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PEX 2015: A change in attitude is needed for a future connected passenger experience

Richard Seymour, industry heavyweight and founder of design consultancy SeymourPowell, led a captivating introduction to the fourth Passenger Experience Conference in Hamburg.

A passionate flyer, designer and opinionated keynote speaker, Seymour acknowledged that the industry, especially when it comes to the passenger experience is lagging behind, partly hindered by the regulatory bodies but also by key designers, manufacturers and suppliers.“I don’t care about how flat the bed is, it’s still uncomfortable,” he stated as an example of the perceived lack of detail to the overall passenger experience.“It’s not enough to do what we have been doing, we have to step sideways to innovate,” he said.“The industry needs to reach further and beyond current thinking to deliver the passenger experience of the future, to actively engage with them.”He acknowledged the very real lag time of getting new products and services to the market, but said this was no excuse. From his experience, many far East companies have a different philosophy, a real drive to “start to think earlier” he said and to address very real passenger concerns. The aim of much design throughout the entire cabin he suggested has to be to misdirect passengers away from the bad to focus on the good, to reconnect with the experience of flying in a romantic way, much as it used to be.“We have to stand in the future with people who know what they’re doing.”Adrian Berry, creative director of FactoryDesign, also support a similar view saying that “the industry is not good at taking on new things.”For all of the keynote speakers however, the most apparent bugbear was the regulatory bodies that many said hinder the two year or so period of delivery time for new products and services.“It is difficult to integrate these elements,” noted Zuzana Hrnkova, head of aircraft interiors and marketing for Airbus. “We have much more flexible ways of adapting product to the airframe, much more communication and it's moving in the right track but there are lots of areas of improvement.”“The key challenge is to manage the certification of new products much more efficiently,” she added.
This is also compounded by the challenge that Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, pointed out: “that the hardware guys cannot keep up with the media and telecoms market.” This constant catch-up between the technology and expectations of passengers will drive the IFE and aircraft innovation forward.Time and again, as first noted in Seymour’s opening speech, the difficulty of marrying passengers needs and expectations of IFE with the rapidly evolving world of what the technology can achieve, will prove to be the hardest challenge of the industry.Piers Townley,Editor, inflight-online.com

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