Countdown to APEX – 40 years of elevating passenger experience

Since its first meeting in 1979, the APEX EXPO has gone from strength to strength, cementing its position as the air transport industry’s largest passenger experience event. Run by the Airline Passenger Experience Association, the EXPO attracts more than 3,000 aviation professionals from around the world – gathering to exchange ideas on the future of air travel, and to demonstrate the latest and greatest in PaxEx innovation.

As the air transport industry’s trusted connected service expert, the SITAONAIR stand has been a familiar sight for attendees over recent years. 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the APEX EXPO and the SITAONAIR team will be in attendance at booth 1813 from September 9, and showcasing our market-leading PaxEx solutions once again.

As we prepare to descend on Los Angeles for this year’s EXPO, we reflect on some of the major passenger experience milestones since the first gathering back in 1979, and how SITAONAIR continues to shape the future of passenger experience.

The first frequent flyer program – 1979:

1979 proved to be an important year in the evolution of airline passenger experience. Not only was the APEX EXPO born, but Texas International Airlines launched the first ever frequent flyer program, rewarding passenger loyalty by awarding air miles based on distance flown. This represented a major shift in air travel, as airlines started to realize the importance of brand loyalty.

Today, the evolution of airline ticketing continues, and SITAONAIR is leading the charge. In 2017 we delivered a ‘world first’ e-ticket solution to SAUDIA, enabling first and business class travelers to access free inflight Wi-Fi by simply entering their e-ticket code into our Internet ONAIR Wi-Fi portal. As airlines continue to search for the most brand-defining and individualized inflight connectivity offerings, ticketing will remain an important battleground.

Seatback inflight entertainment screens reach the aircraft – 1991:

In 1991, Virgin Atlantic became the first airline offering seatback inflight entertainment screens with a choice of channels. While inflight movies certainly weren’t a new concept in 1991, the arrival of personal screen was a landmark moment, giving a taste of the freedom of choice passengers would enjoy in years to come.

Today, thanks to the connectivity provided by high-speed inflight Wi-Fi, passengers can watch exactly what they want, whenever they want. Our inflight connectivity services, adopted by the likes of Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and All Nippon Airways, allow passengers to benefit from an ‘at-home’ experience wherever they fly, even streaming video inflight.

Wi-Fi reaches the skies – 2000:

In April 2000, Boeing announced ‘Connexion by Boeing’ – its own version of high-speed Wi-Fi for commercial flights. While Boeing pulled the service in 2006, its release was popular with passengers and set the scene for the future of inflight Wi-Fi.

Today, SITAONAIR is a leader in the space, and continues to pioneer cutting-edge inflight connectivity through solutions like Internet ONAIR and Mobile ONAIR. This is just as well, as SITA’s 2019’s Passenger IT Insights survey reveals that 42% of passengers will connect to Wi-Fi on a flight and 35% to inflight cellular services – figures that will only increase in the years to come.

Mobile phone calls from aircraft – 2008:

In 2008, SITAONAIR customer Emirates became the first commercial airline to enable passengers to make mobile phone calls and send text messages inflight.

Today, our Mobile ONAIR solution provides a seamless global inflight connection for passengers to make phone calls, send text messages and use mobile data – connecting more than 20,000,000 people in 2017 alone. With 5G soon set to reach the cabin, we will continue to transform inflight mobile connectivity in the coming Internet of Things age.

SITAONAIR debuts its first IoT project – 2018:

SITAONAIR debuted its first Internet of Things project at the July 2018 Farnborough Air Show. Joining forces with AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) and CargoLogicAir (CLA), we enabled the two pioneering cargo carriers to monitor, in real-time, the journey of sensitive pharmaceutical cargo inflight.

This is just the start. Partnering with mobile network providers, SITAONAIR is leading 5G innovation, and helping ensure that IoT innovation will soon filter through to the cabin.

The future of SITAONAIR and the APEX EXPO

It is clear that passenger experience has come a long way since the early days of APEX – but we still have a long way to go. At SITAONAIR, we’re leading the charge to transform inflight connectivity and passenger experience. Our unified and user-centric approach, built around a single, integrated managed service approach is delivering the simplicity, innovation, and reliability necessary for airlines to deliver the next big leap in passenger experience.

Come and visit the team on booth 1813, where we’ll be showcasing our latest cabin innovation – including our award-winning Internet ONAIR and Mobile ONAIR solutions – and demoing the latest PaxEx improving solutions. If you would like to arrange a meeting or private product demonstration, drop us a line at

To find out more about SITAONAIR’s role in the history of passenger experience since the first APEX EXPO back in 1979, take a look at our new infographic below, where we explore some major PaxEx milestones, and our role in ongoing innovation!