Picking the Hits: How Air Canada Uses Data Analytics to Optimize Its IFE Content

Kevin Birchmore, global vice-president, Technical Sales, Spafax; and Hali Hamilton, manager, Entertainment and Partnerships, Air Canada. Image: Greg Verville

Kevin Birchmore, global vice-president, Technical Sales, Spafax;
and Hali Hamilton, manager, Entertainment and Partnerships, Air Canada. Photo: Greg Verville | APEX

Written for APEX.aero

The process of licensing content for an in-flight entertainment (IFE) system might be looked at as an art that mixes research, intuition and timing, while working within the constraints of the industry’s 60-day update cycle. But as detailed analysis becomes available to track passengers’ usage, IFE programmers are gaining new insights into the popularity – or unpopularity – of their picks.

“We’re pulling back the curtain on years and years of programming by our gut,” said Hali Hamilton, Air Canada’s manager, Entertainment and Partnerships, during a thought leadership panel at last week’s APEX TECH conference in Los Angeles. “We all think we know intuitively what our passengers want, but it was really helpful to validate that, and a little bit challenging to confront where our assumptions were wrong.”

Air Canada is the launch partner for Spafax IQ, a data analytics platform that fuses IFE usage data from different sources. “We’re trying to link that data together to draw meaningful insights,” said Kevin Birchmore, Spafax’s global vice-president, Technical Sales. “We’re excited about the opportunity to analyze at the individual seat level, see where a passenger has been on the graphical user interface (GUI), and how they consumed the content.”

Hamilton explained that Air Canada is applying the insights provided from the Spafax IQ dashboard to make decisions at the strategic level, rather than being reactionary: “I think it’s most beneficial on a trend basis – quarterly, bi-annually, or at an annual level.”

She gave the example of Air Canada’s strategy of providing “world content” to cover its passengers’ diverse needs. Every month, the airline had the same amount of Indian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese movies in the IFE systems of its international fleet.

However, the analysis showed that, in general, Indian and Chinese audiences are more interested in original native-language content, while Japanese and Korean passengers were skewing towards dubbed new releases. This discovery led Air Canada to optimize its IFE offering by slightly reducing the number of Japanese and Korean titles and adding additional Indian and Chinese content.

While Hamilton hopes that the IFE content update cycle will improve to allow for more timely and personalized content options, data analytics has already reinforced the airline’s base assumptions. “Ultimately, it has validated that in-flight entertainment is incredibly important to our passengers. We’re able to say that 95% of our passengers engage with entertainment content,” she concluded.

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2020-03-05T09:02:07-08:00 March 4th, 2020|