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Old July 6th, 2009, 08:02 PM   #1
hkskyline
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MISC | Airlines Invest in Technology

Kiosks to Help Trace Baggage
1 July 2009
The Wall Street Journal



As airlines face their worst slump in years, carriers are slashing investments in information technology overall, but boosting spending in customer-oriented areas, according to a survey to be released today by SITA, an information-technology company owned by airlines, airports and their suppliers.

One result: Air travelers will soon be able to trace their checked luggage at self-service airport kiosks, in a development typical of airlines' push to use computer technology to boost customer service while cutting costs.

According to the survey of 116 airlines world-wide, the carriers' spending on information technology and telecommunications will drop to 1.7% of revenue this year, the lowest level since 2002, when there was an aviation-industry crisis after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The current downturn marks the first time since then that airline spending on technology posted a year-on-year decline, SITA said in a summary of the survey.

Airlines for years have invested billions of dollars in computers and data systems to handle back-office tasks that customers never see, such as seat reservations and ticket pricing. That back-office focus began changing a decade ago with the rise of Internet bookings.

Despite the cutbacks, passengers are seeing more self-service features. The SITA survey said that 60% of responding airlines now offer online check-in and 92% expect to offer the popular service within three years. Internet check-in allows travelers to select their seats up to one day before a flight, print boarding passes at home and avoid ticketing lines at airports. It also lets airlines cut their costs for airport staff and paper processing.

Mobile-phone services are a new growth area, with 38% of responding airlines saying they already offer notifications of flight status and delays via text messaging. Airlines are starting to use messaging to transmit encoded boarding passes directly to hand-held mobile devices, eliminating paper altogether.

Airlines are also beginning to cut costs by sharing self-service check-in kiosks. Until recently, airlines independently developed these units. SITA, which is a for-profit company owned collectively by more than 550 aviation-related companies, has been developing generic kiosks that all airlines can use, much as multiple banks now use common ATMs.

SITA Chairman Paul Coby, who is also chief information officer at British Airways PLC, said the effort illustrates a shift under way at SITA, which was founded in 1949 by 11 airlines to transmit flight information globally. Over the past decade, it has become a technology company serving the companies that own it. "We need to provide the technology to have the services people want," Mr. Coby said in an interview.

One example of this, he said, is the baggage-tracing kiosk, to be rolled out later this year. SITA in June demonstrated the unit, which will allow passengers to scan the bar codes on their luggage tags to learn the exact location of their bags. SITA says the device should allow travelers to report missing bags in less than two minutes. Today, it takes on average 45 minutes to report lost bags to an agent, according to SITA.

Software from SITA is widely used in the computer systems that read those bar codes and route bags. SITA and the International Air Transport Association, a global trade group, have been working recently to reduce the number of lost and delayed bags -- a problem that infuriates passengers and costs airlines almost $3 billion in 2008, according to SITA.

The IATA said Tuesday that its members posted a net loss of more than $3 billion in the first three months of this year. IATA predicted carriers will lose $9billion for the whole year. IATA and SITA have been cooperating to cut their members' costs by simplifying operations in airlines and at airports.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 09:37 AM   #2
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Mobile gadgets threaten in-flight entertainment

TAIPEI, July 22 (Reuters) - Airlines around the world now spend millions of dollars annually upgrading their inflight entertainment systems, but iPods and other mobile entertainment gadgets could render all that useless.

Besides bland airline food, one other certainty for most long-haul travelers flying in economy class has always been time passed with movies and games on a minuscule 5-inch screen provided by the airline.

However, with USB ports and a power socket increasingly common even for economy class passengers on carriers such as Singapore Airlines Ltd and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, the concept of in-flight entertainment could change.

Adding to the mix are plans by carriers such as Delta Air Lines Inc, which has begun offering an Internet connection on board, allowing passengers to continue tweeting and updating their Facebook status instead of flipping channels on the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.

Analysts call this content customization, where passengers are no longer limited to an airline's offerings in their in-flight entertainment systems and are able to pick and choose what they want to watch or do on board a flight.

Airlines, already badly hit by weak demand for air travel and volatile jet fuel prices, are likely to welcome the move, as it would allow them to save on costs such as licensing fees to production studios and maintenance fees.

"There're so many reasons for airlines to change the way it works right now," said Peter Harbinson, an analyst at the Centre of Asia-Pacific Aviation in Sydney. "The biggest advantage for airlines is the weight of the IFE equipment. Fuel burnt, regular engineering checks, and licensing fees to movie studios all add up to a considerable amount of money for airlines."

The growing popularity of low-cost netbook PCs and other mobile entertainment devices such as Apple Inc's iPod and other MP3 players could further hasten IFE's demise, as more and more airline passengers carry these gadgets with them when they travel.

GREATER COST SAVINGS

The biggest draw for airlines, industry watchers say, is that they could save money in tough economic times, while simultaneously disguising the change as a product enhancement.

Passengers engrossed with their laptop PCs and mobile entertainment devices that can be used continuously as a result of the power sockets on every seat could also free up cabin crew.

"I've heard stories about the number of crew on board each flight being cut by airlines after they introduced personal TVs on every seat," said Anthony Prakasam, an aviation consultant.

Low-cost airlines such as Ryanair Holdings PLC and AirAsia Bhd, always eager for a fresh revenue source, could also turn to installing USB ports and power sockets and charging for their use.

The biggest losers from the entire episode could be companies such as Rockwell Collins Inc and Panasonic Corp, which develop and build current in-flight entertainment systems but now look like they might have innovated themselves into obsolescence.

These companies have been on the forefront of encouraging airlines to install power sockets and USB ports onto every seat in the aircraft, but they could have to start looking at diversifying their work if they are to stay ahead, analysts say.

Possibilities include venturing into providing advertisers with an entrance into a space that has long been seen as the last bastion of a commercial-free world, broadcasting ads on large screens to a captive audience. But such a plan could backfire.

Khoa C. Huynh, 24, a self-professed airline geek, said he would want to turn off the in-flight entertainment system even more if he were forced to watch advertisements on board.

"I travel everywhere with my laptop, and being able to use it without having to worry about the battery dying on me is a great plus. I won't say I'll stop watching in-flight movies, but I suppose that could mean less time spent on it."
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 02:48 PM   #3
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i don't remember Cathay's new economy has USB ports do they? there is only a power socket the last time i flew CX's economy.......
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 07:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caelus View Post
i don't remember Cathay's new economy has USB ports do they? there is only a power socket the last time i flew CX's economy.......
I don't recall CX had them, but I rode AC in May and their revamped 767s had seat-back USB ports.
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Old February 1st, 2011, 04:59 PM   #5
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Airlines offer free in-flight Facebook; Gogo service tries to hook customers
1 February 2011
USA Today

SAN FRANCISCO -- Add Facebook to one of the few free in-flight services.

Starting today, seven major airlines are giving away the social network on their Wi-Fi networks all month, just as they would soft drinks and peanuts. It's part of a promotion with Gogo Inflight Internet.

The free Facebook service will be available on North American flights for Virgin America, United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, AirTran, US Airways and Alaska Airlines. Those who wish to use services other than Facebook must pay extra. Prices range from $4.95 for a short flight to $12.95 for a long one.

Facebook is the most-visited site via Gogo, which serves 1,100 commercial aircraft (or about 3,800 flights a day) and 5,000 private planes.

With more than 2,200 flights daily, Delta operates the largest fleet of Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft in the world.

Virgin, the first airline to launch a Wi-Fi fleet, says up to one- third of its passengers log on to Gogo. One of its more popular routes, San Francisco to Boston, is called the "nerd bird" by Virgin crew members.

The top task on Gogo is e-mail, Gogo says.

The promotion is the latest by Gogo to spread word of its service. In December, it teamed with Google to offer free Wi-Fi during the holidays on Virgin, American and AirTran flights.

In-flight Wi-Fi access has been available, and promoted, for several years. Yet many consumers either don't use it or remain dubious, thinking "it's too good to be true," says Glenn Fleishman, an analyst at market researcher Ars Technica.

Amy Cravens, an analyst at market researcher In-Stat, estimates 7% to 10% of passengers on Wi-Fi-equipped planes use the service.

"There is a lack of familiarity because of little marketing and concern among consumers that the quality does not measure up to the cost," she says.

The promotion is a bold gambit, Fleishman says, to get people interested in a service for free in hopes they'll pay for it later. "It's like one of those (free) HBO or Showtime preview weekends," he says. "They want to get people accustomed to it and hook them."

He says more flights can offer Wi-Fi, and the service could be better, especially for video streaming and video chat.

Only Virgin, with just 25 planes, Delta and AirTran offer full Wi- Fi, Fleishman says.

"This isn't like offering free Wi-Fi in a Starbucks," says Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo's chief marketing officer. "It is an expensive undertaking, and we are sensitive to reasonable pricing. It's like asking Verizon and AT&T to give away 4G" wireless network access.
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