Making it Work

Staff numbers set to double at Irish in-flight entertainment firm

Inflight Dublin expects to have 100 employees on board by the end of 2023 as business has rebounded strongly after the pandemic, according to chief executive John White

John White, chief executive, Inflight: ‘From a box that is not much bigger than a shoebox and is popped in an overhead bin, people can get access like they would from any wifi network on board.’ Picture: Fergal Phillips

Inflight Dublin, an Irish company that provides on-board entertainment options to more than 50 airlines around the world, is aiming to double its headcount by the end of next year, its chief executive has said.

John White told the Business Post that the firm expected to reach 100 staff by the end of 2023, “and then keep going from there”.

The Enterprise Ireland-backed company, founded in 1984, also believes its turnover will treble by 2025 as it continues to develop new technologies to improve in-flight entertainment for its clients.

White, who bought out the company in 2012, said Inflight had laid off dozens of employees during the pandemic but had rebounded strongly in 2021 and was actively hiring once again.

“We had about 70 people pre-pandemic, and then we went down to 27,” he said. “But by the middle of last year we were up to about 38 or 40 people, and we’re now at 55. One of our biggest challenges now, which we’re only just starting to get on top of, is actually getting enough people into the business. We’ve recruited about 20 people so far this year.”

Inflight has been embracing wireless technology for more than four years now, having developed a server that has sufficient power to allow an airline full of passengers to stream high-definition video as well as accessing ancillary services like duty free.

“Basically, what we’ve developed is a server with a wireless router built into it,” White said. “So we load up the server with loads of movie, TV and audio programming, as well as magazines, newspapers, the on-board food menu and the duty brochure.

“And from that box, which is not much bigger than a shoebox and is popped in an overhead bin, people can get access like they would from any wifi network on board, and then they can access what’s on that server, and stream the content directly to their own device.”

The company’s wireless streaming service, Everhub, has recently expanded to allow customers to order food and duty free items.

It’s the fastest-growing part of Inflight’s business, White said, while the firm’s other activity – acquiring content from film studios for traditional, back-of-the-seat airline TV screens – still plays a significant role.

“It’s very much a cash cow for our business,” White said of the firm’s content service operation. “It’s growing, but at a steady rate. Whereas there’s real growth in the wireless streaming product.”

Inflight is the third-largest company in the world in its field, counting Aer Lingus, Norwegian and South African Airways among its clients. But among tier two and three airlines – smaller companies who nevertheless maintain major operations – it is the main provider of in-flight entertainment.

“We have customers, airlines who you’ve probably never heard of, who have 30 or 40 aircraft,” White said. “We supply them with our wireless boxes, and passengers have access to everything they want through their own device.”

In 2022, the company expects to double its turnover, White said, as part of its planned medium-term expansion. “We would see employment figures getting up to about 150 people in about three years’ time.”

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland