In 2020, the world’s relationship with the sensation of touch changed dramatically. Now airlines and airports around the globe are embracing—at a safe distance, of course—all the ways travelers can fly with as little risk of illness transmission as possible.
Touchless check-in and baggage drop, biometric scanning, and even self-serve temperature checks at pre-boarding are just a few examples of how touchless travel is changing the way pandemic-era passengers will experience flying.
Touchless in-flight entertainment (IFE) has presented a broader challenge, particularly when a seatback IFE screen is involved—but the industry is gaining ground on adaptations. A host of touchless and less-touch solutions in IFE are set to change things up considerably in 2021 and beyond. Here are four essential innovations your airline should know about.
The linguistic difference between “touchless” and “less-touch” may seem like a minor distinction, especially with so many parts of the travel journey requiring at least a degree of touch. In reality, IFE stakeholders everywhere are working diligently to bridge the gap between the two.
For something as personal and intimate as seatback IFE, reducing touching to the fullest extent possible while still ensuring that passengers are totally in control of their own screen, will be key.
Panasonic Avionics’ recently launched Welcome Aboard Collection takes the less-touch IFE experience a step further with Active Surfaces. Information displays, ornate lighting design, and even seat and IFE controls can be embedded smoothly and seamlessly into seat and galley walls or panels.
Active Surfaces doesn’t require you to choose between hygiene and elegance. Crevices and gaps created by high-touch buttons—areas where debris could collect—are eliminated, meaning that Active Surfaces makes the cabin environment easier to clean and sanitize by both cabin crew and passengers alike. This is particularly important now, where even a stray speck of dirt could cause passengers to lose trust in an airline’s enhanced cleaning protocols.
When it comes to less-touch IFE, high-traffic surfaces are just the tip of the iceberg.
With a number of carriers announcing plans to expand their IFE offerings by allowing passengers to stream content directly to their personal electronic devices (PEDs) in-flight without first downloading the airline app, PED-based solutions are essential to airlines’ IFE strategies.
Ease of use and reliability will be hugely important here as well, particularly with older and non-tech-savvy passengers.
Our “app-less” solution for eXW tackles both of those issues head-on by wirelessly streaming copy-protected media directly to passengers’ personal devices in-flight without the need to download the airline app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
Offering passengers a safe, easy to navigate, and ultimately frictionless IFE solution they can enjoy on their device without downloading another app is a win-win for everyone.
Socially distanced, less-touch communications between passengers and flight crews via passengers’ PEDs have also been popular during COVID-19. While a number of seat-to-crew communication solutions were fast-tracked due to the pandemic, the innovation looks to be at the start of an enduring trend.
These solutions encompass everything from in-flight retail and digital trolley services, to seat-to-crew text and video chats similar to the Room Service Video Call solution pioneered through our partnership with a leading airline in 2017.
PED as IFE Remotes
Another less-touch innovation gaining traction with pandemic-era passengers right now is app-based, PED-as-IFE-remote solutions.
Highlighting this trend, a panel discussion at last fall’s World Aviation Festival, which featured industry experts from Panasonic Avionics, Viasat, Emirates, and El Al Israel Airlines, noted that PED/IFE integration is going to play a “critical” role in any successful IFE solution moving forward.
This can be done either by pairing PEDs to a seatback IFE screen or by using PEDs as IFE portals. Aside from doubling as remotes, PED-friendly companion apps that incorporate digital publications, IFE content, and even wellness trackers should also prove to be hugely popular with passengers.
While the pandemic has presented many challenges, the truth is that less-touch IFE innovations like these have been a long time coming.
Expect to see an increase in the number of less-touch IFE solutions in commercial aviation in 2021 and the coming years as the industry strives to make passengers and flight crews feel safer and more connected.