Aircraft interiors and flight connectivity – a move to personal digital devices started pre-COVID and is expected to accelerate in the post-COVID environment

Aircraft interiors will look fairly similar in the post-COVID environment. We may see increased privacy in business class cabins, a rise in premium economy offerings, but for Economy travellers there will be no obvious changes to the human eye – even those middle seats will be occupied.

However, once seated there may be one obvious change – the absence of a seat-back television. Over the past decade we have all enjoyed the opportunity of advancing technology, using touch-screens rather than fighting with a small remote. Well, the coronavirus pandemic could help the continued evolution, moving away from such devices to the greater use of individual personal devices.

It is clear there will still be some significant changes to the customer experience as air travel recovers. Hygiene practices will be the most obvious, but the in-flight entertainment offer will also adapt. Airlines are realising that content which was available pre-COVID-19 is unlikely to return as content creation and delivery has been altered and customer needs have changed.

Ahead of the pandemic there was already a trend towards travellers using their own personal devices rather than the options offered by airlines. Many airlines were already not installing seat-back screens on aircraft dedicated to short-haul routes, some had started offering app based content to stream on personal devices.

This will become the new normal for in-flight entertainment with airlines unlikely to deliver content to aircraft in the future and instead managing everything via a mobile app. Alongside the raw content this will also allow them to better manage, communicate and offer personal engagement with travellers across multiple channels, including food and beverage purchases, moving maps, crew engagement, travel notifications etc.

OEMs have become very efficient at adapting as their experience during the pandemic has illustrated. Kai-Chin Shih, head of interiors research at CAPA – Centre for Aviation said that right from the start of the pandemic they have been “creative in coming up with different types of solutions aimed at changing the perception of flying,”, including seat blockers, redesigned air nozzles and individual bubbles for every seat.

Speaking during the Nov-2020 edition of CAPA Live – a monthly virtual summit, offering insights, information, data and live interviews with airline CEOs and industry executives across a next-gen virtual event platform – Mr Shih stated supporting the use of inflight mobile phones, tablets and other personal electronic devices in the cabin was the aircraft interior response to passenger concerns about biosecurity in the cabin that has most potential to stick around once the impact of COVID-19 on travel fades.

You can learn more in his full CAPA presentation:

CAPA Live screens on the second Wednesday of every month throughout 2021, bringing together thousands of aviation professionals to listen and interact with industry leaders. You can access the agenda and register for the latest edition and archive content here: CAPA Live

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