Customer Experience Delta Studio & Wi-Fi
Passenger uses two devices inflight simultaneously via Delta Sync

Delta’s continued innovation in the IFEC space has brought about Delta Sync and its ability to keep passengers connected to the world below while onboard.

A deeper look at Delta Sync’s features

Delta Sync’s features include complimentary Wi-Fi and a revamped seatback entertainment system, giving passengers an inflight digital experience akin to what they would have at home. Delta Sync Wi-Fi, available today on most domestic aircraft and rolling out soon on regional and international routes, delivers streamingquality connectivity inflight and is

available on personal devices through the Delta Sync Wi-Fi login page.

Delta Sync seatback is an update to the traditional inflight screens that makes them function like a smart TV. This is accomplished with features like those on streaming services that passengers use in their homes, such as the system remembering where you stopped watching the movie and the capacity to save a “favourites” list. Delta Sync seatback is now available on select fleets and is expanding to additional aircraft this year.

“These new onboard experiences make your seat in the sky feel more like a seat in your living room, giving you new ways to enjoy travel with connec-

tivity and personalized entertainment that is fit for you,” says Dimbiloglu.

He also points out that passengers are frequently using multiple devices inflight, just like they do from the comfort of their homes.

“We recognized early in our free Wi-Fi journey the need to meet and exceed these evolving expectations.”

Changing the game of customer loyalty

Delta Sync is an inflight benefit exclusively available to SkyMiles members, but the perks are not ones that have to be earned over time. With a focus on customer loyalty and delivering immediate benefits, Delta Sync is tak- | PAX TECH | 23
Passengers connect to Wi-Fi via a personal mobile device

ing a different approach to traditional airline points and miles programs.

“Traditionally, loyalty programs have been built on the idea of longer-term benefits,” Dimbiloglu explains. “Delta’s shift away from this approach to one of immediate value reflects our commitment to staying ahead in a dynamic industry.”

Delta Sync uses SkyMiles member information to personalize their inflight experience. Since launching its free inflight Wi-Fi in February 2023, Dimbiloglu says that more than 1.8 million customers have joined Delta SkyMiles through Delta Sync Wi-Fi. This means they get access to exclusive offers and entertainment from brands like Paramount+, Walmart+ and T-Mobile inflight without years of building up their rewards earnings.

“As customers deepen their relationships with Delta through these logged-in member experiences, we can serve them in new, in-the-moment ways,” he adds.

In the spirit of bringing the athome digital experience to the aircraft

New onboard experiences make your seat in the sky feel more like a seat in your living room,”

cabin, Delta has prioritized allowing passengers to enjoy multiple screens inflight, such as watching seatback content while scrolling social media on their phones. Dimbiloglu notes that while there was uncertainty about how the diversification of inflight options would impact IFE engagement, the results have been favourable.

“We’ve been really encouraged by the enthusiasm around the product, and something else we’ve been excited to see is that Delta Sync Wi-Fi now ranks among the top three drivers of customer satisfaction on Delta—so much that it improves the entire onboard experience as a result,” he says.

Beyond inflight connectivity

“Ensuring that the connection is fast and reliable, even when customers move about the aircraft, is a remarkable feat of precision,” Dimbiloglu says. But the introduction of Wi-Fi to the aircraft is “just the beginning.”

Once passengers have access to streaming-quality Wi-Fi during the flight, the airline is using Delta Sync to deliver more value to SkyMiles members.

“This has taken a separate expert team to roll out the entirely new platform onboard. It’s truly been a labor of love across many expert teams at Delta, all in service of the customer,” Dimbiloglu tells PAX Tech.

Delta expects to roll out more Delta Sync products in the coming years. Dimbiloglu will be speaking about Delta Sync at APEX TECH in Los Angeles on February 28, delivering the Opening Keynote Address “Delta Sync: A Leap Forward in In-Flight Connectivity,” in discussion with APEX CEO Dr. Joe Leader.

Inflight streaming on a personal device

Big deal in Dubai

Airlines and tech innovators are heading to Dubai for the biggest edition of AIME yet

The industry is heading back to Dubai for the 14th edition of Aircraft Interiors Middle East (AIME). Co-located with MRO Middle East from March 5 to 6 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the event brings the MEASA region together for two days of tech demos, thought-leadership content, interactive workshops and networking opportunities. AIME organizers tell media partner PAX Tech there is a lot to look forward to.

“Our 14th edition is set to be our biggest yet and we have added an extra hall for 2024 to provide even more exhibition and networking opportunities,” says Timothy Hawes, Managing Director at Informa Markets, organizer of AIME.

More than 6,000 attendees, 200 exhibitors and 100 airlines and lessors are confirmed to attend. Industry panels featuring 50 global industry experts are set to enlighten attendees

through a series of presentations, panel discussions and case studies.

What’s on the agenda in 2024

On the agenda is new content streams, an impressive speakers line up, a workshop hub and networking opportunities. The GoLive! Theatre showcases live free-to-attend content, while other discussions cover next-gen interiors, how ME airlines are revolutionizing the in-cabin experience and opportunities in IFEC, such as connectivity solutions for personal electronic devices (PEDs) and touchless technology for added ease and comfort.

AIME 2024 also introduces new supplier and provider categories, including cabin management systems, cleaning and sanitization.

“These new categories align with what we are seeing across the market,” Hawes says. “The COVID-19 pandemic further emphasized the importance of maintaining cleanliness

in cabins, helping to foster a safe and positive experience for passengers.”

MEASA region on the rise

Hawes says the record number of exhibitors for this year’s AIME indicates a positive future for the region. Notable exhibitors include Panasonic Avionics Corporation, SAFRAN, Lufthansa Technik and Airbus

First-time exhibitors include JIATAI Aircraft Equipment Co., Schroth, ExpliSeat and Optimum Aero.

“Recent announcements have solidified the MEASA region’s standing as a crucial hub for the sector and reaffirmed the commitment from industry stakeholders to drive innovation and advancement,” Hawes says. “The event provides an ideal platform to showcase the latest market innovations, uncover industry-leading trends and insights, and facilitate commercial opportunities through a series of key features and programs that put networking at the forefront.” | PAX TECH | 25
AIME takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre

Talking tech in LA

Kicking off APEX’s annual event list this year is APEX TECH in Los Angeles, California from February 28 to 29. APEX CEO Dr. Joe Leader tells media partner PAX Tech this year’s event is expected to be more inclusive than ever.

“We are shaping up to have approximately 200 attendees this year,” Leader says. “We’re very happy with that because historically attendance has been around 100 people. To double that really shows the level of value we’re creating for our industry.”

“We want to make sure we’re advancing our industry and passenger experience with the latest in technology and connectivity—making certain that we’re advancing together,” he adds.

This year’s event includes workshops, case studies and breakout sessions in addition to the usual discussion panels. And, attendees and speakers can look forward to more networking opportunities than in the past.

“Each day will start with a

high-speed networking and coffee breakfast. It will create a natural rotation for our attendees to meet new people and make new connections,” Leader explains.

APEX TECH has an impressive lineup of speakers and discussions organized, featuring Helga Bjarnadóttir of Icelandair, Dirk Ottens from Lufthansa Systems, and Ekrem Dimbiloglu of Delta Air Lines. Leader tells PAX Tech that Xia Cai, Qatar Airways Senior Vice President of Product Development, and Emirates’ Patrick Brannelly, Senior Vice President of Retail, IFE, & Connectivity, will also be in attendance as speakers. The detailed schedule can be found online

“We have a total of nine interactive working groups over the two days, organized so that attendees can select the topics they want to focus on. We have incredible industry leaders that will be the facilitators,” Leader says.

Each table has a note-taker and will be headed up by an airline, shar-

ing insights and case studies that not only benefit the airlines, but ultimately passengers. The results of each working group will be shared with attendees at the end, allowing them to learn from each group even if they cannot attend that specific topic.

“We believe that this APEX TECH will be the launch pad of what we’re calling APEX 365. Our members will have the ability to reach out, connect and have constant interaction after our events with other members through our APEX membership portal,” says Leader.

Panasonic is the headline partner for the event. Additional sponsors include Touch Inflight Solutions, Boeing, IMMFLY, the Hub Spafax and West Entertainment

PAX Tech speaks with APEX CEO Dr. Joe Leader about what to expect at APEX TECH APEX CEO Dr. Joe Leader
Dynamic collaboration at APEX TECH.




From onboard caterers to connectivity and all the latest in aircraft cabins, the PAX Readership Awards will once again recognize those in the industry that go above and beyond.

The award winners will be announced on Wednesday May 29, 2024 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Hamburg.

Award winners will be featured in a special spread, as well as in our e-Newsletter.


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