The latest development in in-flight entertainment (IFE)—a sleek
product named iPAX—wants to make it impossible for airlines to ignore
the large number of passengers sitting on their planes staring at
some-shade-of-blue covers on the seat in front of them.
The new iPAX by Lumexis
is a modern wIFE (wireless IFE) system which offers passengers a
selection of high-definition entertainment on thin, light-weight
seat-back screens. As a plus for passengers, wIFE systems don’t need
those under-seat boxes which gobble-up precious legroom.
Besides entertainment content, airlines can display moving maps, add
food and beverage menus, and play amusing safety videos on the iPAX
system (as long as they’re Air New Zealand or a Virgin brand).
Lumexis’ product pitch is meant to tempt cost-conscious airlines by
using words like “ultra-low cost” and “light-weight,” two sure-fire
winners. But iPAX’s creators back up their marketing-speak with
impressive numbers. The ultra-low price is $1,495 a pop and the
ultra-light weight is 8.9 ounces.
If you’re wondering why $1,495 for something smaller than a tablet is
a good deal, we should explain that aircraft interiors products are
pricey: very pricey compared to consumer products. Aviation
certification requirements make research, development, and production
expensive. As aircraft interiors products go, this price is a bargain.
The iPAX’s screens project 1080 pixel video and options include a
2.1A USB charging port and a credit card reader to encourage that
in-flight shopping. Lumexis CEO, Doug Cline, suggests airlines could
earn “significant new ancillary revenue from offering a diversity of
products and services.”
Lou Sharkey, President and COO of Lumexis, points out that the
iPAX “costs less than a conventional overhead monitor system and weighs
half as much, so the revenue it generates drops directly to the bottom
There are plenty of airlines for Lumexis to target. “Some
three-fourths of single-aisle aircraft fly on short-to-medium haul
routes that could never before benefit from embedded IFE,” Cline says.
That’s a lot of passengers staring at the embroidered seat belt
instructions, tempted to pull on that one lose thread which unravels the
lot. These are hidden costs for airlines without IFE systems—spare seat
covers are not cheap.
But will airlines buy into the pitch?
Most carriers have employed a strategy based on the discipline of
high-revenue cabin footprint. To the layman, that means squeezing
profits out of every inch of cabin space. Airlines have increased this
footprint revenue by adding seats, but regulations limit how many seats
airlines can put on planes. To airlines, this means getting creative and
taking advantage of other revenue-generating opportunities like adding
inexpensive, cost-reducing, ancillary-revenue-generating IFE systems.
Lumexis is not making this argument alone. IFE suppliers from around
the world want to make it impossible for airlines to bore us in-flight.
The battle of the seat back has led to development of a wide
assortment of products, many of them tempting to airlines who would
never have considered IFE before.
Organizers of the Aircraft Interiors Expo have announced that this
year’s IFE zone will be 25% larger than last year’s—reflecting the
importance of these systems for today’s cabin design. Zero-footprint
cabin products will continue to grow and industry experts say wIFE
solutions, like iPAX, will become an essential element of the modern IFE
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