The need for inflight connectivity is more important than ever before

February 2021

At NBAA-VBACE 2020, Gogo hosted a panel discussion with some of its leaders, who discussed the myriad ways in which business aviation has transformed as it deals with, and recovers from, the impact of COVID-19.

In the COVID-19 era, one thing has become clear: the need for inflight connectivity is more important than ever before. Many business executives today are using their “office in the sky” as a critical asset to manage the demands on their professional and personal lives while adhering to safety and social distancing requirements. They’re using technology onboard the aircraft to conduct virtual meetings during flights, manage their inbox, lead remote workforces, and stay on top of breaking news. Many are also holding in-person meetings onboard the aircraft while it’s on the tarmac instead of driving to an office location to help ensure personal health and safety.

All that combined highlights the increased importance connectivity plays for today’s business travelers. They require their connectivity provider to deliver greater bandwidth with faster speeds and more personal services – something Gogo AVANCE L5 delivers today – anchored by networks and systems that will deliver even more in the future – such as Gogo 5G.

If you weren’t able to attend the panel discussion Gogo hosted at NBAA-VBACE, read further for some highlights and key takeaways from the discussion. You can also watch the panel discussion in its entirety.

Dave Glenn, SVP Customer Operations; Jim Zanino, Senior Director of Global Sales; Sergio Aguirre, President; David Salvador, Vice President of Aftermarket Sales; Mark Sander, Vice President of OEM Sales

Panel Discussion Highlights:

  • Inflight connectivity has moved well beyond the days of the “dumb pipe,” especially when using Gogo’s networks and onboard systems. The networks and systems from Gogo have entered a new era – they’re smarter and more capable, operating using a software-centric platform that is digitally transforming the inflight experience in business aviation.

“We’ve taken the capabilities of Verizon (network), Apple (hardware and software), Xfinity (entertainment), and Amazon Web Services (predictive maintenance and analytics) and we’ve put them all together and into the airplane,” said Sergio Aguirre, president of Gogo Business Aviation.

  • Business aviation customers are using their airplanes differently and they’re using connectivity differently in the wake of COVID-19. Now, as operators adapt to our ever-changing new normal and rely more on cloud-based apps and technology to stay connected to the office, the need for dependable nationwide service is crucial.

“We are seeing connectivity being more important today than ever before,” said Mark Sander, vice president of OEM sales for Gogo. “Connectivity trends for business aviation are still increasing year over year on the order of 20 percent. Applications are becoming more data driven, users are becoming more data driven. We’re depending on the cloud more and have a need to access that information at any time, even during a flight.”

  • Work isn’t the only thing people want to do on their aircraft. Gogo has seen a rise in the desire for inflight entertainment that doesn’t require connectivity to its ATG network, which can be expensive and gobbles bandwidth. Gogo Vision 360 offers a premium inflight entertainment experience and lets others onboard do what they need to do with their inflight Wi-Fi connection because the bandwidth to the aircraft isn’t being eaten by a data-hungry activity like streaming video from the ground.

“One of the interesting changes with COVID this past year is the plane is used a lot differently than in the past,” said Jim Zanino, senior director of customer sales for Gogo. “A lot of CEOs and principles get onboard and they stay on the aircraft the entire trip, doing meetings in the air and on the ground in the aircraft. And they’re working all the way through putting in long hours. But it’s not all just work, because they need down time too. The ability to watch TV shows or movies is great, and that’s what Gogo Vision offers.”

  • ​5G is the future of connectivity and with people wanting the same connectivity experience they have at home in the aircraft, systems will have to be designed to enable the shift to 5G. Smart systems such as AVANCE L5 were built with that service upgrade in mind, and built for the digital future.

“We have operators who have told us repeatedly the three most important things on the airplane to the people who sit in the back of the aircraft are the crew, the catering and the connectivity,” added Sander. “That demand is only going to increase and that’s where 5G comes into play. It will have the ability to meet that added demand for faster speeds and more bandwidth.”

  • ​Aviation is also seeing a rise in the use of predictive analytics to provide more decision-making time and enabling crews to be more efficient and effective. Gogo customers are able to rely on the Gogo DASH toolkit to stay on top of their operations like never before.

“With Gogo DASH and Gogo MIX, we’re giving the users visibility into their onboard system they haven’t had before,” said Dave Glenn, senior vice president of customer operations for Gogo. “As an example: how many gauges does a pilot have to tell them that the engines are working? We know that connectivity is something the guy in the back of the aircraft is saying is just as important as the engines, but he hasn’t had any gauges to see how it was working. With DASH, now he does.

“Operators can now pull DASH up on the ground or in the aircraft and see that they have five devices on but one of them isn’t working properly, and that happens to be the boss’s device,” Glenn continued. “And by digging deeper, they can see that the system is good, so they know it’s just a fix to the boss’s device.”

  • The ability to connect beginning at 3,000 feet AGL (above ground level) instead of the previous10,000 feet with an AVANCE system is significant for business travelers, providing up to 20 minutes additional connectivity time during normal flights and making connectivity more feasible for aircraft that fly short hops or at low altitudes for most of the flight.

“One of the biggest benefits with the lower service level has been with the turboprops and some of the aircraft that fly in congested airspace,” said Zanino. “One of our customers told us that when he flies into Teterboro (the airport just outside New York City), every time they drop him below 10,000 feet way early, often times for 30 minutes or longer before landing, to avoid all the commercial aircraft flying into Newark, JFK or LaGuardia. When that happened, he’d lose connectivity, but now he has that much more time to continue working.”

“We’ve also heard from some of our customers that operate shuttle services for their businesses with a larger airframe that the 3,000-foot change has also made an impact on their ability to do business on the aircraft because now they can use the (connectivity) service on those shorter flights that they didn’t have before,” said Dave Salvador, vice president of aftermarket sales for Gogo.

  • The next generation of business travelers are going to be “digital natives” – those who grew up always being connected – and Gogo is working hard to ensure those individuals have solutions onboard their business aircraft that will meet their expectations and needs. They want a system that is customizable, powerful and allows them to experience a seamless transition from work and life on the ground into the air.

“We are meeting an experience need,” Salvador continued. “Today’s passengers want to be able to do the things that they want to do with the devices they are carrying onboard – which are a lot different than they were 10 years ago. Everyone used to come on board with a laptop. Today, the ability to get online with a phone, a smartwatch, a tablet – whatever device it is – they can connect it. And then having the flexibility of the hardware and software that is part of the AVANCE platform, they can configure the aircraft based on their needs today, and then once they get the system on the airplane, they can upgrade to a better experience if they want to without having to back and do a new installation. They don’t have to tear out the old equipment to do an upgrade.”