APEX Insight: After a successful trial run with portable IFE solution AirFi/TUI Cloud, holiday carrier Arkefly confirmed full roll-out of the program across its fleet by November this year. Hans van de Velde, managing director, Arkefly, reported 2-million TUI Cloud pages were viewed in the first two months of the program and that other TUI Group airlines are considering the same solution.
In April of this year, Arkefly Netherlands made the decision to run a fleet-wide pilot program that would see entertainment streamed to passenger devices across its own nine Boeing aircraft in addition to several leased aircraft in operation over the summer high season.
With this decision, Arkefly became the first airline in the Netherlands and the second worldwide to provide streaming in-flight entertainment (IFE) to passengers via a portable solution. And, with implementation of “TUI Cloud,” supported by the AirFi portable streaming box, successfully completed just 12 weeks later, they also became the first airline to stream IFE to passenger devices on a wide-body aircraft.
Arkefly managing director, Hans van de Velde admits that getting the content mix right was an involved process, along with training crew and sorting logistics in such a short time – but that all the effort was worth it.
“[Roll-out] went very well,” he said. “I think this was due to detailed preparation work that we had done with all key players including, for example, the catering supplier Newrest where the boxes are stored, charged and uploaded,” he said.
Arkefly operates a core fleet of Boeing 787s, Boeing 737s and a Boeing 767. While this fleet is already outfitted with various embedded and overhead IFE systems, TUI Cloud gives passengers a free alternative to paid IFE options on the airline’s wide-bodies, and it’s a logical substitute for dated overhead systems on the single-aisles.
“As from November this year, the AirFi Box/TUI Cloud will replace the overhead system on our B737 aircraft,” said van de Velde. “The enthusiastic reactions of customers about TUI Cloud eased the decision to stop IFE on overhead screens on the B737’s, saving us quite some money,” he added.
Three battery-powered AirFi boxes fit into a single standard trolley drawer and are removed from the aircraft by catering each night for charging and content updates. Each box can stream TUI Cloud to about 50 users. Currently, the Arkefly content is comprised mainly of single-player and interactive games, daily newspapers, magazines (including the Arkefly in-flight magazine), duty free catalogue and TUI holiday information including short videos. There are plans to integrate a frequent flyer app, more video content, a moving-map with points of interest and seat-based food and duty free ordering to improve inflight services.
AirFi and Arkefly successfully tested the direct ordering functionality and report good results. TUI Cloud was also trialled on the ground at select airports, and on some of TUI’s ground transfer buses over the summer months.
Early stats show that 2-million TUI Cloud pages were viewed in the first two months of TUI Cloud operations onboard.