How Connected Aircraft Solutions Can Influence the Digital Transformation of Airlines

Over the past 10 years, commercial airline operators have increasingly embraced the use of connected aircraft technologies to deliver solutions that reduce costs, increase profitability, and ensure compliance. Owing to its ever surging popularity, the global connected aircraft market was valued at $4.18 billion in 2019.

Getting information promptly on and off an aircraft helps airlines in optimising their operational efficiencies. Furthermore, it allows them to overcome the “last mile” challenge of integrating the aircraft with the carrier’s IT infrastructure. In holistically catering to every aspect of the aircraft’s processes, connected aircraft technologies positively influence manufacturers, airlines, and travellers. In addition to the aforementioned, they also have a plethora of other environmental benefits such as lower fuel consumption and emissions. Moreover, real-time data aids personnel in monitoring both internal and extraneous factors that could impact the aircraft.

Early implementations tended to focus on electronic flight bag (EFB) cockpit-based applications such as the electronic flight folderjourney log, and techlog, which could bring immediate tangible benefits to flight operations. Increasingly, however, the same technology is being applied in the cabin area to strengthen solutions in passenger relationship management (PRM), cabin sales, and cabin defect management. This opens up new opportunities for enhanced revenue streams in addition to savings and compliance. A study by the London School of Economics predicted that connected aircraft software could result in additional revenue of $30 billion for airlines by the year 2035, due to its phenomenal advantages.

While the commercial airline sector represents the largest cohort implementing connected aircraft solutions to date, other aviation companies in areas such as business jets, cargo/courier services, air and sea rescue, private fleets and even military airlines are now adopting the same technologies. They have the same objectives to reduce costs, maintain compliance, and potentially increase revenues but also have some unique, industry-specific challenges that require innovative solutions.

The future for connected aircraft technologies seems so promising that research and development centres have begun to explore ways in which:

– Aviation might tap into the power of commercial communication infrastructures.

– Independent systems could rely on situational awareness of this novel technology, which enables aircraft to operate in a methodical manner.

For most companies, there will be a common set of applications that can bring immediate advantages. Electronic flight folders, journey logs, and most EFB solutions deliver improvements that are common across all fleets. Similarly, onboard techlog solutions integrated with ground-based MRO systems will deliver significant savings and competencies regardless of industry. Solutions focused on revenue growth will only be of interest to operators with a sales focus.

For connected aircraft solutions companies like Flightman, this represents a new and growing opportunity to expand beyond the traditional flag carrier and low-cost airline base, to venture into more specialised markets.

Cargo operators, for example, have different requirements for integration with unique ground-based applications as opposed to traditional airline baggage and cargo systems. Business jet operators require enhanced integration with their sales and CRM systems, particularly in the area of passenger relationship management. On a similar note, these technologies would go a long way in streamlining operations in the military sector by ensuring the security and efficacy of complex functions. Insofar as the air ambulance sector is concerned, EFB technology would simplify the management of required publications, whilst monumentally decreasing the time required for pre-flight planning, and post-flight paperwork.

With the devastating effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the commercial sector, there is now a growing awareness of the challenges faced by operators. However, it also opens new avenues for existing solutions and introduces innovative applications that can be utilised to deliver efficiencies across all aviation sectors, delivering similar savings, compliance, and increased profitability that commercial airlines have experienced.

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