2020 was a year no one had prepared for or expected. It disrupted everyone’s lives, businesses, and industries, and it required adaptability, flexibility, and change. We’re still figuring out our new normal and what business aviation will look like in a post-COVID world.
Around this time last year, many business aviation experts were identifying trends to watch in 2020 without COVID-19 on the radar. Let’s take a look back at what trends were expected, what really happened, and what we can look forward to with connectivity trends in business aviation in 2021.
Inflight Wi-Fi required
Overall customer satisfaction in both business and commercial aviation has become closely tied with Wi-Fi connections and capabilities – meaning inflight Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury but a requirement for passenger satisfaction. The internet service must also be fast and reliable as these customers are used to being available and connected at all times.
With changes brought on by the pandemic, we’re seeing customers use inflight Wi-Fi in vastly differently ways than they did a year ago. Customers are using their connection to host virtual meetings or using the aircraft upon landing as an alternate office space to conduct work instead of going to an office or the FBO, and even flying more mid-level people to and from company meetings to maximize productivity while keeping employees safe.
This year, we also saw a continual uptick in the importance of onboard Wi-Fi with customers marking it as one of the top three things they need for a satisfactory flight. Crew, catering, and connectivity are consistently top-of-mind for business aviation customers. In fact, one of our corporate flight department customers told us a story about how he pointed to an aircraft’s engine and told his Director of Maintenance, “I want that to stop working before the Wi-Fi does.”
Inflight internet needs to be as sophisticated and secure as connections on the ground. Improving security and protecting connections has been a big focus in 2020. Anyone connecting to the internet needs to feel that their data is protected and safe, and possibly need to connect to a VPN to further protect business information, without disrupting download and upload speeds.
Even here at Gogo this year we worked to improve Wi-Fi network management with the release of Gogo MIX, ensuring better password protection for the networks and then giving customers the power to monitor the health of the systems in Gogo DASH.
All on board using it
The focus in the past has been how customers and end-users are connecting to the internet but there’s been a gradual change toward everyone onboard logging on, whether that’s pilots checking their own apps, crew communicating with their teams back on the ground, as well as passengers having the ability to connect to stay on top of business or enjoy some downtime with inflight entertainment.
This trend proved true as pretty much everyone onboard is connecting to the internet and now we’re seeing even more devices connecting and consuming more data. In the past, many customers just connected a work laptop to check and send email, but these days customers are connecting to the internet with their laptops, tablets, and phones, all for different purposes.
Remote support and smarter systems
Support was another hot trend this year with technological advancements focused on remote support and proactive support, such as the provider being alerted to a potential problem and dispatching a solution before the customer realizes they have an issue.
While the pandemic did put a pause on the development of smarter support systems, we expect to see support services evolve and become a focus in 2021.
Exceeding expectations in service with scalable networks
As the demand for faster, better service grows, networks will have to be prepared for this growth in the number of devices connecting to the service and the amount of data passed back and forth. That’s where we’ll see the importance of 5G service coming into play to provide faster speeds and the reliability of redundancy on 4G and 3G to keep customers connected at all times and giving them access to the data they need.
A scalable network allows service providers, like Gogo, to harness the power of the best technology available today without sacrificing what’s already built and working for thousands of customers. It’s a continual investment into providing the best possible inflight experience for any business aviation customer at any budget.
Transforming the entire inflight experience
The connected aircraft is growing beyond the passengers in the cabin checking email, posting to social media, or looking up what to do when they land, and we expect to see this trend continue as corporate flight departments and charter operators learn how to use connectivity for their own operational needs, such as monitoring the aircraft’s health and status and continual communication with crew and pilots.
Inflight connectivity in business aviation will move past just benefitting the end customer or passengers and will begin to provide data and analytics that’s valuable for the operator, maintenance crew, and executives. Real-time and predictive analytics can help operators better understand their operations, their customers’ or passengers’ habits, and better monitor each and every aircraft to make smarter business decisions. Such insights could include real-time turbulence reports, so pilots adjust their routes and save fuel or understanding what food and beverage options are popular with customers to reduce waste.
Cloud-based innovation delivery
With remote working and the multitude of devices people use to get work done, it only makes sense that we’ll see even more dependence on cloud-based systems in 2021. We expect the next big frontier in this realm focused on using the cloud and smart systems to deliver a constant stream of new innovations in inflight connectivity and entertainment. At Gogo, we dipped our toes into that this year with the delivery of Cloudport, the smart box for updating Vision content.
We expect to see a rise in the adoption of augmented reality and virtual training sessions for the installation of inflight connectivity systems. Not only will this allow companies to follow social distancing guidelines, it will allow more flexibility in scheduling training.
In conclusion, connectivity is now more important than ever with remote working and the need to maximize productivity while onboard an aircraft. Fortunately, the advancement in inflight connectivity for business aviation has kept up with the demand and will continue to evolve to provide an ideal experience for all onboard.
We're looking forward to working hard on the launch of Gogo 5G and delighting customers with premium content through Vision 360. Is your aircraft ready for the innovations 2021 is going to bring?