The world of aircraft connectivity and avionics are starting to consolidate. This morning, ViaSat acquired Arconics, a provider of software solutions to the aviation industry. Through this acquisition ViaSat gains a connected aircraft software platform that includes wireless In-flight Entertainment (IFE), Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), Airline Document Management and Cabin Management solutions, as well as software expertise and seasoned personnel.
Currently Arconics serves: Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Philippine Airlines, Tigerair Australia, SpiceJet and others – and tens of thousands of pilots, ground staff and cabin crew members, across five continents, depend on Arconics software to safely and efficiently operate their fleets.
Prior to the acquisition, Arconics had a partnership with ViaSat, primarily focused on serving the wireless IFE needs of multiple airline customers. Post-acquisition, ViaSat expects to also offer airlines real-time insight, control and agility of aircraft and flight data with highly-integrated, high-customization aircraft operations tools that tap into the power of ViaSat’s advanced high capacity Ka-band satellite network, which has more capacity in orbit than any other in-flight WiFi provider.
In our view this move moves the focus of connectivity from the cabin to the flight-deck. Cabin use of the in-flight WiFi does not match the cost of the service to make the numbers work. As the prices for connectivity rise, many people simply don’t use it. Unless, of course, your employer picks up the tab hoping you are working while flying. For an airline to optimize value from in-flight connectivity, the flight crew should be using it. The flight-deck is the obvious place to start. Real-time access to weather and low cost messaging can only improve flight efficiency. Then there is growing use of in-flight connectivity by the cabin crew. This means being able to deploy devices that drive CRM and really impact passengers’ view of the airline and its ability to service needs.
As our research has shown, many airlines see this value in the cabin. Air travel is an activity subject to many exogenous factors that can be disrupted. The ability of crews to assist customers with re-booking is but one example any travel can instantly see the value of. Information access for the crews enables other benefits too: for example the large, but deliberately under-reported, issue of credit card fraud.