Keeping passengers entertained and safe in the age of COVID

March 29, 2021
After a year of social distancing and limited travel, people are yearning to stretch their legs and broaden their horizons by once again taking to the skies and seeing the world.

NASHUA, N.H. - After a year of social distancing and limited travel, people are yearning to stretch their legs and broaden their horizons by once again taking to the skies and seeing the world.

While the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, a sizeable minority of Americans plan to opt to wait until the nation reaches herd immunity. According to a Harris Poll commissioned by USA Today, 25 to 30% of Americans don't plan to dine out or fly until herd immunity is reached.

This means carriers will still be fighting a smaller portion of passengers than before the pandemic, and good in-flight entertainment (IFE) factors heavily into passenger satisfaction.

Today’s passengers expect trouble-free connectivity for personal devices and airlines are challenged to keep pace with the technology that can achieve that goal,” said Michael Taylor, the travel practice lead at J.D. Power in the company's North American Airline Satisfaction Study in 2018. “This is important because passengers are far more likely to have a positive experience with an airline if they are entertained during their flight.”

In February, Qatar Airways announced it would be offering 100% zero-touch IFE via its Oryx One system in its Airbus A350 flight.

The Zero-Touch technology, introduced in partnership with the Thales AVANT IFE system, will enable A350 passengers to pair their personal electronic devices (PEDs) with their seat-back IFE screen by connecting to ‘Oryxcomms’ Wi-Fi and simply scanning a QR code displayed on the screen. They can then use their PEDs to navigate and enjoy more than 4,000 options on offer through the airline’s IFE system, limiting the frequency of on-board surface contact.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, said of the announcement, “As an industry leader in the fight against COVID-19 and the first global airline to recently achieve a 5-Star rating in the coveted Skytrax Airline Safety Rating, Qatar Airways is committed to ensuring the highest standards of safety and hygiene on board its aircraft at all times.

“The introduction of the state-of-the-art Zero-Touch technology and enabling passengers to use their personal Bluetooth headset on board is an important step in taking our already rigorous and stringent COVID-19 precautions to another level, limiting passenger surface contact and preventing any possible spread of infection on board.

“We hope it provides yet further assurance of the safety of air travel, as well as offering passengers on board increased confidence that they are enjoying the most consistently advanced customer experience available in the sky.”

A touch-free experience can start for passengers before boarding airplanes too. Last fall, Collins Aerospace announced its new Kiosk Connect solution.

Like Qatar Airways' IFE system, passengers use their mobile device to check in. By simply scanning a QR code, passengers can quickly connect to a common use kiosk using either the airport’s public Wi-Fi or the kiosk’s built-in Wi-Fi, with no requirement to download any apps. From there, users complete the check-in process on their phones and produce boarding passes and bag tags without ever touching the kiosk screen.

“When combined with our secure biometric solutions and self-service airport products, this new feature enables travelers to experience a contactless airport journey all the way from check-in to boarding,” said LeAnn Ridgeway, vice president and general manager, Information Management Services for Collins Aerospace. “As we work to help the aviation industry rebuild passenger confidence in flying, it’s incredibly important to us to provide solutions to improve safety and which are easy to use.”

About the Author

Jamie Whitney

Jamie Whitney joined the staff of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Intelligent Aerospace. He brings seven years of print newspaper experience to the aerospace and defense electronics industry.

Whitney oversees editorial content for the Intelligent Aerospace Website, as well as produce news and features for Military & Aerospace Electronics, attend industry events, produce Webcasts, oversee print production of Military & Aerospace Electronics, and expand the Intelligent Aerospace and Military & Aerospace Electronics franchises with new and innovative content.

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