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US Airways Lumexis trial: the clock is ticking

10th March 2009 - 07:03 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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US Airways yesterday formally launched its trial of the Lumexis FTTS (Fibre To The Screen) fibreoptic-based in-seat IFE system.

Installed on a single Airbus A320 in January (Inflight Online, February 4), the low-weight, high-bandwidth system will be available for 60 days to passengers flying between Santa Ana (California), Phoenix and Atlanta. As implemented on the 150-seat A320, FTTS will offer 227 options totalling more than 250 hours of content: 30 films, 86 television programmes, four audio books, 100 music CDs and seven games.

US Airways is keen to assess the revenue-generation potential of the system and will activate payment for premium content later in the trial. Passengers will be able to select content via the touchscreen and pay for it by swiping a debit or credit card through an in-seat unit. The airline plans to try out multiple pricing options during the trial.
   
The airline is ensuring that passengers know they are seeing something out of the ordinary. Tray-table liners provide instructions on how to use the system, and specially trained flight attendants and a Lumexis representative are present on all flights to answer questions. A survey included in the system invites passengers to comment on their entertainment preferences and suggest possible system improvements.
   
“We’re proud to have contributed to the development of this system,” says Andrew Nocella, US Airways’ senior VP for marketing and planning. “During the trial we plan to learn more about the programming our customers want and how they want to pay for it. We’ll be testing bundled pay-per-use and a la carte pay-per-view options at different price points. The data we gather will also help us determine our long-term domestic in-flight entertainment plans.”

The airline has been preparing its evaluation of the Lumexis system since 2006, according to Michael Planey of HMPlaney Consultants, retained by US Airways to manage the selection, development and implementation of new IFE and connectivity offerings. “The airline has been actively looking for new IFE solutions for a long time,” he says.

Under current plans the system will be removed from the aircraft at the end of the trial, and US Airways has yet to announce any deadline for a decision on whether or not it will move to an operational implementation. But it has set a number of criteria by which to judge the success of FTTS in the trial. 

“The first is technical proficiency and reliability,” says Planey. “The second has to do with passenger and employee acceptance of the system – it must be easy to use and not impose any burdens on the flight crew. And the third is the ability to generate revenue, not only from entertainment but from ancillary items such as duty-free, onboard shopping and premium food and beverages.”

He continues: “Revenue generation is important, of course, but it’s not a sine qua non. The airline's interest in new IFE began as a way to improve the passenger experience on the aircraft, and that’s still the case. There are many options, including connectivity, under consideration, and cost of implementation will be an important factor in any decision.”

Meantime, Lumexis chief executive Doug Cline is both crossing his fingers for a favourable outcome with US Airways and pushing on some readily opened doors at leading carriers in Europe and Asia. “We’ve been well received everywhere and we plan to land a launch customer before too long,” he says.

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