The Airline Passenger Experience Expo (APEX) prides itself on being the industry’s largest event for passenger experience products and services. This year’s conference offered a look inside the technologies of today and the potential advancements of tomorrow. During the pre-expo conference, the APEX association announced its strategic priorities, which include biometrics, connectivity, personalization and seating comfort, signaling the opportunities that are top-of-mind for passenger experience solutions firms. We welcome you to take a look at some of the companies, products and topics that we found noteworthy from this year’s expo, and, as always, we welcome questions or a conversation.



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WiFi: Is the future free?

Aer Lingus is introducing free WiFi on transatlantic flights.

(Delta CEO statement from the Skift Global Forum) He also announced that Delta will offer free WiFi in the future, but no date was given.


“I don’t know of anywhere else besides in an airplane that you can’t get free WiFi.”

JetBlue’s WiFi is free, in keeping with their ethos of a seamless experience.


Inmarsat’s Inflight Connectivity Survey reports that more than 2/3 of passengers would become repeat customers if quality WiFi was available onboard.

There’s a movement toward connecting crew, not just passengers.

Delta has a hand held device, SkyPro, that provides crew with specific passenger information, like data regarding when a passenger has been inconvenienced, empowering crew to turn the experience into a good one.


Airbus showed off its Connected Cabin concept. It features an ecosystem approach, where vendors can build on its base to create a more digital environment, enabling features such as reclined seat tracking and inventory management to save time and increase efficiency.


In our own booth, we demonstrated LiFi as a possible new connectivity solution for the cabin environment. LiFi is up to 100 times faster than WiFi, making downloading movies and other entertainment content lightening fast.

If you missed our visionary, blue sky report on more ideas for the future of flight, take a look.


GoGo displayed their connectivity system, which includes the Astronics CSC CWAP and ACPU-2 server.

Learn more about Astronics CSC connectivity solutions >>

With 12-25 versions of each title (versions include different languages, resolutions, etc.), content adds up to large amounts of data. Some have been moving this data to the cloud, enabling easier updates with remote editing and direct-to-plane delivery.

Boeing showed their commercial and military fleets via VR headsets.





Disney Channel




NFL Network




American Airlines is now delivering 12 stations of live TV on more than 100 of its aircraft
According to a study by OAG, 44% of travelers want Amazon to enter the travel market because of their simple user experience.

New ideas for windowless aircraft are gaining momentum, like the printed electronics concept being promoted by Centre for Process Innovation (CPI).

In contrast, GKN Aerospace is partnering with Fokker to develop the Skyview Panoramic Window, the largest airplane window on the market.

Several headphone manufacturers displayed products, but the big news was that American Airlines’ international first and business class passengers will no longer receive Bose headphones as the company makes an exit from the aerospace industry. Instead, American will provide the Bang and Olufsen H9i model.


Lufthansa’s FlyingLab flew into the show carrying some interesting forward-looking ideas. The Feelflight blanket is a prototype technology that aims to increase the well-being of passengers on long-haul flights. Controllable via a user interface on personal devices, individually tempered zones allow the passengers to define their personal comfort. It also features an embedded silent alarm function, which wakes up the passenger with gentle impulses.

The Rockwell Collins Valkyrie Bed, a business class solution, is a comfortable seat for working and eating, then enables the passenger to fold the seat away and sleep on a full size mattress, stowed in the console.

Calm, the winner of Apple’s best iPhone app of the year in 2017, has partnered with American Airlines to deliver inflight audio and video relaxation and meditation exercises. Currently there are three sessions available that were created specifically to help travelers find some calm.


A new sensory room has been opened in Gatwick Airport, offering a calming environment for passengers with special needs such as autism.

Fabrics traditionally for the home were on display as a suggestion for incorporation into the airplane. While these specific samples weren’t ready for commercial use, Mills Textiles will work to recreate more durable versions of the fabrics.

Aeromexico has put the whole customer journey at the forefront of their strategy. Interested to deliver a quality passenger experience from booking through post-travel, the airline developed a new site and app, which contributed to a 3x increase in their direct ticket e-commerce sales in the last 4 years. Other airlines are also focused on developing cohesive experiences beyond the flight.


AA said their Premium Economy class is doing very well and that

they believe carry ons should be assumed, not extra.

Brian Richardson, APEX Past President and Sr. Director, Marketing Customer Experience, Onboard Products & Partnerships of American Airlines, in a presentation during the educational sessions, noted their

investment in their lounges, clearly signaling the importance of the whole experience for their brand.

Southwest has integrated Lyft into their app in an effort to make the travel experience more seamless.

Renacen’s 3D Seat Map VR allows users to view their seat selection with a first-person view before booking.

Immfly introduced Immfly Lounge, which enables passengers to start watching a movie on the ground, then continue watching it while in flight within the same platform.

Spirit, according to APEX’s ratings, is the ‘Most Improved Airline.”

While Spirit’s previous CEO they’d never offer WiFi, their current CEO, Robert Fornero, says they are, and at reasonable prices- $6 for browsing, $10 for high speed. This low pricing is strategic, says Fornero, because they want it to be used: “Volume creates opportunity.”

They will also have free messaging.


The airline is investing in technology to serve a younger customer base

with the creation of an app, streamlining of their website, and more check-in kiosks.


Source: Track B: Invest in the Guest: Utilization of Technology to Enhance PaxEx by Joe Leader, CEO, APEX and Robert Fornaro, CEO, Spirit Airlines during Educational Sessions at APEX Expo 2018 on September 24, 2018


is on-time performance. Air Lingus’ Net Promotor Score (NPS), a customer satisfaction benchmark that summarizes the feedback of around 10,000 post-flight responses each month, shows that

on-time performance is more important than cleanliness.


PDT is an Astronics company. Astronics keeps people safe, comfortable, and connected every day through innovative technologies deployed on mission-critical systems. Our experts work side-by-side with customers to solve challenges with creative, integrated solutions engineered from our array of power, connectivity, lighting, structure, test, and other technologies. If you’ve flown on a plane, used a smart phone, or are familiar with any military systems, you’ve experienced the innovation of Astronics.


Below is a sample of technology solutions from Astronics on display at this year’s APEX EXPO.

Would you like to speak to one of our team members about your product development initiatives?


Contributors: Gil Cavada, George Guffey, Erik Moses, Nicole Byer, Jake Vail, John Hannon

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