Today, we looked at two articles about the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) future of air travel.
In the first article, Engadget pondered a new Boeing 737-900 plane (pictured above) operated by United, whose "Personal device entertainment is coming soon." In the second article, CNET discussed U.K. airline Monarch's new app, called "MPlayer," which lets you mount your own tablet into the seat in front of you (see below photo).
BYOD makes sense for airlines, but only if they offer free and/or high-quality in-flight Wi-FI.
BYOD makes sense for airlines because it allows them to cut the expensive cost of implementing seat-back TVs and the ongoing cost of managing screens and content for passengers. Instead, airlines can focus on bringing on-demand Wi-Fi service to passengers. Airlines argue that as people bring their own devices on board, the planes will be lighter and thus fuel costs will decrease.
But BYOD is not perfect. In the case of MPlayer, passengers connect to pre-uploaded content via the app upon boarding. "Once connected, the MPlayer media bundle costs just £4 (around $6.70 or AU$7) per person per flight, and gives you access to five blockbuster Hollywood movies, and 50 episodes of BBC television programmes," wrote CNET's Rich Trenholm "There's also more than 50 albums in there if you fancy a mid-air musical interlude."
This model fails for a number of reasons:
- Many users don't have their own tablet to mount into the seat in front of them.
- Users equipped with tablets often upload their own movies or TV shows to watch in-flight for free.
- "Monarch installed new seats in May with a handy tablet-sized slot replacing the in-flight entertainment. The seats don't recline, safeguarding the knees of the person behind you." Since when is an airline seat that doesn't recline a benefit to the passenger sitting in it?
The best way to implement BYOD for air travel is to start slowly.
- Airlines should treat it as not a replacement to the old service, but rather a phase-in of a new option.
- It shouldn't require an extra charge, at least not to start. As previously mentioned, users are not likely to pay to try it out.
- Perhaps the airline could offer the same content, but the benefit is you can opt for a bigger screen, better controls and higher resolution.
The best possible BYOD model is for airlines to offer expected in-flight entertainment for free, with a paid upgrade option.
Ultimately, the airline's goal is to deliver a great (and cost effective) flight experience. Being seen has having up-to-date aircraft is vital to that experience. If a passenger has a poor experience related to in-flight TV or if they feel overcharged for something, these are obviously major detractors to the overall experience.
The best possible model is for the airlines to give their passengers a great in-flight experience by freely offering the things that are expected and upgrade options that will delight them. This will keep the planes full and the people coming back.