When it comes to screens on airplanes the industry is focused squarely on the seat back. AERQ, a joint venture between Lufthansa Technik and LG Electronics wants to shift that conversation. Taking advantage of LG’s screens technology and the inflight services prowess of Lufthansa Technik and Lufthansa Systems, the company has big expectations for delivering its services on board.
The first AERQ product took flight earlier this month on the Flying Lab, a special Lufthansa flight from Munich to Los Angeles to kick off the APEX EXPO week. The “Welcome Board” is a combination of advanced OLED screen technology – under 2mm thin! – and the acumen of the Lufthansa Group partners. The demo system, mounted on the side of the galley in the boarding area on the A380, did not do much that could be considered especially valuable to either passengers or the airline.
Cycling through a slideshow of LA-themed photos was hardly groundbreaking. But it also was not meant to be. As AERQ Managing Director (And Lufthansa Systems Head of Passenger Experience Solutions) Jan-Peter Gaense explained, the Welcome Board – particularly in this iteration – is nowhere close to what the full product suite from AERQ will deliver.
We needed something to bring the technology to the aircraft quickly, to make some noise and draw attention to the new company. The Welcome Board is only one of many things.– AERQ Managing Director Jan-Peter Gaense
The Welcome Board can offer up advertising and the destination-specific content today, which is more about showing off the potential of the AERQ ecosystem than what is likely to fly when the company is ready to deliver for airlines. Gaense is focused on the galley display, of course, but far more on other parts of the cabin. “Look at everywhere you can put screens on the aircraft, from the ceiling to cabin dividers. We’re looking at everywhere you can put a screen that can be connected to the IFE system for displaying stuff.” Imagine bulkhead dividers that are giant map displays or integrated into the mood lighting systems that newer jets fly with today.
While the other use cases are likely more compelling to passengers, it should be no surprise that the initial use case developed brings advertising potential to the fore. Passengers might not be too keen on yet another marketing channel on board, especially a digital billboard, but their eyeballs are a valuable commodity for the airlines to work with.
More advanced display options
Gaense is also especially keen on two advanced features the LG screens offer: they can be curved and they can be translucent. These bring additional use cases into play. Collins Aerospace and Safran Aerosystems both are showing ceiling panel lighting options that offer airlines more flexibility in lighting or “painting” scenes throughout the aircraft.
An AERQ display could theoretically deliver a similar solution but at the full resolution of these commercial screens. The other products, while arguably closer to flying come up short of the AERQ model in terms of screen resolution. With aircraft manufacturers still talking about building the unlikely new planes of the future that allow passengers to look out the top, high resolution screens showing off the stars or even the aurora of the night sky could be in service much sooner than that.
Not only can the AERQ-derived solutions deliver these screens on board, but the company expects to do so at a fraction of the cost of existing options. This is not the first time the Lufthansa Group companies have pushed those boundaries. The results were not always 100% successful, but pushing the deeper relationship with LG for the screen development, and especially leveraging the commercial production volumes and efficiencies, should help on that front.
A compelling product suite
AERQ expects to have a broad product suite – not just Welcome Board – available to airline customers in just 2-3 years. That’s a quick evolution in airline terms and presents some challenges for the organization. Gaense understands that predicament, “Today airlines are looking for IFEC providers and systems. They aren’t looking for screens in the cabin or other new concepts. Part of our process is about helping people understand the capabilities we have with the system.”
It is spectacularly hard to sell airlines on a product that they don’t know exists or that is even possible. AERQ faces an uphill battle on that front, though at least the technology appears on track to support those goals.
More from the 2019 APEX EXPO
- Gogo makes a China 2Ku play
- Cabin-wide Bluetooth audio to fly in 2021
- EL AL brings USB-C in-seat power online
- Viasat extends its SAS reach with long-haul planes
- JetBlue selects Thales AVANT for A220 IFE
- Moving Maps and much more coming to Vistara’s long-haul fleet
- PaxEx Update: APEX EXPO
- Inflight WiFi for JSX slips to 2020
- AERQ wants to be more than just a Welcome Board