ZIPAIR is scheduled to fly its first passengers tomorrow morning. The Japanese low-cost carrier will be providing WiFi free of charge, and has teamed up with Collins Aerospace to allow passengers to order items in flight from their own smart devices. Simple Flying caught up with Nicole Grainger from Collins Aerospace to find out more about how the system works, and its benefits to passengers.
ZIPAIR is preparing for takeoff
Japanese low-cost carrier ZIPAIR is gearing up for its first passenger flights. Having flown for some months with only cargo onboard, tomorrow will see the airline take to the skies with its first passengers. The maiden flight will operate from Tokyo’s Narita airport to Seoul Incheon at 09:15 local time.
Passengers onboard will be delighted with the low-cost carrier’s decision to provide Panasonic’s WiFi free of charge. Not only that, but they will also be able to order their buy on board items via their personal smart devices, cutting down on interaction with crew for COVID safety confidence.
ZIPAIR President Shingo Nishida commented on the technology, saying,
“ZIPAIR’s priority and vision is to enhance the inflight experience and empower passengers with on-demand services. ZIPAIR believes that the introduction of this system will provide passengers with a peace of mind to fly, and enhance the confidence and comfort of passengers by minimizing physical contact and touchpoints in the cabin.”
The system has been designed in partnership with Collins Aerospace and makes ZIPAIR the first low-cost carrier to introduce a self-ordering system such as this.
How does it work?
Simple Flying caught up with Nicole Grainger from Collins Aerospace to find out more about this exciting system. Nicole heads up Strategic Marketing for Collins Aerospace Inflight Connectivity and Cabin Operations portfolios, so has been very hands-on in the development of this technology with ZIPAIR.
The system, which she calls the Electronic Cabin Bag (ECB), works through the onboard wireless network. Passengers, on their personal smart devices, will be presented with a portal, in the same way they would to access content such as inflight entertainment. From there, they have visibility of the entire onboard catalog, including food and beverage service as well as duty-free.
The ordering process is simple. Passengers simply select what they want from the catalog and pay for it via the online portal. Crew, who on ZIPAIR are equipped with personal devices themselves, will receive the order and prepare it for the customer. The items are then delivered to the seat, massively reducing the physical transactions necessary for buy on board. Nicole explained,
“There’s no physical transaction of either currency or credit cards or any payment devices, so you’ve only got that one physical transaction of delivery.”
Reduced interaction between crew and passengers is a high priority for many airlines right now, in a bid to keep both employees and their customers safe. However, losing out on that revenue, particularly for a low-cost carrier, is a painful proposition. This solution from Collins is a clear win-win for both passengers and the airline.
Better passenger experience
Ordering inflight products via smartphones is not merely a COVID safe measure. As studies have shown, transmission risk onboard aircraft is incredibly low, thanks to the unique way airplanes filter and circulate the cabin air. Even so, it’s a positive measure to give passengers confidence when traveling.
More important than that, however, is the improved passenger experience that’s possible through this solution. Nothing is more frustrating than perusing the menu, picking a product and flagging down cabin crew to place the order, only to discover it’s out of stock.
The ECB system avoids this situation by keeping track of what’s onboard. Nicole explained,
“The inventory is checked before the aircraft takes off. During the flight, as items are ordered, and they the quantity reduces. If something is out of stock, the passenger won’t be able to see it in the catalog.
“It cuts down on the awkward interaction from the crew perspective where they’re having to try and find out if there is an item on board, and dealing with the passenger if it isn’t. It’s a familiar way of ordering that we’re used to on the ground; if you can have it there, then why not in flight?”
Will we see more of this?
ZIPAIR is set to be the launch customer for this system when it finally begins passenger flights. It’s a solution that has broad applicability across the industry, so are we likely to see it on other airlines soon? Nicole said,
“Some of the functionality was developed with ZIPAIR. We are in the final stages of making it ready and available to the wider market.”
Indeed, Collins is already in discussions with some other airlines about the technology, so we could see a similar solution rolled out more widely in the coming months.
Do you think this is a better way to order your buy on board products? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.