Onboard tech news

Virgin Atlantic accommodates blind customers

December 4, 2017

Bluebox Aviation Systems has launched an accessible IFE (aIFE™) platform with Virgin Atlantic, designed specifically for passengers with visual impairments.

Virgin Atlantic will be the first global airline to make IFE accessible for passengers with sight loss on its whole fleet, serving destinations across North America, the Caribbean, Africa, China, India and the Middle East.

Bluebox worked closely with Virgin Atlantic and The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in the development of the platform. It has a fully-customised iPad-based user interface enhanced for IFE.

Its features include: controls and menus that are easy to detect and navigate for different types of sight loss, support for multiple languages, closed captions, and audio-described content; and all the security of the original Hollywood-approved Bluebox Ai platform, offering Early Window Content.

“We distilled the most critical elements of our Bluebox Ai IFE platform into a simple design that someone with sight loss can easily and consistently navigate, enriching this with additional background functionality,” said James Macrae, cto, Bluebox Aviation Systems. “For example, information like film synopses are read out after a single tap of the film title.”

Mark Anderson, evp – customer at Virgin Atlantic, commented: “Nearly thirty years ago, Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to offer seat-back entertainment in all cabins, so it’s apt that we should be the first to ensure our entertainment is fully accessible across all flights. Working with Bluebox and Guide Dogs we’ve been able to create a world first that ensures customers with sight loss can experience the full range of onboard entertainment including the latest blockbusters, TV shows and albums.”

John Welsman, Policy Business Partner for Travel and Transport for the charity Guide Dogs, said: “As someone with sight loss who flies quite often myself, I think it’ll be wonderful to access entertainment and information on Virgin Atlantic planes without needing to ask for help. Not having to call for cabin crew, or disturb fellow passengers around me who might be sleeping, will be great.”

Bluebox claims that its aIFE solution provides a low-cost alternative to updating seat-back systems and is effective across mixed fleets with diverse entertainment setups. It promises a simple and quick route for an airline to get compliance with future government legislation on accessible IFE provision.


Backing augmented reality

December 4, 2017

KIDZinflight has teamed up with Zappar to bring augmented reality to childrens’ in-flight entertainment.

Accessible via an app, Zappar is able to recognise images and objects in the world around us through using zap codes. It then uses augmented reality to make visuals come alive, adding a new dimension to onboard activities and keeping children engaged for longer.

The new technology has been proven to enhance the passenger experience and has increased brand loyalty.


We want you!

November 29, 2017

Onboard entertainment and connectivity is changing fast and technological innovations in the passenger experience are becoming a key differentiator for airlines. If you are at the cutting-edge of these developments we want to hear from you now!

This year’s Onboard Hospitality Awards will recognise the best in onboard technological innovations. We’re looking for tech solutions which improve service, enhance the passenger experience or support effective operations. They could be customer touchpoints such as headphones, pre-ordering apps or entertainment systems; or perhaps technology which supports crew, onboard security or retail.

We’re looking for tech used by air, rail or cruise operators for our
Best Use of Onboard Technology category, or if your technological innovation is not yet onboard check out our Ones to Watch category designed to profile products with onboard potential. This category will put you in front of onboard experts fast.

Full details of the awards and entry form

Full details of the benefits of entering

Virgin Australia offers free wifi

November 29, 2017

Virgin Australia is going to offer free inflight internet on some flights to Los Angeles by the end of this year. Gogo is equipping the airline’s five B777-300ER aircraft with its 2Ku satellite wifi system, and the first two will be ready for live consumer testing in December.

The two wifi-equipped aircraft will be shared across the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane routes to LA. The rest of the B777 fleet will be fitted out by May 2018, when all the routes will get wifi.

Gogo is using the Intelsat and SES Ku-band satellites to provide coverage for the flights between the US and Australia. US airlines United, American and Delta already offer internet access on flights across the Pacific, but Qantas is focusing on equipping its domestic fleet, and lags behind on international routes.

Pricing options for the service will be announced in December, and seem likely to be various data- or time-based packages. Virgin Australia ceo John Borghetti promised a range of options, commenting: “You want to try and have a structure in place that meets all customers’ needs and segment the market.”

Virgin Australia is also equipping its Boeing 737 fleet, which flies domestic routes, with Gogo’s 2Ku wifi, to be completed by the end of 2018. The Airbus A330 fleet, which covers mainly transcontinental routes, will follow by the second half of 2019. On domestic flights, Virgin Australia has promised a base level of free wifi, with premium options.


Emirates connects with Thales

November 29, 2017

Emirates has signed a deal with Thales to fit their newest Boeing 777X fleet with broadband inflight connectivity using Inmarsat GX Global Network.

With over 800,000 passengers per month connecting while inflight, Emirates plan to offer customers best-in-class connectivity with speeds of up to 50Mbps on its Boeing 777X aircraft by 2020.

The new agreement is part of Emirates and Thales’s plans to develop state of the art IFEC for the 777X fleet and boost passenger experience.


Trainline launches travel app

November 29, 2017

Train ticket retailer, Trainline, has created a voice activated rail app designed to simplify journey planning.

Built in partnership with Google Assistant, the voice app allows rail travellers to ask everyday travel queries with real-time updates on important information such as timetables and delays.

The app features 12 levels of conversational depth – making it the most advanced voice activated rail app in the UK and is available on eligible Android phones on the Assistant app on iOS and on Assistant-enabled devices such as Google Home.

Daily commutes can also teach the app to recognise their commuting patterns to allow regular updates.

Dave Slocombe, Product Director, at Trainline, said, “Trainline’s mission is to use technology to make travel as smart and simple as possible. Trainline’s voice app is the latest in a long line of innovations that make this possible. We’re proud to have worked with Google and its powerful new Assistant platform on the creation of voice capabilities that can deliver complex travel information in a quick, simple and personal way.”


SAUDIA chooses Panasonic IFE

November 29, 2017

Panasonic Avionics has announced a new deal to supply inflight entertainment to 35 aircraft in the Saudi Arabian Airlines fleet. The eXO overhead entertainment system is to be line-fit on 20 Airbus A320neos and 15 A321neos that the airline has on order. SAUDIA previously committed to eXO for 30 Airbus A320neo aircraft in April 2016.

SAUDIA has opted for Panasonic’s X-series solutions, the eXO and eX1 systems, for installation on its fleets. This new order follows an earlier contract for Panasonic to install its eX1 IFE system across the airline’s existing fleet of seven A320s.

Panasonic’s X-Series inflight entertainment solutions feature a large selection of options including HD monitors, capacitive touch handsets, and in-seat power.
Hideo Nakano, ceo Panasonic Avionics, commented: “With our proven track record in delivering innovative inflight entertainment solutions, we will help Saudi Arabian Airlines optimise their investment in next-generation aircraft with an unmatched experience for all their passengers.”

The Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines, His Excellency Eng. Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, said: “Once the new entertainment solutions by Panasonic are retrofitted on the existing A320 fleet, and new A320 aircraft are delivered, our guests onboard will be able to maximise their time in the sky with a wide range of entertainment solutions to make their onboard journeys even more enjoyable.”

The fleet of A320neo/A321neo aircraft is expected in Q3 of 2019, and the previous order for retrofitting seven A320 aircraft with the eX1 IFE system is scheduled for completion in Q2 of 2018.


Panasonic and Singapore Airlines get personal

November 15, 2017

Panasonic Avionics and Singapore Airlines recently introduced innovations in personalisation with the launch of myKrisWorld – the airline’s newest IFE offering. It is built around the concept of ‘the Internet of Me’, gathering together all the things people care about to deliver personalised and contextualised experiences.

The myKrisWorld, experience starts before boarding. Passengers can use Singapore Airlines’ app or website to preview content and customise their playlist. Once onboard, they can either synchronise their smartphone or tablet or log in at their seat to access their content.

myKrisWorld will use crowd-sourced data to offer alternative titles, and make recommendations based on a passenger’s individual habits and what content is trending. Travellers will be allowed to finish the movie that they started on the previous flight.

Hideo Nakano, ceo for Panasonic Avionics, commented: “Today, we are proud to partner with Singapore Airlines to introduce the latest tectonic shift in our industry — personalisation. Last year, we helped Singapore Airlines introduce their award-winning companion app. Today, we’re taking that personalised experience to even greater heights with a series of innovative features that include passenger log-in at their seat; playlist, bookmark, language preference storage and wallpaper customisation between flights; customised and personalised entertainment spotlights; popular, trending and recommended content; and exclusive content based on frequent flier tier.”

Nakano continued, “By embracing the culture of mobile, we can increase the rate of evolution in the passenger experience, transforming what was once a passive entertainment system into another digital channel that airlines can leverage to better serve their customers.”


Cathay Pacific partners with PressReader

November 15, 2017

Cathay Pacific has teamed up with PressReader to enable passengers to access thousands of digital newspapers and magazines via an app.

The Cathay Pacific app allows customers to gain access to PressReader 48 hours before departure. Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon customers can download full issues of their favourite publications to their own smartphones or tablets for free before they fly.

PressReader’s 7,000-strong library features same-day titles such as The Washington Post, The Guardian and Los Angeles Times, in addition to travel and lifestyle periodicals, including Business Traveller, Vogue and GQ. More than 300 popular newspapers and magazines from Hong Kong and mainland China are also available, in addition to airline’s award-winning inflight magazines, Discovery and Silkroad.

Passengers can also access useful travel information and functions such as flight booking and check-in.

Cathay Pacific director customer, Simon Large, said: “Partnering with PressReader is an investment that strengthens our news and entertainment offering. It enables our customers to have a much bigger range of choice in reading materials, ideally making their travel experience a richer and more relaxing one.”


Air Europa introduces new IFE platform

November 15, 2017

Air Europa is to offer a personalised inflight entertainment service to smartphones and tablets starting early 2018.

Lufthansa Systems, Lufthansa Technik and Epteca have collaborated to produce the simple and cost-effective IFE solution, which will allow passengers to enjoy films, TV series, music and personalised content on their own smartphones or tablet devices.

Using the latest cloud container technology enables the users to access new services such as this Epteca travel platform. The platform is able to present context-specific offers tailored to the individual needs of passengers. In addition to offering booking options for tourist attractions, the platform provides advertising opportunities.

The new solution will be rolled out across Air Europa fleet of 15 Boeing 737s and 11 Embraer 195s through 2018.


SWISS focuses on film

November 01, 2017

SWISS is featuring the Flying Film Festival in its inflight entertainment programme on all long-haul services from the beginning of November until the end of this year.

The Festival showcases 10 short documentaries from all over the world and will offer an extra dimension of entertainment onboard in addition to the regular inflight programme. The best of these will also be awarded a special Judges’ Prize in January 2018.

The Festival has been jointly devised by SWISS and the Le Système D association, which is based in Fribourg, Switzerland; and this is its second manifestation after the début event in 2015.

The aim of the Flying Film Festival is to support promising young directors all over the world and make their brief but powerful documentaries available to a broader audience by including them in the inflight entertainment programme on SWISS’s long-haul flights.

Film productions from Switzerland, Ukraine, Mexico, Japan, Italy, the UK and Germany are available. Full details of the films and their directors are available at flyingfilmfestival.com


Big Brazilian deal for Gogo

November 01, 2017

LATAM Airlines Brazil has chosen Gogo’s 2Ku technology to introduce inflight connectivity to 100 of its A320 aircraft, operating domestically and within Latin America. The IFC service will begin in the first half of 2018 and the technology rollout is scheduled to be completed within a year.

Michael Small, Gogo’s president and ceo, commented: “We are delighted to partner with LATAM to bring the industry’s leading inflight connectivity solution to their passengers. 2Ku delivers a ground-like internet experience, including the ability to stream video, to passengers on aircraft flying around the world. Importantly, 2Ku’s technology outperforms all competing solutions.”

Jerome Cadier, ceo of LATAM Airlines Brazil, said: “We have selected the most modern and innovative in-flight internet technology available in order to offer an unrivalled and diverse onboard experience to our passengers in Brazil. The new service will complement LATAM Entertainment, our wireless entertainment system, and will provide our passengers with the freedom to choose how they want to enjoy their journeys.”

Gogo’s 2Ku technology is now installed on more than 350 aircraft and the company claims performance of more than 15 Mbps to each passenger device, covering more than 98 per cent of all flight hours around the world with 98 per cent system availability. The equipment installed on LATAM’s aircraft will include Gogo’s new modem, which is said to significantly increase throughput and reliability to and from the aircraft.


GoMedia gets on track

November 01, 2017

GoMedia is bringing a selection of HBO’s hit-shows, including select episodes from the first and second seasons of Game of Thrones and the first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Wire and The Sopranos to rail customers for the first time, as part of its latest on-board entertainment package on TransPennine Express (TPE).

The service, named Exstream, was launched to TPE passengers by Kristian Nairn, best-known for playing the role of Hodor in Game of Thrones.

Roger Matthews, md at GoMedia, says: “We are excited to be working with TransPennine Express in launching an ambitious entertainment package, the quality of content we’re making available to customers is certain to boost satisfaction levels. The TPE entertainment package will also include content from ITV and its catch-up service, reality TV from hayu, Hollywood movies and Sky News updates; all available for customers to watch on their own smart devices once connected to the free onboard wifi.

GoMedia already works with Virgin Trains, Eurostar, National Express coaches and c2c.


Air Inuit Wowed by Bluebox

October 24, 2017

Air Inuit, a Canadian airline serving Quebec’s northernmost territory, has selected Bluebox Aviation’s portable wireless IFE system, Bluebox Wow, for its fleet. Air Inuit has nearly 30 aircraft specially adapted for northern operations, and the first installations will start in November.

Bluebox Wow provides wireless content streamed to passenger devices in the aircraft cabin, including film, TV, audio, and games, accessed through any web browser. The portable, lunchbox-sized unit is stowed in overhead lockers, and so needs no STC to fit. The system can store up to 1 terabyte of content in four micro-SD cards, and the swappable rechargeable battery offers 15 hours of streamed content to 50 passengers.

Kevin Clark, ceo Bluebox Aviation Systems, said: “Our award-winning Bluebox Wow is helping make IFE an accessible and affordable option for those airlines that might not have otherwise considered it previously. And we’re delighted to help regional airlines such as Air Inuit enhance their passenger experience with an IFE service.”

“We were looking for a system to offer our passengers a courtesy entertainment service under a ‘BYOD’ model,” said Christian Busch, vp Operations and coo for Air Inuit. “Plus, as our Boeing 737s and Dash 8s are combi Passenger/Cargo aircraft operated in flexible passenger configurations, the portable Bluebox Wow solution suited our mixed-use and mixed-fleet requirements. Its simplicity, power, portability and passenger friendly interface convinced us Bluebox Wow was the right solution for Air Inuit’s onboard customers.”

Air Inuit joins a growing list of Bluebox Wow customers that currently includes Pakistan International and the Saudi Royal Fleet.


Airline security solution by VT Miltope

October 17, 2017

VT Miltope is partnering with RazorSecure to improve the security of its MAP3 wireless access ports (WAPs) to comply with the EU’s Network Information Security directive, due to take force in May 2018. The regulation requires active monitoring and anomaly detection for aircraft and airports, rather than the passive security systems hitherto used such as firewalls and encryption.

RazorSecure specialises in cyber-security for transport systems, and uses machine learning to provide advanced intrusion protection. Robert Brown, executive chairman, said: “Our system is active in seeking out anomalies in usage of the network that typically precede an attack. This type of protection is what is required by the new regulations for transportation networks.”

RazorSecure is applying its technology to VT Miltope’s WAPs to protect IFE systems from nuisance or malicious damage. “The problem in the future is less likely to be the hoodie, but more likely to come from international sabotage,” said Brown.

Markus Gilges, business development director of VT Miltope. said: “Airlines seem to be blissfully unaware of their responsibilities under this new regulation taking force next spring in every country in the EU. The penalties for non-compliance are 20 million euros or 4% of turnover, whichever is the higher.”

“Our MAP3 access point is integrated with location-based technology and can offer a secure, personalised experience for the next generation of connectivity. The RazorSecure technology is exclusive to VT Miltope.”


Inmarsat updates on GX and EAN

October 17, 2017

At a round table meeting with Inmarsat at APEX, Frederik van Essen, svp Strategy and Business Development, gave the latest update on its GX Aviation connectivity service, which went live last year at the Singapore show. Installations as part of the launch contract with Lufthansa Group are currently underway by Lufthansa Technik, with more than 100 installations now completed for Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Eurowings.

Inmarsat announced a new customer at the show, AirAsia Group, who will be retrofitting more than 120 aircraft with GX, plus any future additions to the fleet. Inmarsat partner SITAONAIR also announced it has activated GX Aviation on the first Singapore Airlines aircraft and secured a new contract for the service with Philippine Airlines (PAL). Also at APEX, another Inmarsat partner Rockwell Collins announced it had been selected by a large Asia Pacific-based airline to provide GX Aviation on a fleet of 100 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.Other airlines that have selected GX Aviation include Air New Zealand, Qatar Airways, Norwegian and Avianca.

Van Essen said that there was now 1300 aircraft under signed contracts, both installed and under backlog, for Inmarsat’s GX Aviation and European Aviation Network (EAN). He stated that MRO was not a bottleneck, and neither were supplies of equipment from Honeywell. The delay was simply getting airlines to release planes for fitting during busy periods.

Van Essen said: “We have learned a tremendous amount; GX is now well established. A fifth GX satellite by Thales Alenia Space is to be launched in 2019. This is a Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) providing capacity across the Middle East, Europe and the Indian subcontinent.”

Contracts have been signed with Airbus for two satellites in the 6th generation fleet. These will have both an L- and Ka-band payload. The first is being built and is due for launch in 2020 by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries HIIA launch vehicle. “Now we have global coverage and can add traffic-optimised capacity in line with customer orders.”

Talking about EAN, van Essen said that the satellite launched in June had completed tests and was ready for commercial service. EAN itself would be live by the year end. The first pilot phase was taking place in England later this year. Van Essen said he and the team were delighted with the recent Apex award for EAN for Best Inflight Connectivity Innovation. EAN’s satellite and complementary ground component will offer speeds of 75 Mbps.

Van Essen mentioned that ViaSat and Eutelsat had launched a case against the regulators aimed at delaying or preventing the launch of EAN. There was no case to answer in Inmarsat’s view, since Inmarsat had been working closely with the regulators since 2007.


Gogo set to disrupt the IFE Market?

October 11, 2017

Gogo has launched a new solution called Gogo Vision Touch, which takes a radical approach to IFE, eliminating the need for seatback screens.

Announced at Apex Expo, this new solution sees a commercial grade tablet mounted in the back of the seat using Gogo’s existing onboard wireless network to stream content to the tablet, in addition to a customer’s personal device.

Gogo has partnered with Delta Air Lines to launch the new solution. It will be installed by Bombardier with Gogo’s 2Ku connectivity technology on Bombardier CS100 aircraft. Gil West, Delta’s coo, commented: “The new system from Gogo that our Delta Flight Products team played a key role in designing will feature all free in-flight entertainment via Delta Studio, wirelessly.”

At the beginning of the year American Airlines chose to remove seatback screens from their new 737 MAX aircraft. The screens were viewed as heavy, expensive, and obsolete from the moment they are installed. It is Gogo’s view that connectivity technology is now bringing enough bandwidth for passengers to do what they want on their own device.

Speaking at the show, Steve Nolan from Gogo said: “The model is broken. The old seatback systems are heavy, expensive, and costly to buy and replace. We are working with Delta and Bombardier to deploy this new system on Delta’s C series deliveries in 2018. The tablet is is a Hitachi Android-based model using the inseat power instead of a battery. It uses our internal wifi system of a wireless server and two wireless access points (WAPs) which is optimised for TV and video.”

Installation involves simply putting a tablet into the seat; if it malfunctions, it can easily be replaced. This gives the airline a lightweight, modular, inexpensive, touch-screen system that can be maintained and upgraded at much less cost than traditional seatback screens.

The company’s existing Gogo Vision product uses the same technology to wirelessly bring IFE content to a passengers’ own device. That solution is now installed on more than 2,500 aircraft.


New 3D headset and content for SkyLights

October 11, 2017

SkyLights has revealed its second generation immersive-IFE solution which combines the new AlloSky headset with new content partnerships with Warner Brothers, National Geographic, Lionsgate and BBC.

Unveiled at the APEX Expo, launch partners for the new solution include Air France and its new airline Joon, gategroup, AccorHotels, Corsair and Jetfly. The new content partnerships complement SkyLights’ existing suppliers, 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks, to offer a bigger selection of films, series and documentaries in 2D, 3D and 180°.

The AlloSky headset was co-created with immersive headset producer Allomind. AlloSky brings full HD resolution, a 60% weight reduction to the previous version, and dioptric correction to suit all customers’ eyesight. It can also be connected in-seat, reducing cost and logistical complexity for airlines.

Immersive cinema is an innovative and potentially revolutionary concept for IFE. With the SkyLights AlloSky headset and noise-cancelling headphones, passengers are transported to their own private cinema, where they can enjoy the latest 2D and 3D films in isolation from cabin noise and distraction.

“Our new solution is guided by our learning from thousands of flights commercially deployed with our first generation. We have identified what matters most and have kept this knowledge at the core of the second generation solution. It’s more premium, more comfortable and has streamlined logistics. We believe this is a breakthrough, making the future of IFE a reality today. For the first time, airlines will introduce an entertainment experience which is better than anything else yet available on the ground,” said David Dicko, SkyLights’ ceo.

SkyLights is running an early-access launch programme as part of the solution’s inauguration. Air France will start the deployment in April next year through its new airline Joon. At the same time, leisure airline Corsair will launch the solution in its 15 aircraft as a complimentary service in their new, full-flat, business class cabins. Corsair plans to make the service available as a rental for $15 in Economy. Other members of the early-access programme will be announced in the near future.


Lufthansa Systems powers up its Portable

October 11, 2017

Lufthansa Systems has announced that its BoardConnect Portable is being installed on Air Europa together with the Power & Safe solution developed in conjunction with Lufthansa Technic. The new IFE solution will be rolled out across the fleet of 15 Boeing 737s and 11 Embraer 195s starting in early 2018.

Jan-Peter Gaense, director Project & Certification at Lufthansa Systems, speaking at Apex Expo said: “Airlines are finding out who can deliver and who cannot. Our systems are ideal for the short and medium-haul markets and come in three flavours: BoardConnect Portable, BoardConnect, and BoardConnect Plus, with connectivity.”

BoardConnect Portable combines all technical components such as a server and access points in a single device called the Mobile Streaming Unit (MSU). MSUs are about the size of a conventional tablet computer, and qualify as non-permanently installed equipment. They can easily be mounted or removed without affecting other components, reducing hardware, fitting and certification costs.

The Power & Safe solution means that the BoardConnect Portable Mobile Streaming Unit (MSU) is stowed in a safe inside the overhead bins, with an additional power supply that eliminates the need for battery replacement. This offers airlines security for their IFE system and prevents unauthorised access. It also avoids any battery overheating problems and has the advantage that it is more powerful and can serve a whole aircraft on its own.

“We are confident about this concept, which combines the benefits of both a portable and an installed IFE solution, and are sure that other airlines will soon follow Air Europa’s lead. Flexible IFE systems are the future for the low-cost sector and on short and medium-haul routes in particular,” commented Gaense.

Another new development announced at the show is a battery-powered Iridium modem to provide passengers with messaging services using the BoardConnect system. This low-bandwidth solution may be attractive to LCCs encouraging interaction between their passengers on leisure flights.

In addition to Air Europa and Spicejet, who signed up for BoardConnect Portable earlier in the year, two other so far unnamed carriers have selected BoardConnect. One of them is currently implementing the classic IFE solution and will announce the Go-Live later this year. The other airline is about to finalise the Go-Live planning with BoardConnect Portable. With these new customers, Lufthansa Systems will increase to nearly 700 the number of aircraft using a BoardConnect product.


APEX EXPO REPORT: New deals for Panasonic

October 2, 2017

Richard Williams toured the stands at the APEX Expo last week for the latest news on inflight entertainment and connectivity. A full report will follow and in the next issue of Onboard Hospitality magazine.

At the APEX show in Long Beach, Dave Bruner, vp global sales and marketing, Panasonic Avionics Corporation, announced a strategic partnership with Tascent, a biometrics and identity innovation company, with a view to bringing biometric passenger identification to every stage of the passenger journey.

The aim is to use Tascent’s biometric identity devices and software with Panasonic’s IFEC systems to provide identity recognition before departure, during flight, and upon arrival. This should further the trend toward smart airports and the connected passenger journey, and bring closer innovations such as seatback integration, streamlined personalisation and inflight biometric payment.

Bruner also announced a new deal with Mexican airline Interjet for its eXO overhead IFE and connectivity on its fleet of A320 and A321 NEO aircraft. The first plane will be delivered in November and will be the first Airbus aircraft to be linefitted with Panasonic connectivity.

Panasonic has 90 airline customers and has fitted its solutions to 1800 aircraft, with a further 2200 in backlog. Since April this year, the company has installed IFEC on 185 aircraft, with 85 linefit, and IFE on 626, with 397 linefit. Bruner said that they had three years of orders in the book, and the projected turnover this year was $2.5 billion.

Bruner said that the key to its success was that only Panasonic had global regulatory approval for every aircraft type, including in China. “We have the scale for a global business and we are growing in line with the industry. We have fitted 500 aircraft with mobile phone technology and 750 with our live TV service.”

On satellite connectivity, Bruner said: “We are looking to double our network capacity in 2018 with the help of Eutelsat-172b and SES-15. Our network is available on 99.8% of routes. We’ll be deploying XTS satellites in 2019 to meet airline needs.”


APEX EXPO REPORT: EasyJet chooses Immfly

October 2, 2017

EasyJet announced at APEX Expo in Long Beach that it is partnering with Barcelona-based Immfly to launch its wireless IFE service, to be named Air Time. The first five aircraft equipped with the service will be operational this autumn.

The platform will feature content from Fox Non-Theatrical and Euronews, including popular TV shows. It will also enable passengers to stream audio books, eBooks, interactive maps, language tutorials and retail catalogues on their own smartphones and tablets. Content will be available in multiple European languages.

Jimmy Martínez von Korff, co-founder of Immfly, said: “We specialise in maximising revenue opportunities using wireless connectivity in flight. We are enabling easyJet to deliver a compelling in-flight entertainment service, with exciting content and online shopping capabilities delivering a platform fully integrated with leading brands and their services.”

Tokyo-based e-commerce company Rakuten will be the official sponsor and content curator of easyJet’s IFE service. Arden Van de Vall, president Rakuten Europe, commented: “We are confident Rakuten can bring strong value and create a high quality showcase of its services through the onboard Immfly platform, offering a best in class user experience.”

“Air Time will allow us for the first time to offer customers IFE in a way that replicates how they consume their media at home,” said Andrew Middleton, easyJet’s ancillary revenue director.

Immfly is already working with Iberia Express, Volotea and XL Airways. EasyJet carries over 78 million passengers annually, and Immfly expects to reach 100 million connected passengers by 2018.


APEX EXPO REPORT: Inflight broadband set to soar

October 2, 2017

Inmarsat announced at APEX in Long Beach the results of a research study carried out in conjunction with the London School of Economics (LSE) which estimated that inflight broadband would be a $130 billion global market within 20 years. David Coiley, vp aviation, said that ancillary revenue, of which connectivity charges formed a part, was a significant contributor to airline profitability. The AR market had doubled since 2010, and would double again by 2020.

The Sky High Economics study is the first comprehensive independent study into the effect of connectivity on airline profitability. Dr Alexander Grous, dept of media and communications, LSE, said that the revenue could be broken down into four categories: broadband connectivity, sales and fulfilment, advertising, and premium content.

He emphasised that this was a profit opportunity for both airlines and partners. The broadband connectivity slice of the cake alone would be worth $30bn to the airlines In 2035, half of which is connectivity charges, half ancillary services. The total market will be $130bn, with the remaining $100bn split between technology providers and retail and content partners.

Dr Grous gave three reasons for the step change that was happening now. He said that 67% of passengers no longer see broadband as a luxury, but more as a necessity. Over 80% of passengers will pay for a high-quality connection. Another factor is the new generation of satellites going up, whose number and capacity is a tipping point. Airlines are digitising now; their passengers are already digitised and waiting for the service to catch up.

Dr Grous said that the reliability of broadband is crucial to this market. Given that, airlines need a retailer mindset to benefit. That means they need to generate the ability to purchase onboard, to build passenger confidence and encourage exponential growth in sales. Effective customer relations management will give the airlines in-depth knowledge of their passengers. Airlines can then pre-target them effectively to generate and maintain sales growth.

By 2028 the additional revenue is projected to be $2.60 per passenger and could be as much as $4 by 2035.


Juxta digital gets onboard

October 2, 2017

Trolex|Aporta, a global supplier of digital onboard services to transportation markets, has announced a new partnership with India’s Northern Railway to roll-out Juxta digital onboard services – a closed network solution that delivers infotainment directly to mobile devices.

Juxta digital onboard service is a significant technological step for Indian transport, and after successful trials is scheduled to be implemented on the 12001 and 12002 New Delhi Habibganj Shatabdi Express. Passengers will be able to stream the latest entertainment and news directly to their mobile device, without buffering issues, as they travel at 150 km/h one of India’s fastest trains.

Junta has previously worked with Greyhound, Volvo and Scania, delivering hardware, software, content package and fully managed digital services.

Glyn Jones, group ceo of Trolex|Aporta, said: “We’re excited to begin rolling out Juxta after a series of successful trials in India. We’re hoping that this partnership will prove to the transport market that these passenger experience solutions are available now, they don’t cost the earth to implement, are extremely reliable and always well received by passengers.”

Jones added: “The Juxta package doesn’t require a lengthy download, providing users with the latest entertainment with 100% availability through a secure local wifi network, meaning that users remain connected even when there is no connectivity to a public network. In addition to delivering a far better experience for passengers – Juxta provides new opportunities for transport providers to create additional revenue streams. This can be through delivering premium content, luggage alert systems, at-seat ordering, seat-reservation systems and much more.”


Japan Airlines’ new 787-9 with AVANT

September 20, 2017

JAL has brought into service its newly-configured 787-9 aircraft with the Sky Suite cabin fitted with Thales’s Android-based AVANT IFE system.

The system made its debut on the airline’s Tokyo Narita to Kuala Lumpur route. The Boeing 787-9 aircraft uses the latest AVANT Magic VI system, which includes audio and video on demand (AVOD), games and applications customised for JAL – onboard shopping, meal order and the popular Sky Manga eBooks. Magic VI offers in total 300 movies, videos and music programmes.

Dominique Giannoni, ceo, Thales InFlyt Experience, comments: “Japan Airlines and Thales have developed a close partnership based on mutual respect and trust for one another. With the advanced technology of our IFE systems onboard the newly configured JAL B787-9 Dreamliner, passengers will enjoy an engaging and memorable travel experience.”


Airport targets inflight movie appeal

September 20, 2017

London Gatwick is building on the popularity of movie viewing during long-haul flights with the appointment of its own official film critic and distribution of an ‘altitude-optimised’ umami-flavoured popcorn at the airport.

Mark Kermode has been appointed as the airport’s first official film critic and has produced a handy brochure for passengers, critiquing the in-flight movie selections of airlines flying from the airport

Kermode says: “Watching movies is one of the greatest pleasures of flying – the perfect time to catch up on the latest releases or revisit old favourites. Even long-haul journeys can fly by if you pick the right film, whether it’s a tear-jerker, action adventure or rom-com. As someone who has spent hundreds of hours watching i-flight movies, it’s been great fun teaming up with Gatwick to look at the films on offer to passengers this autumn.”

Alongside Kermode’s guide, the airport has created ‘altitude-optimised’ popcorn, which will be available for passengers to pick up in the terminal and enjoy inflight. The popcorn is flavoured with toasted cheese, Marmite and goats cheese – all foods which are rich in umami, the only one of the five main taste sensations which is completely unaffected by altitude.

Jeju Air gets flighttracker

September 20, 2017

SITAONAIR’s AIRCOM FlightTracker has been deployed across Jeju Air’s fleet of 29 B737s.

The South Korean low-cost-carrier (LCC) has chosen SITAONAIR’s solution to meet the incoming International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) 2018 flight-tracking regulations.

AIRCOM FlightTracker gathers data from multiple global feeds, filling gaps between terrestrial tracking sources to help improve flight operations. The system uses equipment already on most aircraft, without the need for modifications or additional avionics. This makes it cost-effective and quick to deploy.

The Jeju Air fleet will also be upgraded with SITAONAIR’s FlightMessenger, for cockpit communications. FlightMessenger integrates and translates cockpit data into a format that feeds directly into airlines’ pre-existing IT infrastructure, to improve data communication efficiency.

“Jeju Air selected SITAONAIR’s AIRCOM® FlightTracker and FlightMessenger after extensively evaluating the full range of products on the market,” comments Kim Sanghoon, director of operations control center at Jeju Air. “SITAONAIR’s solutions appealed to us for their rich functionality, seamless integration with our airline systems, their user-friendliness, and top-quality customer support.”

Katrina Korzenowski, vp Asia-Pacific at SITAONAIR, said: “Our AIRCOM FlightTracker arms airlines with the powerful flight-tracking capabilities they need to actively enhance their flight operations and meet the ICAO’s forthcoming 15- and one-minute tracking best-practice requirements. By pulling together and integrating a wealth of aircraft position sources, including ACARS, ADS-B, radar and ATC Datalink, our AIRCOM® FlightTracker offers 100% global, real-time coverage to all airlines – without the need for costly modifications.”


SAS partners with iPass

September 12, 2017

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has partnered with mobile connectivity company iPass to enable its customers to buy monthly access to the iPass global wifi network. iPass is working with mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) enabler Teleena, which manages service setup and delivery for iPass customers. SAS EuroBonus loyalty members will also soon be able to earn points from the purchase of wifi connectivity.

Didrik Fjeldstad, vp Brand & Marketing at SAS, said: “Working with iPass and Teleena, we are delighted to be the first airline to offer our customers unlimited global wifi, helping them to stay connected without running up huge mobile roaming bills.”

“SAS is taking an exciting step in becoming the first airline to offer truly global connectivity to its customers, and we hope it won’t be the last,” said Gary Griffiths, ceo of iPass. “Internet connectivity has become another essential service demanded by travellers, just like car hire and accommodation, and it could become an important new revenue stream and competitive differentiator in this hotly contested market.”

SAS currently offers wifi onboard its long-haul fleet plus ten Boeing 737-800 aircraft that fly within Europe. Wifi is currently free for EuroBonus Gold and Diamond members and for travellers in SAS Plus and SAS Business.


AirFi expands to 40 clients

September 12, 2017

Portable wifi platform specialist AirFi has secured its 40th airline client as it continues its expansion.

Having announced six new customers in the run up to Aircraft Interiors in April, AirFi has now unveiled 10 client signings made since the Hamburg show.

Job Heimerikx, ceo AirFi, said: 
 “We are seeing the breadth of successful deployments across all aircraft types and more new-use cases for AirFi drive this remarkable interest and the sharp increase in client acquisition over recent months.”

The company is dramatically expanding its offer, primarily through new premium content management service, gaining new content clients each month for its premium non-DRM options across multiple languages, cultures and demographics.

AirFi has added new-to-IFE Mashable You Tube/viral content, same-day catch up ITV soaps and dramas and the latest Hollywood, international and Arabic movie content and boxsets – all accessible without the need for apps.

The company’s latest generation AirFi Box has 24 hours of operational battery life, 1TB data storage and up-rated hardware and software. It weighs under 2kg and retains AirFi’s hallmark flexibility, reliability and speed of deployment. It enables more features, use and revenue streams.


Virgin claims European wifi first

September 5, 2017

Virgin Atlantic has become the first airline in Europe to offer wifi across its entire fleet – ensuring customers can remain connected across flights to and from the U.S., Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Passengers can now email, browse and socialise at 35,000ft from as little as £2.99 as the airline completes its ambitious wifi programme – said to be at least a year ahead of other European long haul carriers.

To celebrate the initiative, Virgin Atlantic is kicking off a series of fun events from the sky, connecting together with #LiveFromVirgin. One of the first #LiveFromVirgin events will be a comedy set in the sky.

Using a combination of Panasonic and Gogo technology, wifi is now available across the fleet of 39 aircraft and connectivity is available above 10,000ft so customers will be able to connect shortly after take-off, and remain online until shortly before landing.

Results so far have shown that 42% of customers opt for the wifi max package which lasts the entire flight, and the most popular routes for wifi use are London Heathrow to New York (JFK), San Francisco and Atlanta.

Customers travelling on the 787 will use wifi from Panasonic, while the A330s, 747s, A340-600s are powered by Gogo technology.

Prices range from £2.99 for messaging access to £14.99 for 150MD of data and full internet access.


Dubai airport offers free films

September 5, 2017

Dubai International Airport is giving travellers free access to a large catalogue of films which they can watch on their personal electronic devices while waiting for their plane.

Dubai Airports has partnered with Dubai-based media firm ICFLIX to distribute its video-on-demand streaming service through the airport’s free wifi service, called Wow-Fi. Passengers waiting at the airport can view a selection of Hollywood, Bollywood and Jazwood (Arabic) content, which is available in three languages: Arabic, English and French.

“Dubai Airports is on a mission to engage more directly with our customers and transform the airport experience for millions of travellers each month,” said Eugene Barry, executive vp of Dubai Airports’ Commercial and Communications Group.

“Thanks to our partnership with ICFLIX, travellers at DXB can now enjoy a wide range of streamed entertainment before and between flights, and this is a service which is completely free of charge to users.”

Other airports offering entertainment services to travellers include Heathrow, which started trialling EntertainMe kiosks in its Terminal 5 last year. The kiosks, designed by SITA, offer entertainment content such as videos, destination guides, newspapers and magazines as quick downloads to passengers’ own devices.

The move comes as recent research by Santander showed that 84% of British holidaymakers expect wifi to be free at the airport.


GEE’s Airtime now linefit option

August 23, 2017

Boeing has added the Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) Airconnect 3.0 in-flight wifi system as a factory installation option for its 737 MAX aircraft family. This is the first connectivity system to be added as a linefit option for the 737 MAX.

Offering it as a linefit rather than retrofit provides substantial time- and cost-saving benefits to airlines, avoiding costly engineering review and testing time.

The Airconnect portal is now on 865 aeroplanes worldwide. It can be personalised and offers opportunities for data analytics, e-commerce, branded campaigns and integrated advertising.


SmartSky to launch ATG network mid-2018

August 9, 2017

Inflight connectivity provider startup SmartSky Networks announced on August 3 that it was putting back the start date for its terrestrial air-to-ground (ATG) network from late 2017 to mid-2018. It had notified its Early Bird customers and distribution partners.

North Carolina-based SmartSky said that 86% of the tower sites for its network of 250 ground stations in the US had completed initial on-site testing. The remaining ground infrastructure was being installed and commissioned as local permits were obtained. Production of base station radios and software optimisations related to supplemental-type certifications (STC) required by the FAA were taking the extra time.

“Customers are unanimously impressed after experiencing inflight demos, confirming that we have significantly raised the bar for what will constitute best-in-class, future-ready airborne connectivity going forward,” said SmartSky chairman and ceo Haynes Griffin. “They seem equally appreciative of the fact that the few months of additional schedule to meet the high standards we have set for this network is ultimately to everyone’s benefit.”

SmartSky is set to join a small group of IFC providers who are using ATG networks to supply aircraft flying in zones with dense traffic. Gogo has an ATG network across the United States and London-based satellite operator Inmarsat is developing a European Aviation Network (EAN), operated in partnership with Deutsche Telekom. SmartSky has not so far added a satellite connectivity element to its network.


Virgin gets social

August 9, 2017

Virgin Atlantic is marking 25 years of flying to Orlando by offering free wifi messaging throughout August.

Customers travelling to Orlando this month will enjoy complimentary messaging wifi access throughout their journey, thanks to a partnership with Gogo, and will be able to share their journey through Whatsapp, Instagram and other social media outlets as they go.

Virgin Atlantic is also close to becoming the first airline in Europe to offer wifi across its entire fleet.


Air China chooses Panasonic

August 1, 2017

Air China has announced that it will use inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) solutions from Panasonic Avionics for its fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft. Panasonic will provide its eX3 inflight entertainment for 10 Air China A350s, the first to be delivered in December 2017.

Panasonic’s eX3 service includes audio and video on demand, a content library offering up to 300 movies, 200 TV shows, games, music, and a moving map. The A350 aircraft will also offer global connectivity services, enabling passengers to keep in touch with friends, families, colleagues and current events. Panasonic operates connectivity service in 210 countries, including China.

Hideo Nakano, ceo of Panasonic Avionics, commented: “We are honoured to partner with Air China on its A350 program. Because the airline’s route structure includes very long flights to all seven continents, it needed an IFEC solution that would help keep passengers entertained and offer new opportunities for it to generate revenue. The reliability, performance and flexibility of eX3 and our connectivity service makes it an ideal choice for these aircraft.”

One of Asia’s largest airlines, Asiana, recently began revenue service with its first A350 aircraft using the eX3 IFEC system from Panasonic. The first aircraft was line-fitted with Panasonic solutions by Airbus, and entered passenger service on May 15th.


GoEuro survey reveals UK’s trains are mostly connected

August 1, 2017

According to GoEuro, a website and app for comparing and booking train journeys, buses and flights across Europe, more than three quarters (78%) of the UK’s most popular routes now offer onboard wifi.

Out of the 150 of the most popular UK train routes, based on bookings made through GoEuro, 63 offer free wifi, 54 offer wifi at a cost, and 33 offer no wifi at all.

The data collected by GoEuro revealed that the top two train providers in terms of total additional services onboard are Great Western Railways and Abellio Greater Anglia. Both providers offer wifi, onboard plug sockets, air conditioning, toilets, seat reservations and luggage racks.

The top two UK cities with the highest number of outbound train journeys that offer free wifi are London (19) and Edinburgh (eight).

Whilst London holds the record for the number of train journeys that offer free wifi, it is also the city with the highest number of train journeys without any wifi.

Popular UK train journeys that do not offer wifi include Cambridge to London Kings Cross with Great Northern, Brighton to London Victoria with Southern and Thameslink; and Manchester to Birmingham with London Midland.

To see the full research, please visit:


Wifi now a necessity not a luxury

August 1, 2017

Inflight broadband is revolutionising passenger expectations and influencing how they choose their airlines, according to the third annual Inflight Connectivity Survey published by Inmarsat.

The survey reveals that the majority of global passengers (60%) now see inflight connectivity as a necessity, not a luxury. The results come as Inmarsat prepares to extend high-speed broadband in Europe through its European Aviation Network which will deliver a seamless wifi to European carriers.

Launch partner IAG Group, which owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, has begun fitting its planes for launch in the second half of 2017 and aims to have 90% of its short haul fleet complete by early 2019.

The global survey also showed that 61% of passengers who have experienced good inflight wifi consider it more important than inflight entertainment when choosing an airline. Some 66% of parents travelling with children said IFC is a “life saver”.

The ability to connect to personal devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets now sits within the top three considerations when choosing an airline, behind ticket price (53%) and flight slots (44%) for 40% of passengers who have used inflight wifi.

What’s more, the ability to remain online and work during a flight is greatly improving passenger experience, according to almost half (49%) of European business travellers who have previously used inflight wifi.

The survey reflects the responses of 9,000 airline passengers from 18 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and North and Latin America, and is the largest global passenger survey of its kind.


Norwegian extends deal with Global Eagle

July 26, 2017

European low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle has awarded a five-year contract to Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) to cover the airline’s Boeing 737 New Generation fleet of more than 120 aircraft until 2023. GEE promises to improve the passenger experience by providing enhanced wifi connectivity, live television, portal-based content, services and support.

In 2011, GEE contracted with Norwegian for 40 aircraft. GEE launched the first live TV on a European airline in 2015 on Norwegian’s Boeing 737NG. The new agreement is for additional new-generation 737 aircraft on transatlantic routes.

Norwegian’s first transatlantic flights using the brand-new Boeing 737 MAX took off from Edinburgh in July, with British low-cost aviation maverick Sir Freddie Laker featured on the aircraft’s tailfin. Norwegian will take delivery of six Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in total this summer, and has 110 on order. The airline prides itself on flying new, efficient aircraft, with an average age of only 3.6 years.

“Our cooperation with Norwegian improves how its passengers experience the airline’s inflight entertainment service on board,” commented Per Norén, GEE senior vp Aviation. “We currently have Global Eagle passenger features on more than 100 Norwegian aircraft, and this agreement widens the scope of both the fleet size and products that the airline can offer on board.”

GEE won a Crystal Cabin Award for its AirtimeTM wireless IFEC portal at AIX in Hamburg in April. Now in use on more than 800 aircraft, Airtime enables inflight streaming of live TV, on-demand movies, games, music, publications, and flight tracking to passengers’ mobile devices. GEE’s portfolio of studio-licensed movies, music, TV series, magazines and newspapers, adds to the offering.


SkyGuru aims to improve the inflight app experience

July 26, 2017

Founder of the SkyGuru mobile app, Alex Gervash has launched a universal platform for airlines, aircraft manufacturers, airports, and developers of mobile aviation apps.

The API was built specially with the aviation industry in mind and gives partners access to the professional flight data including meteorological updates, turbulence indices, wind changes and aircraft position.

Partners can use this information in their own software or use the system to develop infotainment offerings on planes that don’t have built-in entertainment systems. SkyGuru API can be used to improve the quality of services, give passengers a better inflight experience, and even create a safer cabin environment by, for example, alerting passengers of upcoming turbulence.

More than 55,000 SkyGuru users have used the app on over 10,000 flights in more than 60 countries. Alex Gervash says: “This is the first platform of its kind to give passengers clear and accessible information about their flight in real time. We hope to see our technology integrated into the infotainment systems of the world’s major airlines and other aviation apps soon. But this is only the first step toward realizing our goal of helping every passenger become more well-informed, confident, and comfortable.”


IdeaNova launches INPLAY INSTANT

July 26, 2017

IdeaNova Technologies has unveiled its newest multimedia player – INPLAY INSTANT.

Airline passengers can use this system to quickly and easily play back any DRM content—such as Hollywood movies—on their laptop or any web browser, regardless of the supported DRM content decryption module (CDM).

INPLAY INSTANT utilises a simple user-friendly installation process that does not require connectivity or installation of plugins, giving passengers an uninterrupted multimedia streaming experience. It is a full-featured player with support for adaptive streaming, adaptive download, in-flight chat, multi-language subtitles and audio, data analysis tools and ad integration with DRM content.

Operators can use the new system to incrementally rollout DRM platforms without impacting a consumer’s ability to watch content in their platform of choice. Since the player is DRM agnostic, customers can choose which platform to support.

Juraj Siska, CTO of IdeaNova Technologies, believes this gives operators the ability to extend the life of existing legacy solutions, like Widevine Classic or Marlin DRM, without hassling with periodic Flash updates. Siska said: “We believe this will have a huge impact as it gives operators more time to rollout new technology while providing entertainment to customers on their existing platforms.”


AirFi gets same-day ITV shows

July 19, 2017

AirFi, provider of portable onboard wifi platforms to airlines, has teamed up with major UK broadcaster ITV to show its content onboard on the day of transmission.

The move means that passengers using the AirFi system onboard will not have to wait to watch iconic programmes such as Coronation Street and Love Island.

AirFi ceo, Job Heimerikx, explained how it works: “AirFi has secure access to ITV catch-up content in advance of UK transmission. We automatically ingest this content into the AirFi content management system which, in turn, pushes the content overnight to all the aircraft AirFi Boxes via the daily content update.”

AirFi’s platform is browser-based, so passengers don’t have the hassle of downloading an app in order to watch the shows. AirFi will be announcing its launch customer for the AirFi/ITV service in a few weeks.


Qantas uses chat bots to connect

July 19, 2017

Qantas is stepping up its use of chat bots as part of its tech commitment to be at the forefront of innovation in the way it communicates and connects with passengers.

The Qantas Concierge service uses a Facebook Messenger bot that gives customers personalised travel inspiration and forms part of a Qantas strategy to give customers faster responses and more relevant information through easily accessible channels.

Kristin Carlos, Qantas head of digital and entertainment, said Qantas Concierge is an evolution of the airline’s customer communications, boosting its presence on a hugely popular social media platform while offering immediate travel solutions. The service is backed by artificial intelligence which makes it more user friendly and effective over time.

Throughout 2017 Qantas plans to grow the chat bot’s capability to offer a full suite of concierge services including operational notifications such as itineraries, flight and gate change updates and boarding passes.

The partnership will see Facebook work closely with Qantas to connect with new customers via the social networking site and engage with existing audiences in new ways. Qantas was recently the first airline to work with Facebook on advertising through Instagram Stories.

Qantas is one of the first Australian brands to introduce a chat bot following in the footsteps of innovative international brands such as eBay, Disney and Uber. Qantas is also the first airline in the Asia-Pacific region to be announced as an official Facebook partner.


Attraction booking tech gets onboard

July 19, 2017

Mobile point of sale (MPoS) specialist, ECR Retail Systems (ECR) has launched an inflight attractions ticketing service exclusively for the airline industry.

The service, available to airlines through ECR’s MPoS technology, covers attractions and venues across 16 locations globally, including London, Paris, New York, Rome and Hong Kong.

The service enables airlines’ cabin crew to book passengers into top attractions in the destinations they are visiting using the onboard MPoS system. No additional equipment or printed tickets are required as the ECRGo2 hand held terminal issues each unique ticket via an inbuilt printer and takes fast payments, both card and contactless, all from the same device.

This commission-based approach to selling tickets to tourist attractions during travel enables airlines to enhance the role of cabin crew and incentivises them to play a crucial part in increasing ancillary revenue and improving the onboard customer experience. The customer pays the same price for the ticket as they would on the gate, whilst crews and airlines earn revenue from the attractions.

ECR’s system can process the entire transaction and offer complete transaction visibility. Ticket-holding customers can benefit further by avoiding queues at their chosen destination.


Business travellers prioritise tech

July 19, 2017

A survey by Egencia, the business travel arm of the Expedia group, highlights an increasing desire from business travellers for technology access and cross-device integration throughout their travel experience.

The Egencia Business Travel and Technology Survey shows that incentives such as priority boarding and airport lounge access tops the business traveller’s wish lists. The study also shows business travellers are looking to technology to make the corporate travel journey more productive and manageable.

Accessibility is the key theme: two-thirds (66%) of business travellers across the world want to manage and book their business travel on every mobile device, not just on their smartphone.

“We are at a turning point in business travel where standalone products are just not enough. Expectations of global business travellers are higher than ever before: they want instant access to information and management tools on every device, while operating autonomously,” said Rob Greyber, president of Egencia.

According to the survey, business travellers are optimistic when it comes to technology’s role in improving their business travel experience. 41% believe advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) will help improve their travel experiences.


US lifts laptop ban from Dubai and Istanbul

July 12, 2017

The US rescinded its recent ban on large personal electronics devices in the cabin last week for inbound flights from Dubai and Istanbul. This was after new security measures were implemented. The announcements from Emirates and Turkish Airlines came a few days after the US lifted the ban on Etihad Airways’ flights from Abu Dhabi.

Emirates is the Middle East’s largest airline and had blamed restrictions imposed in March by President Donald Trump’s administration for a significant drop in demand on US flights. Emirates flies to 12 US cities but had to cut flights to five of these cities in May.

A statement from an Emirates spokesperson said: “Emirates has been working hard in coordination with various aviation stakeholders and the local authorities to implement heightened security measures and protocols that meet the requirements of the US Department of Homeland Security’s new security guidelines for all US-bound flights.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines said in a statement that passengers travelling to the United States could now take their laptops onboard. It was announced in a tweet to passengers on July 4th: “Dear Passengers, #WelcomeOnBoard to our US-bound flight. Please fasten your seatbelts and enjoy your own electronic devices.”

Turkish Airlines ceo Bilal Eksi commented that the airline expected similar restrictions on flights to Britain to be lifted soon. The airline was waiting for a technical team from Britain to come out to check that the new security measures had been put in place.


Inmarsat launches EAN satellite

July 4, 2017

Arianespace launched the Inmarsat European Aviation Network (EAN) S-band satellite onboard a 700-tonne Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou in French Guiana at 22.15 BST on June 28.

Following separation from the rocket, signals from the satellite were received by Inmarsat’s Mingenew ground station in Western Australia at 22:50 BST. This will be Inmarsat’s 13th operational satellite.

Among those watching the launch on a live link from Inmarsat headquarters in London were Frederik van Essen, svp strategy and business development, Inmarsat Aviation. He reported that the EAN, consisting of the new S-band satellite and 300 LTE ground-based stations operated by Deutsche Telekom, was on schedule and would enable the EAN to leapfrog the US, currently the leaders in this technology, in efficiency of service.

The system saves weight and drag on the aircraft by using a light top antenna of only 9kg and a very small ground antenna. He said that it will improve the passenger experience because it is uniquely qualified for European airspace, which has congested hubs and corridors and miles of routes over water.

The launch partner for the service is the IAG airline group, consisting of the 300 aircraft of British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling. The first service will start in 2018, and 90% of the short-haul planes will have the kit fitted by 2019.

Rolf Nafziger, svp international wholesale business at Deutsche Telekom, said: “Our mission is that we always want to provide the best connectivity. The one space we cannot do that, up until now, is in the air. In Europe we have the most congested airline routes in the world, with half a billion passengers flying per year.”

He explained that this integrated ground network of 300 sites across 28 EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland, would at last “give passengers the same experience with their phones, tablets and laptops as they have on the ground.”

Leo Mondale, president, Inmarsat Aviation, commented: “For too long, millions of passengers have been cut-off from fast, reliable and consistent broadband during flights in Europe. This is a significant milestone for Inmarsat and the many leading European companies that are involved in the project, including Deutsche Telekom, Thales Alenia Space, Arianespace, Cobham SATCOM, Nokia, OTE and others.”


JAL offers free domestic wifi

June 28, 2017

Japan Airlines (JAL) is offering its passengers flying on domestic routes free inflight connectivity. The service is available from five minutes after take-off until five minutes before landing.

A ‘Free Flight Pass’ button appears on the portal page after customers connect to the inflight wifi. Programmes, such as sports, cooking, music and cartoons, are also available free of charge on wifi-equipped flights, and can be viewed on customers’ own personal electronic devices.

The inflight connectivity service, provided by a Gogo Ku-band satellite system, is available on all JAL and JTA (Japan Transocean Air, a JAL Group subsidiary) domestic routes operated by wifi-equipped aircraft. Gogo says that subsidiary JTA has committed to receiving its 2Ku solution. The free internet service is not available for international aircraft equipped with wifi operating on selected domestic routes.

JAL’s international fleet of Boeing 767, 777 and 787 aircraft continues to offer wifi in one-, three, and 24-hour packages, at $10.15, $14.40 and $18.80 respectively.

Gogo’s inflight connectivity service went live onboard JAL in June 2014. In May 2016 Gogo and SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, Asia’s leading satellite provider, announced a partnership for increased Ku-band connectivity over Japan. Gogo uses the JCSAT–5A satellite high throughput beam to increase capacity and improve performance.


New Planes and IFEC for EL AL

June 28, 2017

EL AL Israel Airlines is upgrading its fleet by acquiring 16 new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The first Dreamliner will start operating flights to Europe in September, and at the end of October will start flying to EL AL’s long-haul destinations in North America and the Far East.

The airline has also launched a new service class, aimed at providing its passengers with a premium experience. The innovations include a new advanced AVOD entertainment system by Panasonic, with HD screens for all passengers. The new fleet will also be getting high-speed internet provided by ViaSat from 2018.

“These aircraft, which will gradually enter service until 2020, will replace the 747-400 fleet by early 2019,” said an EL AL spokesperson. “The Dreamliner aircraft will join the new 737-900 aircraft the company has purchased, which are already operating on European routes, making the El Al plane fleet younger and less polluting.”

The airline is investing $1.25 billion, possibly in response to a poor result in Heathrow’s “Fly Quiet and Clean League” table, which listed El Al as the least clean, quiet and efficient of 50 airlines using the airport. Airlines are rated on criteria such as nitrogen oxide emissions and efficient landing approaches.

David Maimon, president and ceo of EL AL, commented: “The expected arrival of the new 787 aircraft will be the peak of EL AL`s renewal momentum, creating a revolution in customer experience across all flight interfaces.

“We continue to implement EL AL’s vision – to lead the aviation market in Israel and to be the first choice airline for all customers travelling to and from Israel, while providing quality and uncompromising service for the benefit of our customers.”


Expert views on laptop ban at APEX TECH

June 20, 2017

At the APEX TECH conference on June 13 in Los Angeles, APEX ceo Joe Leader, Google’s partner development manager Max Coppin, JetBlue Technology Ventures’ Raj Singh and Qatar Airways’ Babar Rahman made up a panel to assess the impact of the recent in-flight electronics ban. The panel members shared reactions, ideas and the potential for short- and long-term solutions.

Leader began with a list of four potential solutions suggested by APEX during discussions with the US Department of Homeland Security. These included improving airport chemical testing, stress tests, biometrics, and the use of Trusted Platform Modules (TPM). This would enable airline security to test laptops for full battery charge, full battery capacity, and whether the machine is real, fully intact and fully operational.

Qatar’s Babar Rahman emphasised that the ban came as a surprise. Their immediate solution was to buy hundreds of laptops and start offering them to passengers. They also offered passengers free wifi for a longer duration than usual to allow them to continue with business as usual.

Google’s Max Coppin suggested that the ban may promote a new way of thinking about owning computer hardware. “Why do I need my laptop and not just a laptop. What’s personal about it?” said Coppin.
Raj Singh from JetBlue Technology Ventures commented: “It’s difficult to predict what happens next because I personally don’t understand why the laptop ban exists. I’m sure there’s a sensible reason but nobody’s explained it to us.”

Panel members raised concerns about the security risk of concentrating large numbers of laptops containing lithium-ion batteries in the baggage hold. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently highlighted this issue at their AGM, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is now planning some tests on batteries stored in the cargo area.

JetBlue’s Singh sounded a positive note when he said that the technology exists to provide all these solutions. What happens next depends on how credible and large the threat is and how much money airlines want to spend to address it.


Immfly partners with Amex

June 14, 2017

Immfly’s onboard wifi entertainment solution has added American Express to Vodafone and Halls on its list of advertisers and sponsors. Immfly, branded as XL Cloud, has been used by more than 30,000 passengers flying on XL Airways long-haul A330 fleet since the beginning of this year.

Paris-based XL Airways offers Immfly’s wireless platform on routes to the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the US. Passengers can access the platform using their personal electronic devices via the app – available as a free download before the flight – or the web. They can browse a large selection of movies, TV shows, newsfeeds, magazines, kids’ channels and travel guides. The catalogue, which is available in English and French, includes free content and a Premium offer, available for 9.95€ per flight, or for 15€ when renting an iPad Mini onboard.

Samuel Gombervaux, chief revenue officer at Immfly, said: “We are thrilled to include partners such as American Express on our advertiser portfolio. The inflight digital advertising industry is growing year on year at three-digit speed, which opens great perspective for the future. Our Immfly platform enables digital advertising interaction where and when others can’t reach. It’s a moment when our audience is relaxed and receptive: during their flight.”

Jimmy M. von Korff, co-founder of Immfly, commented: “The IFE industry is evolving towards smarter digital services that add value to the passenger’s experience, and as airlines seek to enhance it, they must also identify innovative ways to increase revenue. Via performance marketing and platform sponsorship, we aim to cover these two needs, since we provide airlines with a strong ancillary tool while still enhancing the passenger’s travel experience and ultimately benefiting brands and other third parties”.


Entertainment upgrade for SAS Business

June 6, 2017

Business passengers flying on SAS’s new fleet of A330s are set to experience an upgraded on-demand in-flight entertainment system, with full programme offerings accessed via high-resolution screen.

The A330-300 incorporates the RAVE in-flight entertainment system – a fully customisable and lightweight entertainment set up from Zodiac. This new system offers each passenger their own personal television screen, featuring an intuitive, full-capacity and simple interface. The navigation will be available in six languages: English, French, German, Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish.

In addition, passengers will be able to stream a selected set of content to their own personal device, such as a smartphone or tablet. The additional content consists of a selection of digital magazines, a newsfeed offered by Agence France-Presse (AFP) offering global news updates directly to your device, short tourism clips, a moving map which allows you to zoom in and out of the area you’re flying over, and more.

The offering will be expanded in the future with cached websites and additional short TV content. The SAA in-flight entertainment app Airscape needs to be downloaded before travel for iOS and Android devices. Passengers will be able to access over 100 movies to enjoy – from the latest blockbusters to old favourites and a wide selection of African and Asian titles.

Up to 100 TV features are on offer, including the latest full-season series and comedy shows. Gaming enthusiasts can take their pick from 15 games (including a selection of multi-player games). There are also 14 radio station channels and over 170 music albums to choose from.

There is a special kids’ section and SAA has a family-friendly feature whereby parents can ask a flight attendant to limit movies for a certain seat to kiddies’ view (movies for toddlers with no age restriction) or teen view (PG and PG 13 movies and programmes).

The system can also be used to wake passengers for meals or show they wish to remain undisturbed by simply choosing the feature on the monitor, displayed at a low light, just bright enough for the crew to identify the passenger’s wishes.


Lufthansa provides cabin staff with iPads

June 6, 2017

Lufthansa has issued 20,000 cabin mobile devices to crew as part of a year of digitisation.

Loaded with Lufthansa crewFlight apps, the technology gives crew access to the seating plan and plenty of information on passengers onboard.

Flight attendants have received iPad Minis and an Electronic Flight Bag is already in operation in the cockpit and used by 4,300 pilots for flight planning and operations.

The move allows crew to access all the data they need to work onboard, from important service manuals to service schedules, and easily view any changes in plans. It heralds a new way of paperless working and simplifies existing processes so that staff have more time for customers. It also improves communication with the personnel on board.

The Cabin Mobile Device project is part of a major current programme of transformation called ‘OPSession’, which aims to further digitise the operational areas of Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines. Employees with no fixed workplace are to be equipped with mobile devices so that they may meet the needs of the customer in an even better and more personalised way.


Icelandair chooses ViaSat

May 31, 2017

Icelandair has partnered with global broadband services company ViaSat for its inflight connectivity and internet streaming service. Icelandair bridges America and Europe through its hub at Keflavik International Airport, serving 18 destinations in North America and more than 25 airports in Scandinavia, the UK and Europe.

Icelandair will use the brand new ViaSat-2, which launches on June 1, 2017 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It is a geostationary Ka-band satellite, designed to offer high-capacity connectivity and wide coverage, and promises to enter service in early 2018 with more than 300 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of network capacity.

Passenger devices will connect directly to the ViaSat-2 Ka-band satellite network over North America and the Atlantic, and then switch over to the European KA-SAT network, a high-capacity Ka-band satellite system part-owned by ViaSat in a European joint venture with Eutelsat.
Icelandair will also use ViaSat’s latest generation (Gen-2) in-flight internet system. By using the latest technology, Icelandair expects to be able to offer full internet and streaming services to all its passengers who need them.

“Our investment in new technology, from ViaSat, will deliver one of the best internet experiences in the skies,” commented Guðmundur Óskarsson, svp, Sales and Marketing, Icelandair. “In partnering with ViaSat we continue our strong reputation of putting our passengers first by giving them the opportunity to use the internet the way they want to – by providing internet with fast web browsing speeds and video streaming.”

“This is a watershed moment for ViaSat – as this is the first time an airline will use our technology to offer full internet connectivity and internet streaming to passengers over the Atlantic Ocean,” said Don Buchman, vp and general manager, Commercial Mobility at ViaSat.
Icelandair plans to install ViaSat’s in-flight internet system on its fleet of 16 Boeing 737MAX aircraft post-delivery. The installation programme is scheduled to begin in March 2018 and continue until 2020.


European laptop ban off – for now

May 23, 2017

At a four-hour meeting with EU officials in Brussels last week, the US decided not to impose its proposed ban on large electronic devices including laptops and tablets in hand luggage on aircraft travelling to the US from Europe.

The airline industry, represented by International Air Transport Association (IATA), had advised strongly against the ban, saying that it would seriously affect the economy. Passenger traffic between the continents stands at 65 million per year on 400 daily flights.

The proposed ban would have been much more disruptive than the current one, which started in March and affects nine airlines and 50 flights a day from 10 cities in the Middle East and North Africa. The existing ban, also partially adopted by Britain and now being considered by Australia, apparently focused on specific countries because their hand baggage screening equipment is not as effective as US machines.

At the meeting in Brussels, officials from the US Department of Homeland Security and the EU shared information about security threats to air travel. They also talked about aviation security standards and detection capabilities, and agreed to meet again in Washington next week.

It seems likely that Europe will try to allay US concerns by committing to closer scrutiny of laptops and tablets at the departure gates of US-bound flights, including electronic-trace detection. Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) ceo Joe Leader has proposed a solution using facial recognition to white-list passengers carrying electronic devices on specific routes.

APEX has also warned that a further electronics ban could come at short notice, so has put together guidelines under five distinct headings to help passengers and airlines to prepare for the worst.

This issue might go either way: a satisfactory solution might enable US officials to call off the original ban; but some airline analysts say it is simply a matter of time before the wider prohibition of laptops and tablets onboard is enforced.


SES launches first all-electric satellite

May 23, 2017

On the morning of May 18, SES-15 was launched by Arianespace aboard a Soyuz launch vehicle from Kourou in French Guiana. The launch vehicle lifted its payload to a geostationary transfer orbit.

The telecommunications satellite is SES’s first to use an all-electrical ion propulsion system to move to its final position. Located at 129 degrees West, SES-15 will be SES’s first hybrid satellite, offering a mix of Ku-band wide-beam coverage and Ku‐band High Throughput Satellite (HTS) capacity, with connectivity to gateways in the Ka‐band.

The Boeing-manufactured satellite is designed to serve the aeronautical sector and will enable other traffic‐intensive data applications for government, VSAT (very small aperture terminal) networks and maritime. SES’s HTS coverage will enable subscribing airlines to offer their passengers Panasonic Avionic’s inflight wifi and live television services.

SES-15 will serve North America, Mexico and Central America, with coverage from Arctic Alaska to the south of Panama, and from Hawaii to the Caribbean.

It is one of three Ku-HTS satellites scheduled to be launched by SES this year. They include another electric satellite SES-12, manufactured by Airbus. All will be geostationary, orbiting at 36.000km above the earth at the speed of the earth’s rotation.


US electronics ban: airline reactions

May 16, 2017

The ban on passengers carrying laptops and tablets on routes to the US and UK from the Middle East and parts of Africa has provoked protests from the carriers affected – and a few attempts at solutions.

The electronics ban introduced in March affected nine airlines on flights to the US from Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. Britain followed with a similar ban on six Middle Eastern countries. Now the UK government is overseeing plans to ban laptops, tablets and e-book readers in hand luggage from British airports to American cities.

Emirates reacted by reducing the number of flights to five US cities. It has also introduced a ‘laptop handling service’ to allow passengers to use their large personal electronic devices up until the last moment of passing through the gate in Dubai.

Other airlines have tried workarounds. In an interview soon after the ban was introduced in March, Qatar Airways ceo Akbar Al Baker said: “I didn’t think this ban was necessary at all. “People who want to disrupt aviation will do it from other places where there is no ban.

“Yes, we have had a drop in passengers but it’s a manageable drop and people have started to realise that there are other ways to use laptops. For example, Qatar Airways supplies laptops for use by Premium passengers on the aircraft.”

Etihad Airways is also offering First and Business Class guests iPads and a free wifi voucher on all its US-bound flights from Abu Dhabi.

Turkish Airlines is offering onboard laptops to its business class passengers on flights to the United States. The airline said it would provide the same service to its UK-bound business class passengers from May 12.

The Turkish Airlines system works like this: travellers give their laptops or tablets to staff before their flight and then ask the cabin crew for a laptop to use onboard. The laptops have a high-security system that protects the personal information of passengers by automatically and permanently deleting it from the system when the computer shuts down. Users can copy their work onto a USB memory stick.

Meanwhile, US Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said that the agency is considering expanding the ban. APEX ceo Joe Leader has called for a hold on this: “Having the electronics ban spread to the European Union for flights to the United States would damage the personal freedoms integral to international air travel,” he said.

Instead he suggested a solution that would use facial recognition to white-list passengers carrying electronics on certain routes. “Biometric identification of passengers that are pre-cleared to travel with electronics would enable a viable potential solution, with the Department of Homeland Security ready to provide immediate technological facilitation.

“Fighting potential threats means finding government solutions that do not take the laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, and large phones out of the hands of the millions of law-abiding passengers that use them every day,” said Leader.

Lufthansa adopts paid GX Aviation service

May 09, 2017

Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have completed their four-month GX Aviation Ka-band free internet trial on ten aircraft flying short- and medium-haul flights. According to a spokesperson from Inmarsat: “Performance targets were successfully met and feedback from passengers as well as Lufthansa Group cabin crew was extremely positive.”

The system uses Inmarsat’s three Ka-band satellites with Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect server and Wireless Access Points (WAPs) in the cabin. Lufthansa has made the planned transition to a paid service based on three levels: messaging at €3, surfing at €7, and streaming at €12. Another member of the Lufthansa Group, Eurowings, is about to launch its commercial internet service in the near future.

Lufthansa has partnered with Inmarsat in a ten-year strategic agreement, and plans to fit the service to around 300 Airbus A320-family aircraft. Speaking at the AIX show in Hamburg in April, Inmarsat’s Frederik van Essen, svp strategy and business development, aviation business unit, said that it was “a partnership to ensure they get their hands on the latest technology”.

He also said that the installation of GX for Aviation on Lufthansa’s short- and medium-haul fleet was proceeding well at a rate of eight planes a week. The entire fleet of Lufthansa, Austrian and Eurowings aircraft should be completed by the year-end.

“This is a significant milestone for GX Aviation too, which took more than five years to develop as the world’s first inflight broadband solution with seamless global coverage delivered through a single operator,” commented Inmarsat aviation president Leo Mondale.

lufthansagroup.com; inmarsat.com

New launch date for ViaSat-2

May 09, 2017

ViaSat has confirmed the launch date for the ViaSat-2 satellite as June 1, 2017. It will be aboard an Arianespace Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle taking off from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will be sent into orbit by the launch vehicle and will provide broadband services from 69.9° west longitude.

ViaSat-2 is a geostationary Ka-band satellite, designed to offer high-capacity connectivity and wide coverage, with the flexibility to move capacity to areas of highest demand. It promises to double the bandwidth of ViaSat-1, with more than 300 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of network capacity. When it enters service in early 2018, it is expected to provide seven times the broadband coverage of its predecessor.

The new satellite system is expected to significantly improve speeds, reduce costs and expand the footprint of broadband services. It will cover North America, Central America, the Caribbean, a portion of northern South America, and the main air and maritime routes across the Atlantic Ocean.

The launch date was delayed for just over a month because of social unrest in the area around the spaceport in French Guiana.


Eurostar and Sony launch ‘Sound Menu’

May 01, 2017

Eurostar and Sony have partnered to offer passengers a new ‘Sound Menu’, optimised for use with Sony’s 1000X wireless headphones with noise-cancelling technology. The Sony Sound Menu is on all trans-Channel Eurostar e320 and e300 trains from April 27 for a month’s trial.

It has been developed with senior lecturer in Music Psychology at Keele University, Dr Alexandra Lamont. She has used studies conducted on music and mood regulation to recommend five playlists to help travellers prepare, relax and focus on the way to their destination.

The inspiration behind the idea is from UK research into the music listening habits of travellers. Over a quarter (27%) said they can never fully relax on a journey; 39% blamed the noise made by others as being one of the biggest stress factors. Over two-thirds of passengers said that music helps them relax.

Matt Coupe, head of sound, UK & Ireland at Sony, said: “Our 1000X headphones give travellers the opportunity to experience our best in noise-cancelling headphones to be able to cut out the chaos around them. Plus, with our ‘Quick Attention Mode’, travellers can simply touch the side of their headphones so they’re still able to hear announcements or order a coffee onboard.”

Neil Roberts, head of digital, Eurostar, commented, “Our onboard entertainment system gives travellers more than 300 hours of free content, all available through their own device. We’re always looking for ways to improve our passengers’ journeys, and the new Sound Menu created by Sony offers our travellers a way to get more out of their time on board, whether it’s focusing on work, or relaxing after a busy day.”

eurostar.com; sony.co.uk

Thales aims for number one

April 26, 2017

Thales is aiming to be ‘number one’ in the IFEC industry according to Dominique Giannoni, ceo Inflyt Experience, speaking at a press briefing at the AIX show in Hamburg. Passenger expectation of IFEC are increasing all the time, he says, and Thales wants to be the partner that airlines chose to deliver their brand promises.

Giannoni refers to the ‘moving landscape’ of the industry, and says that the hardware focus of the past has now given way to a software focus. Systems now need to push content to passengers and collect feedback and data from them in real time. He announced the introduction of Inflyt 360 – “a whole new eco-system for engaging passengers” – that will reach out to them in a more interactive way.

Thales has also created a ‘user experience centre of excellence’ incorporating design, cognitive, ergonomic and engineering experts to advise airlines on their interfaces. Airlines increasingly want to refresh their passenger-facing screens with changing seasons and campaigns, and the Android-based architecture of the Avant system makes this possible, says Giannoni.

Satellite partners include Inmarsat and SES, who is building a massive satellite, SES-17, to provide Ka-band connectivity over the Americas in 2020. Elias Zaccack, svp Americas at SES, says: “What we bring to the table is a big, fat pipe to the aircraft, which is resilient, redundant, and secure. Our satellites are designed for aero-mobility, and SES-17 will have a digital processor onboard that enables us to switch capacity to where it is needed, in case of heavy traffic or re-routing of planes because of weather.”

He continues: “We already have a robust network which will be in service in Q3-Q4 this year. These are the Ka-band satellites AMT-15, AMT-16, Jupiter 1 and 2, which will give coverage over the US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.”


What is NEXT for Panasonic?

April 26, 2017

Panasonic’s new IFEC platform, NEXT, is being positioned as “the most powerful platform enabled by the most comprehensive and integrated eco-system in the industry,” according to Jon Norris, senior director corporate sales and marketing, speaking at AIX in Hamburg.

The platform is designed to be digital, scalable for any size aircraft, and modular, so that it is suitable for any level of investment and easy upgrades.

The eco-system it plugs into is comprehensive, says Norris, incorporating services developed by Panasonic and its partners that range from ancillary revenue generation through onboard retail, pay-per-view services and booking fees, to cabin and crew applications such as mechanical testing, inventory and surveys, electronic flight bag and weather alerts.

The benefits for passengers are that their journey is personalised, with a welcome by name, and food, drink and entertainment preferences automatically adjusted. Airlines can deliver this personalised experience to develop passenger loyalty but can also collect their profiles for targeted advertising, which should lead to increased revenues. Norris adds: “It is smartphone-centred, because now our smartphones are key to who we are.”

Norris adds that the trend is for airlines to morph from their traditional role into ‘digital IT systems in the sky’. NEXT will have a 10Gb backbone but, he says, it is time to stop talking about boxes or systems, and to talk about business outcomes.

In answer to a question about the probable high cost of the system, David Bruner, vp GCS, Panasonic Avionics, points out that the company was a supplier to 300 airlines, some of which were LCCs. He says that in evaluating cost, it is important to consider the whole business case, because the NEXT system is designed to ensure the revenue benefits will eclipse the cost of installing and maintaining it.

The Panasonic NEXT system will be linefit on B777X aircraft from 2020.


Qantas switches on inflight wifi

April 19, 2017

Australian carrier Qantas has switched on inflight wifi on its Australian domestic Boeing 737-800 flights, offering free connectivity.

Working with global broadband services provider ViaSat and the nbn (National Broadband Network) Sky Muster satellite service, customers can now test the broadband service on selected flights while Qantas fine-tune the system. Testing is expected to be complete by mid-year, and from there installation will begin on the carrier’s domestic fleet of A330s and B-737s.

Qantas Group ceo Alan Joyce said: “The technology we’re using onboard this 737 is a generation ahead of what most airlines around the world have and there’s a fair amount of complexity involved. That’s why we’ve installed it on one aircraft for the first few months until we’ve finished fine tuning and are ready to roll out to the rest of the domestic fleet.”

The Qantas system offers speed up to 10 times faster than conventional onboard wifi and provides the ability to stream movies, TV shows, music and news programmes – including items through content partnerships with Foxtel, Stan, Netflix and Spotify.

Additionally, pilots and cabin crew can receive real-time information improving efficiency and passenger experience. Pilots can access live weather and crew can manage customers’ onward journey in the air.

The inflight service works with ViaSat providing connectivity between the aircraft, the high capacity Ka-band satellites and the ground stations. Faster connection speeds are possible through the nbn Sky Muster satellite service.


GEE partners with Skylights for VR

April 19, 2017

At the AIX show in Hamburg, Global Eagle Entertainment and headset company SkyLights announced a partnership to promote video headset technology and immersive IFE.

GEE will provide SkyLights with content from its large licensed film catalogue. The two companies will also explore virtual reality (VR) opportunities for IFE.

SkyLights has developed signature VR headsets, aimed at premium passengers, that enable them to enjoy 2D and 3D films or 180-degree content on a wide-angled screen. The SkyLights Bravo Theater system was deployed early in 2017 on a fleet of private jets and also France’s XL Airways’ A330-300 and A330-200 aircraft. Passenger feedback was positive, with a 90 per cent recommendation rate and an average usage time of four hours.


GEE wins Crystal Cabin Award for Airtime

April 19, 2017

Global Eagle Entertainment beat competition from Airbus and Lufthansa Technik to win a Crystal Cabin award in the Electronic Systems category for its Airtime Inflight streaming portal.

Currently flying on over 800 aircraft, Airtime enables inflight streaming of live TV, on-demand movies and shows, games, music, digital magazines, flight tracking and destination information to passengers’ smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Passengers can access their favourite websites, send and receive messages and post on social media. Using GEE’s portfolio of studio-licensed movies, music, TV series, magazines and newspapers, and its technology for fast web browsing, airlines can deliver an entertaining experience to their passengers and in doing so build their brand loyalty.

The Airtime platform enables airlines to use customisable branded campaigns across the user interface. In this way it can tailor sponsored content to specific demographics and routes and use ads to optimise revenue.

Collecting the award, Alexis Steinman, GEE’s svp for digital media solutions, said, “Our corporate vision is to use innovations like Airtime to bring people on the move – across air, land and sea – a consistent quality of experience that is similar to what they get at home or the office.”


Gogo claims 50% market share

April 19, 2017

Anand Chari, cto of Gogo, said at the AIX show this month that Gogo had around 50% of the connected aircraft worldwide, with over 1500 now contracted to 2Ku installs, and a greater share in the US.

Gogo works with 13 airlines including the IAG group, Air France, KLM, Japan Airlines, JTA, GOL, United, Alaska, Delta, Virgin Atlantic, and the latest addition, Virgin Australia, whose 80 Airbus A330 and Boeing B737-800 and B777 aircraft are to be installed with Gogo’s 2Ku system, after a period of customer testing with one aircraft.

Commenting at the show about the laptop and tablet ban in aircraft operating from certain Middle Eastern countries, Chari said: “Right now, none of our current customers is affected. Obviously we take any security threat seriously. The right thing to do is to increase security at airports.”

Looking to future developments, Chari said that Gogo’s next generation air-to-ground (ATG) system would be for smaller commercial and business aircraft in the US only. It has a small, smart antenna in the belly of the aircraft that forms and steers beams electronically.

Gogo has recently announced that it has received certification to install its 2Ku system as linefit on Airbus A320, A330 and A380 aircraft. Chari commented: “This has been a lengthy process. We are happy that airlines can choose 2Ku as a factory install.”

Asked about purchasing capacity on SES satellites, Chari said: “We are constantly purchasing capacity. 2Ku is growing, usage is growing, and we are happy to be building our capacity in the market. SES and Intelsat are our major partners, but we also work with Eurosat, Telesat and JSAT, among others.”


AIX highlights

April 11, 2017

The Onboard Hospitality team took time out to explore the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg last week, touring Halls B2, B3, B4 and the IFEC Zone. Richard Williams came across a few oldies and a few newbies and a few future gems. Check out our photo gallery of the 2017 stands here. 

Panasonic: New boy Jon Norris hosted a press conference that was all about NEXT. But what is NEXT all about? Apparently, it is “the most powerful platform enabled by the most comprehensive and integrated eco-system in the industry…. It is smartphone-centred, because now our smartphones are key to who we are.” Luckily there is time to prepare, because: “The system will be linefit on B777X aircraft from 2020.”

Thales: At a press briefing Dominic Giannoni, ceo Inflyt Experience, reiterated Thales’s ambition to be Number One in the IFEC industry. He too has an eco-system: Inflyt 360 – “a whole new eco-system for engaging passengers”. Satellite partners include Inmarsat and SES, who is building a massive satellite, SES-17, to provide Ka-band connectivity over the Americas in 2020.

SmartSky: SmartSky is deploying the US’s first 4G LTE-based broadband high speed wireless air-to-ground data network dedicated to airborne internet connectivity. Its inflight demonstrations show passengers enthusiastically enjoying a level of connectivity like that in their home. The network rollout is underway, with most sites expected to be operational in the autumn.

AirFi: Job Heimerikx said that AirFi had contracts with 31 airlines for its award-winning wireless IFE portable solution, with another five in final negotiations. This year is content-focused. “We are doing a deal with Mashable for short-video content. We want differentiated, millennial content. We also have a cooperation with ITV to show their content on the box.”

Gogo: Gogo is grabbing market share with 1500 contracted installs for its 2Ku service, and 13 airlines on the books. It has received certification to install its 2Ku system as linefit on Airbus A320, A330 and A380 aircraft. Cto Anand Chari commented: “This has been a lengthy process. We are happy that airlines can choose 2Ku as a factory install.”

APEX calls for solutions to airline electronics ban

March 28, 2017

The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) has called for government-approved security solutions for the recent airline electronics ban, believing the ban may spread beyond the intended scope without a solution.

The Department for Transport imposed a ban on passengers carrying any electronic devices larger than mobile phones on UK-bound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

IATA calculations indicate 393 flights per week will be impacted by the ban, which translates to more than three million affected passengers per year, based on APEX load-factor calculations.

“The US and UK, pointed to a problem in airline security by banning electronics on certain flights. When we take away personal electronic devices from passengers, we are bowing to a potential threat rather than providing an acceptable security solution”, said APEX CEO, Joe Leader.

“Chemical detection machines utilised worldwide can detect illicit items in electronics. Turning on electronics checks functionality and non-functioning electronics could be banned from flights. The expense of hand-searching every carry-on for the personal electronics ban could instead be directed to a long-term solution that serves airlines and passengers safely,” said Leader.

APEX has engaged key US and UK government officials on a solutions-oriented approach.


Cube gets onboard

March 20, 2017

The Media inMotion “Cube” is now providing an inflight media solution for passengers on all SunExpress Germany flights.

Media inMotion is a subsidiary brand of LSG Group’s Retail inMotion, and director Thomas Rilling said: “The implementation of our inflight media solution on SunExpress Germany flights is a huge milestone for Media inMotion. It is a confirmation to the industry that our customisable solution has a proven track record of success.”

Weighing in at 11 kilograms, the Cube allows for up to 40 users to simultaneously stream content. Browsing capability is concurrently available to all passengers on a flight. Content provided on the system includes feature-length films, television shows, newspapers, magazines, travel guides, SunExpress-specific content, order-to-seat functions, advertising and games.

Media inMotion’s Cube offers full integration with Retail inMotion’s onboard retail software suite, Vector, and works seamlessly with its Point of Sale (POS) solution. The team is currently developing additional product capabilities for the Cube, including the integration of video advertising and third-party service options like home delivery services.


April launch for ViaSat-2

March 20, 2017

ViaSat has announced that construction of the ViaSat-2 satellite is complete. The scheduled launch date for ViaSat-2 is April 25, 2017, from the Arianespace launch site in French Guiana, and it will be operational at the end of 2017.

ViaSat-2 promises to deliver much more capacity and better coverage to airline partners JetBlue, United, and American Airlines. ViaSat expects 350 Gbit/s of Ka-band capacity over North and Central America, the Caribbean, and the North Atlantic.

ViaSat and Boeing concluded the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for two of the next-generation ViaSat-3 class satellites in November 2016. The companies are now doing detailed design work, and the first ViaSat-3 class satellite is expected to be ready for launch in 2019.


Spafax appointment

March 20, 2017

Inflight entertainment, media sales and content specialists, Spafax has appointed Tullia Vitturi di Este-Lochra as head of luxury & international partnerships.

She joins from a position as head of luxury at the Wall Street Journal, London and will be leading Spafax’s media sales division in Europe.

Vitturi di Este-Lochra brings a wealth of experience from across the luxury sales industry and a strong proven track record for increasing revenue across highly-competitive markets. In previous roles, she delivered dramatic increases in new business sales including a 17% increase in advertising sales from new business across Time Inc.’s affluent media portfolio.

Vitturi di Este-Lochra will work closely with Katrin Kopvillem, EVP, Global Corporate Development, Spafax, to further bolster the group’s market-leading portfolio of global brand partnerships.


Thales, SES and Hughes in deal to launch FlytLIVE

March 15, 2017

Thales, SES and Hughes Network Systems have signed agreements designed to improve the delivery of Thales’ FlytLIVETM inflight connectivity solution. The deals see SES leasing capacity on Hughes EchoStar XVII and EchoStar XIX high throughput (HTS) Ka-band satellites to complement its own AMC-15 and AMC-16 satellites. SES will also buy JUPITER™ System gateways from Hughes to enable Thales to offer its connected inflight experience in North America this year.

Using four satellites strengthens Thales’ FlytLIVE network in advance of the launch of the SES-17 Ka-band HTS satellite, planned for 2020. SES-17 is being manufactured by Thales Alenia Space and has around 200 spot beams and coverage specifically designed for aviation and mobility markets.

The combination of currently operating SES satellites and Hughes satellites will provide significant capacity over the Americas, including coverage redundancy over North America. The new onboard connectivity equipment will also have elements of redundancy, with multiple modems to connect to the various satellites.

Dominique Giannoni, ceo, Thales InFlyt Experience said: “With these strategic agreements with SES and Hughes, Thales FlytLIVE service will be uniquely able to deliver airlines and their passengers with an unsurpassed, connected inflight entertainment experience.”

Elias Zaccack, svp of SES’s Global Mobility Team and the Americas region, added: “Not only are we developing SES-17, a next-generation satellite that Thales will use to meet the future inflight connectivity demands of the next decade, but we are also providing a superior, tailor-made, multi-satellite and multi-beam solution today, in 2017, utilising assets already in orbit. This is only possible thanks to the combination of our existing robust and flexible network with our long-standing relationship with Hughes and Thales.”


Qantas in deal with Foxtel, Netflix and Spotify

February 21, 2017

Qantas passengers on flights with wifi will have access to Foxtel pay TV, Netflix shows and audio from Spotify. Foxtel is offering passengers three days of free streaming, while Netflix and Spotify offer 30-day free trials as long as passengers subscribe.

High-speed wifi is available on one Qantas Boeing 737 from February, flying routes between Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. The rest of the fleet will be equipped in June. Passengers need to download an app and bring their mobile or tablet onboard to get the shows.

The app will also deliver flight path information and Sky News. Passengers will be able to access travel information, including real-time flight data, hotel, restaurant and transport options at the destination and the latest weather.

The streaming wifi service uses NBN’s Sky Muster satellites. Qantas is also considering extending wifi services onto its international and regional fleets.

Qantas brand, marketing and corporate affairs group executive Olivia Wirth commented: “We know that email, online shopping, and general web browsing will be popular uses when we switch on wifi but what a lot of people relish about flying is being able to catch up on their favourite TV shows or watch movies they didn’t get to see at the cinema.”


Intelsat’s Epic 32e launched and 33e in service

February 21, 2017

The Intelsat 32e satellite was successfully launched from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket on February 14. It is designed to overlay some beams from Intelsat 29e, the first Intelsat EpicNG satellite, increasing the throughput over the Caribbean and North Atlantic shipping and air routes.

Stephen Spengler, ceo Intelsat, said: “This is the first of three Intelsat EpicNG satellite launches planned for 2017 as we continue to deploy our high-performance overlay on the world’s first globalised network. With the addition of Intelsat 32e, Intelsat is now the only satellite operator with HTS resiliency over the world’s busiest air route. Intelsat 32e also increases our capabilities to support the growth of our maritime customers in the Caribbean and the Atlantic, such as the exclusive use of our services for broadband to most of the world’s largest cruise ships sailing the Caribbean right now.”

Intelsat 33e, the second EpicNG high throughput satellite (HTS), successfully completed testing and entered service on January 29. It will extend the company’s HTS services in C-band, Ku- and Ka-band to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean regions. Customers for its services include IFEC providers Gogo and Panasonic Avionics.

Two more EpicNG satellites – I-35e and I-37e – are scheduled for launch in 2017. The global footprint of EpicNG will be completed with Horizons 3e, with a launch planned before the end of 2018.


April launch for ViaSat-2

February 21, 2017

ViaSat has announced that construction of the ViaSat-2 satellite is complete. The scheduled launch date for ViaSat-2 is April 25, 2017, from the Arianespace launch site in French Guiana, and it will be operational at the end of 2017.

ViaSat-2 promises to deliver much more capacity and better coverage to airline partners JetBlue, United, and American Airlines. ViaSat expects 350 Gbit/s of Ka-band capacity over North and Central America, the Caribbean and the North Atlantic.

ViaSat and Boeing concluded the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for two of the next-generation ViaSat-3 class satellites in November 2016. The companies are now doing detailed design work and the first ViaSat-3 class satellite is expected to be ready for launch in 2019.


XL Airways upgrades IFE with Immfly

February 14, 2017

Paris-based XL Airways upgraded its IFE at the beginning of this year by using Immfly’s wireless platform, which is now flying on routes to the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the States. Passengers access the XL Cloud platform using their mobiles and tablets via the free, downloadable app or the internet.

On XL Cloud, they can view a range of movies, TV, news, magazines, kids’ channels and travel guides. The catalogue, available in English and French, includes free content plus a Premium service, which costs €9.95 per flight, or €15 to rent an ipad Mini onboard.

Since its launch with Iberia Express two years ago, Immfly has got STC certification for installation on A320 and A330 aircraft, and is currently operational on three airlines. In August it announced its first cruise line partnership with Trasmediterránea, operating routes between mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands, and northern Africa.

The system is easy to operate, says Ricard Falomir, cio of Iberia Express. “Upon landing, the system automatically connects to the Cloud to download passenger data and process payment transactions. With Immfly onboard we just have to make sure that the hardware is on; the rest is successfully managed either by their operations team or by the system itself”.

Alfredo Ibáñez, cto of Immfly, commented: “According to how the market is taking shape, we propose airlines a flexible two-step approach with no operational disruption: first Wireless IFE and then Wireless IFE and Connectivity. Given that our product is compatible with most connectivity operators and integrators, adding a connectivity system to an Immfly-equipped aircraft involves a seamless integration with significant cost benefits and technological synergies.”

Voted Newcomer of the year at APEX in Singapore in September 2016, Immfly is now shortlisted for the Crystal Cabin Awards at AIX in Hamburg.


Lufthansa gets new connected A350

February 6, 2016

Lufthansa’s brand new A350-900 was presented to the media at Munich airport at the beginning of February. The A350 is the first of ten new aircraft to be based at Munich, with another 15 on order.

Lufthansa’s A350 fleet has an upgraded IFE system which enables passengers to customise their onboard entertainment up to six weeks before flying. Passengers can use the ‘Lufthansa Companion’ app to create playlists from a range of 100 films and 200 TV programmes. They can also choose whether to watch on the seatback screen or on their personal electronic devices (PEDs).

The A350 fleet will also offer wifi connectivity through Lufthansa’s Flynet portal, which allows passengers to connect either via WLAN or GSM as soon as the aircraft has reached cruising height. This service costs €9 for one hour, €14 for two hours or €17 for the whole flight.

The A350 is the first Airbus aircraft to feature on-board LED lighting technology designed to synchronise with passengers’ body clocks, which is claimed to ease jetlag. The system has 24 lighting settings intended to simulate light conditions from morning to evening. The lighting system will also be retro-fitted to Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-800s.

Lufthansa plans to replace its A340s with the A350. Claimed to be the world’s most advanced and most environmentally friendly long-haul aircraft, the A350-900 uses 25% less fuel, produces 25% fewer emissions and is quieter on take-off than its rivals.


Free wifi from JAL and Gogo

January 30, 2016

Japan Airlines is offering free wifi on all equipped domestic flights from February 1 until August 31 this year. The airline has been offering 15 minutes of free inflight wifi on domestic flights since August 2016, but is now removing the 15-minute time limit.

Passengers access the internet service with a ‘Free Flight Pass’ button that appears on the portal after connecting to inflight wifi. The service is available five minutes after take-off until five minutes before landing.

JAL is promoting its fleet-wide upgrade to their new Sky Next product, using satellite Internet technology from Gogo. Inflight video programmes on topics including sports, gourmet food, music and animation are also available to passengers free of charge and can be streamed wirelessly using mobile devices.

The Sky Next service is being installed on 77 select 777-300, 777-200, 767-300 and 737-800 aircraft.



American drops seatback screens

January 30, 2016

American Airlines has decided not to specify seatback monitors for IFE on the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft it has ordered for delivery later this year.

The airline plans to keep seatback screens on its widebody aircraft such as the Boeing 777, 787 and Airbus A330 flying international routes. However, with more passengers bringing personal electronic devices (PEDs) on board, American Airlines is changing its approach to IFE on domestic routes.

“Every customer with a phone, tablet or laptop will be able to watch free movies and TV shows from our extensive on-board library, as well as free live television channels, all without purchasing an in-flight internet connection,” said a spokesperson from American.

American Airlines has ordered four Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for delivery this year without seatback screens. It has also ordered 40 Boeing 737 and Airbus A321 aircraft with seatback monitors and power at every seat.

The airline decided last year to use two satellite internet providers to outfit its planes with in-flight wifi. It is using ViaSat’s technology on its new Boeing 737 MAX fleet and upgrading 134 existing Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft using Gogo’s 2Ku solution.

American also plans to have power outlets at every seat on half its domestic narrowbody aircraft by the end of 2018 and more than 85 per cent by the end of 2019.

“It makes sense for American to focus on giving customers the best entertainment and fast connection options rather than installing seatback monitors that will be obsolete within a few years,” commented the airline spokesperson.


Share your news

January 30, 2016

Onboard Hospitality is currently putting together the latest edition of its onboard entertainment and connectivity supplement.

The team is committed to bringing its readers all the latest developments and trends in onboard technology and will include features on inflight entertainment apps and content, new products, company profiles, interviews and predictions.

This supplement is designed to update and guide our international readership through the buying and supplying of onboard technology and help them gain a clearer understanding of the main providers and suppliers of onboard entertainment and connectivity to air, rail, cruise and ferry operators. We focus on the concepts, suppliers and innovations driving growth in this sector.

The supplements are distributed with Onboard Hospitality in hard copy and digital form to our international database of more than 14,400 industry buyers and decision-makers. They are also available online prior to APEX and AIX and are distributed at these exhibitions free of charge.

This new issue will be distributed at AIX in Hamburg. To be a part of it please contact sue.williams@onboardhospitality.com at your earliest convenience.

Recognising the best

January 24, 2016

Do you know your plugins from your platforms, your apps from your androids? Then we need your help. We have six innovative and exciting technology entries in our 2017 Onboard Hospitality Awards and they are all looking for your vote to help them gain greater recognition.

Voting closes in one week on February 1, so check out our entries and cast your vote to give them the support they deserve.

Entries include the INPLAY media platform which delivers media content to passenger devices so they can stream the latest movies/TV shows as they go; and the BEAM app developed by Virgin Trains to bring airline-quality entertainment to the railways.

There’s the Touchstar Onbaord Retail Solution helping to make inflight sales easy and efficient; while the SkyTrack technology by Spiriant is created to alleviate logistical troubles and create transparency when tracking trolleys.

Qantas has been turning its attention to tech solutions with its durable Q-Bag Tag, designed by Buzz to keep track of luggage; and its Qantas RED App which gives cabin crew real-time information about customers so they can connect and care for them as they travel.

Check them all out, and tell us your favourite. View and vote before February 1.

We are currently pulling together our next dedicated Onboard Technology supplement which will be distributed at AIX in Hamburg. To be a part of that supplement please contact sue.williams@onboardhospitality.com at your earliest convenience.

Ticket technology opens up

January 24, 2016

UK rail operator Chiltern Railways has partnered with travel technology company SilverRail to develop a ‘ticket-free travel’ trial.

The proposed technology would allow passengers to use their smartphones to detect commencement of travel, use Bluetooth to open ticket gates and automatically be charged the best price for their journey at the end of the day.

A smartphone app would also include personalised real-time travel updates, passenger advice and multi-modal journey options, plus a journey history, prices and details of how fares have been calculated.

The pilot has commenced on Chiltern’s newly-built route between Oxford Parkway and London Marylebone and will continue through 2017.

“This partnership marks a breakthrough for rail customers, allowing them to seamlessly travel through stations without having to stop at a ticket machine, while being charged the best priced ticket for on the day travel,” says Aaron Gowell, CEO of SilverRail.


Film censorship at 30,000 feet

January 24, 2016

In an article in the Economist magazine, Joe Leader, ceo of the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), lifted the lid on how and why the films you watch at 30,000 feet are not always the same as the ones you see in the cinema. Films depicting airline disasters are obviously unpopular, and do not feature on IFE catalogues.

But on short-haul flights with shared screens, the article points out, “the goal is to find something that appeals to everybody.” At the same time, movies including terrorism, nudity, sex scenes, drug use, profanity, racist or prejudiced comments about any religion, culture, or nationality have to be avoided.

Joe Leader said that guidelines are more relaxed on long-haul flights, when passengers can choose their own films to watch on their seatback screens.

Terrorism and airline crashes are still likely to be avoided, but content providers can choose from a wider selection of movies and edit them according to who is likely to be on the flight.

Leader said that the “best litmus test for regional in-flight entertainment practices” is local television. In Europe, “some nudity may be readily seen on broadcast television” but violence is less acceptable, while in America and the Middle East violence is tolerated but nudity is considered offensive.

Asked whether censorship at 30,000 feet is still appropriate, Leader said that seatback entertainment can still be seen by other passengers. So limiting films to PG-13 and “common-sense guidelines” are “completely appropriate”.

The Economist article went on to say that many flyers find censorship irritating, and some prefer to watch their own films on tablets and laptops – a trend that would continue as onboard wifi becomes more reliable and widespread. It quoted a 2016 survey from airline association IATA, which found that IFE was among the least satisfying parts of flying, and half of passengers would prefer to stream content on personal devices.


Rest of world chases US wifi lead

January 17, 2016

A new survey by Routehappy, a merchandising content platform for flight shopping, reports that more than 70 airlines now offer in-flight wifi, with 11 more airlines joining the club since last year. Around 39% of available seat miles (ASM) worldwide now offer at least a chance of wifi.

In 2016, a number of non-US airlines, including British Airways, Eurowings, Qantas and Air New Zealand made large-scale commitments to installing in-flight wifi. Robert Albert, ceo of Routehappy, observed, “In-flight wifi continues to grow in both airline adoption and capability, and this trend is only going to continue in 2017. 2016 was the year that airlines outside the US committed to high quality in-flight wifi at a rate only previously seen by US carriers, and 2017 will see those commitments come to life.”

Wifi has become commonplace on US airline flights. US airlines now offer flyers at least a chance of wifi on 83% of ASMs, which is 8.7% more than last year.

All three major US airlines added significant available seat miles with wifi in 2016. Of these, United offers the most long-haul ASMs with 2800 miles. Virgin America (now owned by Alaska Airlines) is the only US airline with wifi on all its flights.

Of all airlines worldwide, Emirates, United and Lufthansa are the top three to offer wifi on long haul routes, by total number of ASMs.

The company also looked at the quality of in-flight wifi, which it ranks as basic, better or best. Last year, the report says, best wifi was available on 6% of flights. That number has since grown to 7.2% and is expected to increase significantly in 2017.

Routehappy expects to see substantial gains in wifi quality in the future. “The mere availability of wifi is no longer enough. Passengers now demand a home broadband-like experience, and more airlines are now delivering this. JetBlue is nearing completion of a fleet-wide broadband rollout, allowing access to Netflix and other streaming services with no access charges; Virgin America has also recently introduced the same system.”

The report continues: “Gogo’s 2Ku system has recently launched with multiple major global airlines such as Delta, Aeromexico and Virgin Atlantic. Inmarsat’s GX for Aviation is also in the beginning stages of going live to passengers. Deutsche Telekom’s high-speed air-to-ground network is being built throughout the European Union and UK, and British Airways will use this network starting in mid-2017; SAS and Finnair have also tapped Viasat for European wifi.”

The Routehappy report concludes that in-fight wifi speed and quality “will dramatically improve” in the near future, with significant reductions of costs to the passenger.


Lufthansa trials internet on European network

January 17, 2016

Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines are both trialing high-quality internet access onboard their short-haul flights.

The airlines, which have both offered connectivity on their long-haul flights for some time, will each now trial the service on five A320 aircraft operating in Europe.

“I am pleased that we can soon offer broadband internet to our passengers on inner-European flights, giving them the chance to have a seamless digital experience,” says Harry Hohmeister, member of the board of directors of Deutsche Lufthansa.

“Since the launch of Lufthansa Flynet, it has been our goal to offer added value on board to our customers through innovation – and that also includes our internet provision,” he adds.

In the first quarter of 2017, the number of Lufthansa aircraft fitted with internet access will rise to around 20, and the entire Lufthansa A320 fleet is to be equipped with the latest technology by the middle of 2018.

The re-fitting of all 31 aircraft at Austrian Airlines is due for completion before the end of April 2017.


BBC launches at sea

January 10, 2016

BBC Worldwide has launched a global entertainment channel, BBC HD, the company’s first channel produced exclusively for cruise ships.

The channel will go live through Global Eagle Entertainment’s (GEE) MTN TV network, with P&O Cruises and Cunard being the first to offer it to their passengers. Content on the new channel ranges from drama, comedy and factual entertainment to natural history and documentaries. UK soaps such as Eastenders, Holby City and Casualty will also be on BBC HD.

BBC HD complements BBC World News, which launched on MTN TV in 2010 and is available on cruise ships throughout the world.

Zina Neophytou, Vice President, Out of Home, BBC Worldwide said: “There has always been a strong demand for BBC content within the travel and hospitality sectors including cruise ships so launching a bespoke global entertainment channel on MTN TV alongside BBC World News is an obvious step. BBC HD will be the one-stop shop for the best of British TV content.”

“The BBC was our initial launch partner when MTN TV was rolled out in 2010, and once again they are leading the way in pioneering more TV programming choices for cruising passengers around the world,” said Walé Adepoju, Executive Vice President, Media & Content at GEE. “The addition of the BBC HD channel is part of our expansion plan for MTN TV to provide more entertainment options relevant to today’s cruising market.”

As the launch customer BBC HD will be available on all P&O UK and Cunard ships with the channel also becoming available to the wider cruise industry in due course.


Carnival launches digital disc for cruise passengers

January 10, 2016

The Carnival Corporation has developed the Ocean Medallion, a wearable device that enables a high degree of personalisation for its guests onboard.

The Ocean Medallion can help guests embark and disembark from the cruise ship, order food and drinks, explore various parts of the ship and interact with one another. It will be aboard Princess Cruises from November.

The Ocean Medallion has no obvious technology – no on-off switch, no charging port, no navigation menu – and can be worn as a pendant, on a wristband or placed in a pocket. The little blue disc is part of a network of sensors using near-field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth technologies. Before the cruise guests will provide preferences and requirements so that their onboard experience can be personalised.

Paired with the Medallion is the Ocean Compass™, which is used by both guests and crew. This is a personal digital concierge accessible by all guests using interactive displays throughout the ship, on cabin TVs or on guests’ own devices. For example, guests can find their way around; locate family or group members; make reservations at the restaurant or spa, book shore excursions; arrange celebrations; view photographs; and learn about the destinations and activities at each port of call.

Beacon and sensor technology has applications beyond the cruise industry. At Miami International Airport, for example, beacons help passengers to find their way around the terminal, and also push targeted products and services. Airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are now using beacon technology to track baggage and provide real-time flight and boarding formation.

Arnold W. Donald, ceo of Carnival Corporation, said: “We recognise that each guest is different, and the things that make them happy are different.” Talking about Ocean Medallion and Compass, he added: “It’s simple. It’s personal. It’s elegant, and it will power our guest experiences like never before.”


Eurowings first LCC with GX for Aviation broadband

January 4, 2016

Eurowings is the latest airline from the Lufthansa Group to choose to install Inmarsat’s new GX for Aviation in-flight broadband. The first aircraft to be equipped are 69 Airbus A320s from the fleet. Some aircraft have already been fitted with the new solution, and all are expected to be completed by the middle of this year.

Eurowings will be the first low-cost carrier to offer GX for Aviation. The solution promises to deliver reliable, seamless high-speed global coverage, enabling passengers to browse the internet, stream videos, and check social media, with similar speeds to broadband on the ground. The new service will be integrated with the existing IFE system based on Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect platform.

The connection to the GX network will use new JetWave terminals produced by Honeywell Aerospace. The terminals are designed for ease of installation and maintenance to reduce downtime. Inmarsat partner Deutsche Telekom will be the Internet Service Provider for Eurowings passengers.

This contract is part of a 10-year deal between Inmarsat and the Lufthansa Group, including the selection of GX for Aviation for Lufthansa’s European continental fleet of over 180 aircraft. The GX service will also be deployed on more than 30 Austrian Airlines’ aircraft from the Airbus A320 family, with installation and testing currently underway.

“We look forward to working with Eurowings as our latest airline customer from the Lufthansa Group and the first low-cost carrier that will offer GX for Aviation,” said Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation. “Airline passengers want to be connected and Eurowings recognises the commercial benefits of committing to GX for Aviation. It is the only high-speed in-flight broadband solution with uninterrupted global coverage powered by a single operator. Our global satellite infrastructure offers a seamless service, allowing us to provide high quality connectivity whenever and wherever it’s needed, even over Europe, the world’s busiest air traffic space.”


Air New Zealand joins the GX gang

December 21, 2016

Inmarsat has signed a contract with Air New Zealand to provide Global Xpress (GX) connectivity to its long-haul and short-haul fleets. GX for Aviation is a high-speed Ka-band network tested by the US government and in operation today. It is designed for mobility, and promises to give a reliable, seamless broadband in-flight wifi experience across the world.

Air New Zealand has joined Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Singapore Airlines in choosing GX for connectivity. GX has been selected for its global reach, which covers Air New Zealand’s ultra-long-haul routes across the Pacific and on to the United Kingdom. At the same time it has the potential to layer-in capacity over key regional destination hubs, such as the east coast of Australia, to ensure a good customer experience.

Air New Zealand’s chief digital officer, Avi Golan, commented: “We wanted a world-class solution that would meet the high expectations of our customers, offering both a consistent and reliable service…. We‘ve been monitoring the developments in inflight connectivity for some time and with GX, we believe we will be able to offer broadband on-board in innovative ways that will further set Air New Zealand apart as one of the world’s leading airlines.”

“We’re very excited about working with Air New Zealand. They’re an innovative organisation and have taken a fresh approach to finding the right connectivity partner,” commented Inmarsat Aviation president Leo Mondale. “GX for Aviation is the only in-flight broadband solution that is fast, reliable and truly consistent, with seamless coverage across the world provided by a single operator.”

GX for Aviation connectivity will be integrated with Air New Zealand’s Inflight Entertainment (IFE) system, provided by Panasonic. The first GX-equipped aircraft are expected to begin flights in the second half of 2017, with services progressively available on Tasman, Pacific and long-haul fleets, and domestic routes will be connected from 2018.


Turkish Airlines chooses Panasonic IFEC

December 21, 2016

Turkish Airlines has chosen Panasonic Avionics to provide IFEC to its new fleet of narrowbody aircraft. Panasonic will be installing its eX1 system and supplying its Global Communications Services (GCS).

The system will include Panasonic’s Passenger Data Integration (PDI) service, which enables the carrier to recognise the travel preferences of its passengers and so recommend specific content, services and amenities to enhance their experience both during the flight and at their destination.

PDI works with a custom-designed Companion App that enables passengers to pair their mobile device to the IFEC system and personalise their entertainment by adding custom playlists and a second-screen environment.

The GCS package includes high-speed, global wifi and multiple channels of live television. Airline passengers will use the service to connect to their friends, families, and colleagues through high-speed access to the internet, social media platforms, and corporate VPN networks. Passengers will also receive Live Text News created for Turkish Airlines by a Turkish news agency, Anadolu Agency (AA).

The television service will feature TRT World Turkish News Channel plus eight additional global channels including Sport 24. Sport 24, which is owned and operated by IMG, offers live coverage of the world’s most popular sporting events.

The new IFE system, with global fast wifi and live television services, will be available on 92 Airbus A321 NEOs-ACF, 65 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and 10 Boeing 737 MAX 9s. Turkish Airlines has retained the option to install its own affiliate’s IFE system on the last 45 planes, when it is ready to be linefit.

M. İlker Aycı, chairman of the board and the executive committee of Turkish Airlines, commented: “We needed a solution not only capable of providing a reliable system, but also a truly immersive inflight experience to our passengers…. The personalised interface designed for an optimal viewing experience combined with the industry’s largest library of games, audio, and video is what made eX1 a proper decision for our flag carrier in this regard.”


Demand up for voice calls

December 13, 2016

Inflight connectivity provider AeroMobile has announced its one millionth connected flight enabling passengers to use their mobile devices to text, make calls and access the internet, being billed by their own mobile operator.

Aircraft equipped with AeroMobile now fly to 110 countries, with 40 million users to date. Over half the equipped airlines use the faster 3G service. So far in 2016, call minutes have doubled, mobile data is up 50 per cent, and text messaging is up five per cent.

Kevin Rogers, ceo of AeroMobile, commented: “We’ve seen significant growth over the years with additional airlines and aircraft connecting to the AeroMobile network, and the one million mark is just the start as our network continues to grow.”

Not all countries allow voice calls on planes, however, and they are currently banned in the US. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has just aired a proposal to require airlines to notify passengers if they allow voice calls. “The Department of Transportation is proposing to protect airline passengers from being unwillingly exposed to voice calls within the confines of an airplane,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Over 40 jurisdictions, including the European Union and Australia, allow mobile services to send texts and data during flights, according to the DOT, and 24 airlines, mostly in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, allow voice calls.

But there is apparently serious opposition to lifting the ban in the US. The DOT says it received more than 1,700 comments on the subject in 2014, with 96% wanting to ban voice calls and 2% favouring a ban except in emergencies. Only 2% of respondents said airlines should set their own policies.

Flight attendants in particular are against passengers making calls during flights.“The American public does not want voice communication in flight,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. “Anything short of banning voice calls is reckless. It threatens aviation security and increases the likelihood of conflict in the skies. It threatens safety for crews and passengers.”

The DOT plans to collect comment about the proposal for 60 days before proceeding.


Digital support for flydubai

December 13, 2016

Flydubai has signed an agreement with SDL to use SDL Web to support the way its customers consume digital information.

The airline which has a network of 90 destinations in 44 countries, wanted to ensure that its customers have a unique and relevant user experience no matter their location. By using SDL Web and working with its partner Indivirtual Dubai, flydubai can deliver mobile optimized and scalable websites in multiple languages globally.

SDL Web gives flydubai’s customers access to relevant targetted web experiences as well as localised content based on a user’s background and location. SDL’s solutions can be integated with current and future IT projects.

“flydubai is committed to investing in product innovations and technologies that enhance our passengers’ travel experience. Having worked with Indivirtual Dubai for many years, it was a natural fit to partner with SDL. We look forward to continuing to work together to bring a best-in-class website browsing experience to our passengers,” said Ramesh Venkat, Chief Information Officer (CIO), at flydubai.

flydubai has been working with Indivirtual Dubai for over five years and the company provides support to flydubai’s in-house IT department.


GoMedia spreads its reach

December 13, 2016

Infotainment provider, GoMedia, is launching its innovative entertainment platform beyond rail and onto National Express coaches in the UK.

GoMedia platforms are currently available on Eurostar and Virgin Trains, but this will be the first time Sky News and Sky Sports News will be available on public transport.

Roger Matthews, managing director, GoMedia said: “Our partnership with National Express will bring world-class entertainment onboard coaches for the first time, representing a revolution of the onboard experience. Many people remember coach travel from their school days, but it is one of the most comfortable and efficient ways to travel for leisure and business. Along with National Express, we intend to change the coach passenger experience for good, providing outstanding content that will make journeys entertaining and informative.”

Named VUER (View, Unwind, Enjoy, Relax), the system designed specifically for National Express is now live on the company’s fleet of 618 coaches.

Content will be regularly updated as with GoMedia’s other products and will include Sky News, Sky Sports News bulletins alongside movie title and TV box sets.

The platform streams content to passengers’ own devices over an existing wifi infrastructure.


Successful test for European Aviation Network (EAN)

December 6, 2016

At the end of November, Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, together with their technology partners Nokia and Thales, achieved key milestones on the EAN project. Live over-the-air connection was achieved in Germany and a test flight was successfully conducted in the UK.

The European Aviation Network (EAN) is an integrated S-band satellite and LTE-based terrestrial network aiming to bring unprecedented passenger connectivity to the aviation industry in Europe. It claims to be unique in the capacity and quality of broadband internet service it will offer to the dense European aviation routes, in a small and lightweight package.

The flight trial tested the onboard equipment being provided by Thales and the ground network supplied by Deutsche Telekom and Nokia. The network successfully connected to the ground system at all four test sites in the southwest of the UK. There were multiple successful handovers between sectors and cell towers, and the connection remained stable while data was transferred to and from the aircraft.

Deutsche Telekom and Nokia are on track to deliver the ground component of the project, with rollout of around 300 antenna sites. Inmarsat and Thales completed construction and associated sub-system tests of the satellite earlier this year. With test flights now underway, the introduction of EAN is planned for mid-2017.

“EAN is progressing extremely well, both on the ground as well as in the air, to achieve the world’s first integrated service providing true in-flight broadband experience,” said Leo Mondale, president of Aviation, Inmarsat. “The actual performance and quality of the in-flight datalink exceeds design expectations and is truly game changing for European airlines. We look forward to further successful testing milestones working with all the EAN partners to bring together this integrated system.”

“With these successful tests we once more underline our goal to be the leading European telecommunications operator,” commented Claudia Nemat, board member Europe and Technology at Deutsche Telekom. “The EAN allows us to offer our customers outstanding connectivity services not only on the ground but also in the sky. The new technology based on LTE standard makes sure that EAN is flexible for any further technology developments in the future.”


Intelsat in HTS deal with Gogo

November 23, 2016

Intelsat has signed an agreement with aviation broadband connectivity solutions supplier Gogo for services on its Intelsat 29e satellite. Gogo will use high-throughput services from this satellite, the first in the global Intelsat EpicNG network, to deliver inflight wifi to aircraft on the busy North Atlantic route.

Intelsat 29e began operations earlier this year, and will deliver bridge services for Gogo until Intelsat 32e becomes operational in 2017. Intelsat is also providing Gogo with IntelsatOne managed services through its teleport in Mountainside, Maryland.

Gogo signed an agreement last March for Intelsat to deliver in-flight connectivity (IFC) via multi-layered Ku-band services on the Intelsat EpicNG satellites, combined with OneWeb’s planned low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. This includes high-performance connectivity provided by Intelsat 32e, Intelsat 33e and Horizons 3e.

“The performance of the Intelsat EpicNG satellites demonstrates the value of high throughput satellite (HTS) technology,” commented Michael Small, Gogo’s president and ceo. “We opted to begin services with Intelsat 29e immediately and transition to Intelsat 32e when it becomes operational. We look forward to expanding our reach as more Intelsat EpicNG satellites become available.”

Intelsat 33e will improve Gogo’s services across Europe, the Middle East and Asia when it becomes operational in the first quarter of 2017, and the Horizons 3e spacecraft will provide a global HTS service for Gogo when it begins operations over the Asia-Pacific region in 2018.

“Intelsat is delivering on the promise of HTS with Intelsat EpicNG, with a unique design that provides immediate improvement in performance of up to 165 per cent,” said Intelsat ceo Stephen Spengler. “Customers are easily transitioning to the platform, validating our backwards-compatible, open-architecture design, and this enables Gogo to begin delivering broadband-enabled inflight wifi services in the North Atlantic today.”


ViaSat acquires Arconics

November 16, 2016

Broadband services and technology company ViaSat has acquired Dublin-based Arconics, the aviation software solutions provider. ViaSat thereby gets access to Arconics’ connected aircraft software platform that includes wireless In-flight Entertainment (IFE), Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), Airline Document Management and Cabin Management solutions, as well as its software expertise and personnel.

Through this acquisition ViaSat gains aviation-grade software and mobile applications to help pilots, cabin crew and flight operations teams make flying safer and more efficient. In addition it acquires applications that make it possible for airlines to improve their passenger entertainment offering and to access new service and revenue opportunities.

Arconics has a solid aviation industry background, with airline customers including Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Philippine Airlines, Tigerair Australia, and SpiceJet. ViaSat has an advanced high capacity Ka-band satellite network.

“By acquiring Arconics, we are bolstering our ability to serve the global aviation market,” commented Don Buchman, vp and general manager, Commercial Mobility business, ViaSat. “We believe combining our strengths with Arconics will position ViaSat to be the market leader for connectivity, passenger services and flight deck applications and operations.”

Arconics has already been partnering with ViaSat to serve the wireless IFE needs of multiple airline customers. “ViaSat offers Arconics a strategic match – both culturally and technologically,” said Arconics ceo Niall O’Sullivan. “We know ViaSat well, having partnered with them on a number of opportunities to deliver our world-class CloudStore wireless IFE product. Together, we believe the complementary nature of the technologies and products of Arconics and ViaSat will enhance the combined company’s ability to deliver exceptional end-to-end experiences across the entire aircraft value-chain.


Inmarsat supplies broadband to Lufthansa and British Airways

November 8, 2016

Inmarsat has announced the ‘soft launch’ of GX for Aviation, heralded as the first truly global broadband service.

GX for Aviation is currently being installed on Lufthansa’s A320 fleet, with an ongoing contract for 150 aircraft, and will be in service next month. Inmarsat president Leo Mondale speaking at the APEX show in Singapore said: “Anyone lucky enough to be on one of the installed A320 aircraft will be able to log on and connect.” Other customers for this new connectivity solution include Singapore Airlines and Air Astana.

Mondale commented: “GX for Aviation is now live and offering unparalleled in-flight broadband to passengers. We have moved from systems integration and testing to rolling out the most robust and comprehensive global connectivity solution for airlines across the world.

“GX for Aviation is not a patchwork solution. Our customers are not subject to the intermittent services and handover issues experienced by other providers…. Passengers using GX for Aviation will have on-the-ground levels of connectivity and uninterrupted access to the applications they use day-to-day, including email, web browsing, social media, video and music streaming, and online shopping, among others.”

In a separate announcement after the show, Inmarsat said that International Airlines Group (IAG) had confirmed its intention to install Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network (EAN) high-speed, inflight passenger connectivity service on up to 341 of its narrowbody aircraft.

IAG will first deploy the EAN service on a British Airways A321 in summer 2017. The 341 IAG short-haul aircraft will include 132 from British Airways, 125 from Vueling, 45 from Iberia and 39 from Aer Lingus.

EAN is a combined-connectivity platform that will give passengers flying in Europe broadband of similar quality and speed to that they experience on the ground. The network combines Inmarsat’s new S-band satellite with a new 4G LTE mobile terrestrial network.


Panasonic streamlines airline services

November 8, 2016

Panasonic has unveiled two new solutions for airlines, ZeroTouch and Captify.

The first, ZeroTouch, is a revolutionary data transfer service managed through a virtual dashboard. Updates will be sent to an aircraft via three high-speed pipes – wifi at the gate, aircraft cell modem, or even in-flight using Panasonic’s global broadband eXConnect service.

The ZeroTouch service will improve an airline’s traditional 30-day media update cycle by enabling live updates to data and files stored on a Panasonic IFEC system. Applications such as movies, games, advertising, live news, and more can be automatically loaded at any time, to an entire fleet.

The second innovation, Captify, is an inflight marketing platform combining software tools and support teams to reach an expanding market of 1.3 billion passengers per year.

Captify enables airlines to target by seat class, route, device, language, and passenger data. It can adjust advertising loads, cap the frequency of marketing campaigns, and deliver real-time usage data. This enables airlines to optimise promotions for a wide range of optional services, partnerships, loyalty programmes, and paid advertising.

Panasonic also announced several deals at the show. China Eastern Airlines has selected Panasonic’s eX3 IFE system and wifi connectivity for its 35 new A350s and B787s. Air Tahiti Nui has chosen Panasonic to equip four B787-9s with global connectivity and IFE. Aeromexico has contracted to install the eX1 IFE system as linefit on its 60 new B737 MAX aircraft. Cedric Rhoads, executive director corporate sales and product management, commented: “This order shows that airlines are continuing to invest in embedded IFE systems for narrowbody aircraft. It debunks the idea that connectivity and tablets are going to kill embedded IFE.”

Finally, Biman Bangladesh Airlines has selected the eX3 system for its new fleet of four B787-8s. Biman’s new planes will feature hi-definition screens, advanced touch-screen handsets, and a ‘home theatre’ experience for passengers.


Display Interactive’s soft approach to IFE

November 1, 2016

Thierry Carmes, strategy and development director at Display Interactive, spoke at APEX Expo about UGO Solutions, a software-based streaming IFE solution currently flying on five airlines.

“We want to offer airlines a comprehensive service throughout the IFE value chain. Our system includes a Content Management Solution (CMS) and obviously the content is protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). We can also provide content for the system, and even leasing of tablets for the passengers, or the airline can manage that itself.”

The system has a simple, clear interface, fully customisable by the airline, and a mini-moving map and weather guide. It runs on Kontron, Thales and Donica hardware, and the content management and synchronisation is operated through the Cloud, with servers currently in Ireland. Late window movie content and comic strips are popular with passengers and the system usage is monitored by Google Analytics.

The system can be monetised with advertising, pre-roll, post-roll, banners and mini-sites, as well as ancillaries, but the cost per person viewing is already low, claims Carmes. Onboard retail services can be supported by different ways, though PCI-DSS has not been taken up by the current customers. More practical options have been preferred. The system is now ordered or flying on 60 aircraft from six fleets, including Air Caraïbes, French Blue, Corsair, Pakistani carrier Shaheen and the latest customer, Czech airline Travel Service. The 6th company, confirmed during the APEX Expo, will be announced shortly.


New mobile apps and games from GEE

November 1, 2016

Global Eagle Entertainment rolled out several mobile apps and games at the APEX Expo, including ‘Mickey Mouse Date Dash’, a new seatback game developed with Disney Studios. The idea is to get the famous mouse to a date with Minnie, picking up flowers on all 15 levels to make up a bouquet for her.

GEE also introduced a jet lag recovery app to enhance its existing Airhealth passenger wellness programme, which includes health tips, inflight exercises and a quiz. The mobile app allows passengers to enter their flight schedule to get a personalised jet lag recovery programme with instructions and ideas for managing their sleep-wake cycles and melatonin levels.

GEE’s Airtime Content-to-Go app enables passengers to download their favourite TV shows and films to take with them on a flight. A new feature allows them to also access newspapers and magazines from around the world. Travellers can select and download the content before takeoff and access it on their journey.

Alexis Steinman, GEE’s svp Digital Media Solutions, commented: “Airhealth and the new jet lag recovery app will put passengers at ease about flying, and Airtime Content-to-Go will keep them informed and entertained. These offerings are part of GEE’s commitment to provide a rich and highly personalised entertainment experience for passengers throughout their entire journey.”


Thales wins Emirates deal

November 1, 2016

Emirates has signed an agreement with Thales to equip its Boeing 777X fleet with Thales AVANT inflight entertainment system.

The airline will work in partnership with Thales to develop and enhance the inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system to be fitted on its new Boeing 777X aircraft due for delivery starting in mid-2020.

Adel Al Redha, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, Emirates Airline, said: “Our partnership with Thales represents a significant investment and emphasis on customer experience, which has always been a priority for us. The new Boeing 777X aircraft will herald a new era for the Emirates fleet, and we want to ensure that our product offering on these fuel-efficient planes will be a benchmark for the industry, including the inflight entertainment experience. We look forward to revealing more details when the time is right.”

The deal covers IFEC systems for Emirates’ first 50 (of 150 ordered) Boeing 777X aircraft and the AVANT system will feature an innovative and customisable user experience.


digEcor powers up a game changer for Air Asia

November 1, 2016

The first pre-integrated in-seat power solution in the market has become a reality in a partnership between digEcor and IFPL on Mirus Aircraft Seating’s Hawk slimline seat.

The solution is to be installed on 300 new A320 Neos with Mirus on Air Asia. David Withers, ceo digEcor said: “We worked well with IFPL and Mirus to develop a power capability that was at a price attractive to a low-cost carrier”.

One notable feature is that the charging port changes colour according to status – blue for full power, green for low power, red for faulty – which helps both the passenger and the maintenance process. The outlets feature a reversible USB jack.

The order is a big one for digEcor, more usually known for its portable and embedded IFE systems, and establishes it as a long-term partner in the in-seat power market. This type of power supply is likely to be increasingly in demand as streaming wifi to passengers’ smartphones and tablets continues as a popular IFE option for LCCs and regional airlines in particular.


Intelsat focussing on reliability

November 1, 2016

Intelsat, operator of the world’s first globalised network, powered by satellite, and Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) have entered into a new and expanded contract to deliver reliable, high-performance broadband connectivity across five continents and multiple vertical markets across air, land and sea.

The multi-year, global service will utilize C- and Ku-band services on eight satellites in Intelsat’s current mobility infrastructure as well as two Intelsat Epic satellites, Intelsat 33e and Intelsat 35e.

GEE has contracted satellite services on three out of the seven planned Intelsat Epic satellites and 17 Intelsat satellites in total.

Earlier this year, Intelsat successfully launched Intelsat 29e and Intelsat 33e, the first two satellites in its next-generation, high throughput satellite (HTS) platform, Intelsat Epic. Since late March 2016, new and existing networks have seamlessly transitioned to Intelsat 29e, with customers experiencing up to 165% improvements in efficiency. Using next generation hardware, Intelsat and its partners have demonstrated potential efficiency gains of up to 330%.

The flexibility of Intelsat Epic’s open architecture and backward-compatible design enables service providers such as GEE to seamlessly transition to the Intelsat Epic platform and immediately improve efficiency, delivering higher throughput enterprise-grade broadband services.


AirFi win in the Middle East

November 1, 2016

Wireless IFE provider AirFi has signed its first customer in the Middle East

Nesma plans to deliver a streaming IFE solution to passengers flying on its Airbus A320 family aircraft in November this year, less than six weeks from contract signature.

Nesma is AirFi’s twenty-first customer globally to opt for AirFi’s fully-featured portable Wireless IFE platform which allows passengers to access DRM and non-DRM movies and TV shows, games, chat, duty free and post-flight shopping and daily updated news and social feeds.

The company currently works with over fifty content providers both big and small, including its official regional partner, Onboard International and acquired a European technology firm earlier in 2016 to offer a state-of-the-art 3D moving map feature. This new feature showcases numerous points of interest and offers the opportunity for geo-fenced advertising.

Passengers can access the content using their personal electronic devices to connect to a free onboard wifi network created by the AirFi boxes, which are positioned throughout the cabin in overhead bins. AirFi will initially offer Nesma’s passengers content in English, with the roll-out of Arabic-language content due soon after the solution goes live.

AirFi CEO, Job Heimerikx, comments, “We are dedicated to a continuous program of passenger experience enhancements and ensuring that the AirFi platform leads the market as the best-in-class hard and software solution for safety, performance, cost and speed of deployment.”

AirFi made the decision to expand its global reach earlier this year and so far it has 18 European customers, as well as one carrier based in the Philippines and one based in Mexico. More are expected before the end of the year.

AirFi won the 2016 Onboard Hospitality Award for Best Use of Onboard Technology. Learn more.


Gogo ramps up install capacity for 2Ku

November 1, 2016

Steve Nolan of Gogo confirmed during APEX Expo that the company’s order book included 1300 aircraft waiting to be installed with its 2Ku connectivity solution.

With 40 planes installed so far, Gogo is ramping up its capacity to cope with the demand, planning to get 75-100 aircraft completed this year, and 400 next year, with a target capacity of 750 a year.

Announcing an agreement to partner on research and development with Washington DC-based antenna company Phasor, Nolan stressed their ‘breakthrough’ technology. He said that the electronically steered antenna was superior because it had no moving parts, and its modular design made it more suitable for smaller aircraft.

“Gogo is committed to offering our aviation partners a roadmap for the future that will bring the most bandwidth at lower costs to the aero market,” commented Gogo’s president and ceo, Michael Small. “Whether it’s satellite advancements, new modem technologies or best in class antenna technologies, our focus is on what’s best for aviation, and Phasor is developing ground-breaking satellite antenna innovations for the aero market.”

Nolan confirmed that the original 2Ku connection speed of 25 Mb per second had been doubled to 50Mbps by a software upgrade, and that installing a new improved modem in 2017 would increase this to 70Mbps. New High Throughput satellites coming on stream from partner SES, combined with the new antenna, would, by 2017, give 100Mbps, he claimed.

Adding to the four airlines currently flying with Gogo connectivity, Delta, Aeromexico, Virgin Atlantic and Brazilian carrier GOL, Nolan confirmed recent deals with IAG, comprising British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus. Recently signed up also was American Airlines and Air France/KLM.

About developments in the Chinese market, Nolan said that an agreement was in place with technical company Shareco, already working with Hainan and Capital Beijing Airlines, to install antennas for them. In addition, agreement with the Chinese regulatory authorities had just been reached and the first connected aircraft from Delta were now flying into China.


Lufthansa Systems guide crew

October 25, 2016

Lufthansa Systems has added a new feature to its mCabin crew app.

The mCabin/CityGuide is a guidebook platform for the crew with local information about all of an airline’s destinations. As well as layover information such as contact details, the crew hotel and pick-up times, the app offers tips for excursions and restaurants.

The content is supplied by the crews themselves, which makes the app highly personalised. Recommendations are continually checked and updated by crew management, using an editing and administration tool.

Pre-departure and during the flight, the mCabin crew app supplies the cabin team with all the passenger service information they need, including a manifest with information about the passengers’ seats, status, food preferences and special requirements. The BoardConnect crew front-end has also been integrated into mCabin.


Inflight wifi for Air New Zealand

October 25, 2016

Air New Zealand will start rolling out inflight wifi on its jet services in 2017.

Internet connectivity is to be supplied by Inmarsat’s new global GX satellite constellation and integrated with Air New Zealand’s in-cabin Panasonic Avionics technology.

Flights between Australia and New Zealand will be the first to receive connectivity in the second half of 2017, with internet services progressively available on Tasman, Pacific Island and long haul jet fleets from the end of next year. Domestic New Zealand jet services are likely to offer a wifi service from 2018.

Ceo Christopher Luxon commented: “Given Air New Zealand operates some of the longest flights in the world, and in oceanic areas where there has historically been poor quality satellite service, we have patiently worked with partners until comfortable that a service which meets the high expectations of our customers is available.”

Luxon revealed that the new system will allow the airline to enhance real time features within its IFE system, as well as providing flight crew with an enhanced ability to manage customer requests related to their ground travel.

He added: “Customers will be able to use their social media channels, stay on top of emails and browse the internet.”


GOL leads the way in South America

October 17, 2016

GOL has become the first South American airline to launch an onboard wifi service.

The airline now offers next generation 2Ku satellite-based service on its fleet, powered by Gogo satellite technology. The service is expected to deliver peak speeds more than 20 times the bandwidth of the first generation air-to-ground solution, pioneered by Delta and Gogo in the U.S. seven years ago.

GOL President Paulo Kakinoff traveled on the first connected flight to announce this new service milestone to customers in person, a video of which has been shared on GOL’s social media channels. He said: “Today you may have noticed a different approach on our flight, and this is due to a historical moment,” Kakinoff said. “We are now on the first flight run by a South American airline equipped with onboard Wi-Fi.”

GOL partners with Delta which operates the world’s largest 2Ku satellite wifi–equipped fleet, including all its 660 domestic mainline aircraft. More than 1,000 Delta aircraft, including nearly all Delta Connection two-class regional jets and 99% of its long-haul international fleet, are equipped with onboard wifi, offering about 370,000 customers on more than 3,500 flight in-flight internet access each day.


Aeromobile puts 3G on Aer Lingus

October 10, 2016

AeroMobile, partnering with Panasonic Avionics, is extending its 3G inflight network by connecting two new Aer Lingus A330 aircraft.

Aer Lingus has just opened two new routes from Dublin to the US, to Bradley International and Newark airports, and the new aircraft can accommodate 317 passengers, 30 in business and 287 in economy, all of whom have access to the service. The 3G connectivity rollout will begin on the two new A330s, making a total of ten connected Aer Lingus aircraft.

AeroMobile, as a mobile network operator, has more than 340 roaming agreements in over 145 countries. Their service is very user-friendly, as passengers simply turn on their smartphone or tablet to connect to the network and are then billed directly by their mobile operator. Prices are similar to international roaming rates.

Aeromobile’s 3G connectivity means a faster service. Since the company launched the world’s first inflight 3G service, half of its airline partners have taken it up for some at least of their aircraft.

Announcing the news, Kevin Rogers, ceo of AeroMobile, said: “We’re thrilled to announce the continued expansion of our connected fleet from Dublin. The expansion of Aer Lingus’ inflight connectivity service demonstrates the value of providing a better passenger experience onboard by allowing them to use their phones as they would on the ground.”


Omniaccess and Panasonic in XTS yacht and cruise deal

October 10, 2016

OmniAccess, supplier of communications solutions to superyachts and cruise-ships, and Panasonic Avionics have unveiled a bespoke XTS (Extremely High Throughput) satellite network for multiple mobility markets.

OmniAccess and Panasonic began collaborating on XTS designs last September to try to bring much greater levels of capacity and performance to OmniAcess’ existing superyacht and cruise customers. The company now has access to Panasonic’s existing HTS capacity, currently contracted capacity and the future XTS satellite network.

Using Panasonic’s existing global high-speed satellite network, OmniAccess is already providing industry-leading connection speeds of over 200 Mbps to select individual customers.

Announcing the rollout, Bertrand Hartman, ceo of OmniAccess, said: “Thanks to our collaboration with Panasonic we have recently been able to roll out the first maritime Ku-band HTS service with truly unprecedented levels of performance. The combination of the unique RF performance of the XTS satellite topology and OmniAccess’ cutting-edge network infrastructure has allowed us to successfully meet the increasing of demands our customers, significantly raising the bar for maritime high-performance connectivity services.”

Paul Margis, ceo of Panasonic Avionics Corporation, commented: “We announced our partnership with OmniAccess at the Monaco Yacht Show last year, and since then, we’ve been able to develop solutions that have improved our operational efficiencies and also delivered higher performance and better service to OmniAccess’ superyacht customers. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with OmniAccess to establish a new standard in high-bandwidth services for the mobility market.”


FCC certification for SmartSky 4G

October 4, 2016

Aviation communications company SmartSky Networks has just received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) certification for its 4G radio system, clearing the way for deployment of its 4G air-to-ground (ATG) network later this year. Nationwide coverage in the US is expected to follow in 2017.

Announcing the news, Haynes Griffin, SmartSky chairman and ceo, said: “After investing tens of millions of dollars and over five years of research and development effort, SmartSky’s now certified technology has unlocked enough spectrum to be able to offer, for the first time, the reliable use of a sophisticated, custom-designed 4G system that can deliver an office-like internet experience in the air for both business aviation and commercial aviation customers.”

SmartSky has developed multiple technologies to make use of the unlicensed 2.4 GHz spectrum band, without interfering with the operation of that band on the ground. Despite the widespread assertion that aviation-related spectrum reuse in the unlicensed band would not be possible, SmartSky has solved this problem with technical solutions that are broadly covered by its portfolio of 20 patents, with additional patents pending. SmartSky takes a software-defined approach to network infrastructure, using network functions virtualization (NFV), which is more flexible and cost-effective than a hardware-based approach.

Reed Hundt, SmartSky’s vice chairman, and former chairman of the FCC, commented: “Long ago, the FCC authorised the allocation of large blocks of unlicensed spectrum to foster innovation and encourage competition. Today, we see the amazing results of that prescient regulation, which has resulted in ubiquitous wifi on the ground. By application of novel technologies using 2.4 GHz unlicensed spectrum, SmartSky’s breakthrough will finally give the aviation industry the superior connectivity now taken for granted terrestrially.”


Ryder Cup takes to the sky

October 4, 2016

Golf enthusiasts were able to view The Ryder Cup 2016 while flying over the past weekend thanks to Sport 24, the 24/7 sports channel for inflight and inship.

The channel showed live coverage of each day of The Ryder Cup 2016, starting on September 30 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota, USA.

Sport 24, owned and operated by sports and media company IMG, showed 30 hours of live coverage from the biennial event between the United States and Europe, plus a repeat of the exciting final day’s play.

Commenting on the coverage Richard Wise, senior vp, IMG Media, said: “Showing The 2016 Ryder Cup on Sport 24 is another example of our commitment to travelling sports fans. We have already broadcast live action from some of the biggest sporting events of the year, including UEFA EURO 2016 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – not forgetting all four golf majors – and we are delighted to be able to show the latest instalment of this famous event.”

Sport 24 also broadcasts live action from the Premier League, NFL, NHL, UEFA Champions League, NBA, Bundesliga, Formula 1™, MotoGP and each of the tennis Grand Slams. The channel is exclusive to Panasonic’s market-leading live television system, eXTV, and is currently available across 11 airlines and six cruise lines.

Earlier this year IMG launched another channel, Sport 24 Extra, to give passengers a choice of live events in an increasingly busy sporting calendar.


Air France-KLM to add Gogo’s 2Ku

October 4, 2016

Gogo is to install 2Ku connectivity on Air France-KLM’s long-haul fleet of 124 aircraft, with an option to add additional aircraft in the future.

The fleet includes a variety of aircraft types including Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 and the first equipped aircraft is expected to be in service at the end of next year, with most of the installations in 2018 and 2019.

Michael Small, Gogo’s president and ceo, said: “2Ku delivers a ground-like performance to aircraft flying around the world today, including the ability to stream video. One of the many benefits is that it’s built on an open architecture and can leverage new technology advancements in the future, which means the technology will get even better over time and will provide passengers with a superior connectivity experience now and in the future.”


Jet Airways extends connectivity

October 4, 2016

Jet Airways has launched of an innovative and first of its kind inflight entertainment service in the Indian skies.

Using wireless streaming technology, Jet Airways passengers can now stream a wide variety of video and audio content directly on their own devices such mobile phones, tablets and laptops.

JetScreen, Jet Airways’ inflight entertainment service will now be available on domestic flights. Over 225 hours of video and audio content such as leading Hollywood and Indian movies, TV shorts, music from multiple genres, interactive games, as well as special children’s programmes are now available to Jet Airways’ passengers directly on their own devices.

In the longer term Jet Airways plans to offer fully-fledged, broadband-enabled wifi connectivity (subject to regulatory approvals) for internet surfing, e-mail, social media, connecting flight information, instant messaging, real time travel services and destination deals.

JetScreen has been introduced on five Boeing 737 next-generation aircraft in the Jet Airways fleet that operate on key domestic and international routes. In the coming months, it will be rolled out in a phased manner on the entire Jet Airways Boeing 737 fleet.


Gogo’s next generation

October 4, 2016

Gogo is developing next-generation ground-based technology for business aviation, commercial regional jets and selected narrow-body aircraft in the United States and Canada.

Michael Small, Gogo’s president and ceo, said: “We now have upgrade paths to more than 100 Mbps for both our North American ground-based and our global satellite networks.”

The new network will use unlicensed spectrum, a proprietary modem and a new beam-forming antenna plus LTE technology. It will leverage Gogo’s existing first-generation North American network and infrastructure of more than 250 towers.

Gogo claims that the benefits of this new network include: low equipment cost and weight, overnight installation, and low drag on the aircraft due to the small antennas. It also has advantages in terms of latency compared to satellite solutions. The service is planned to come into operation in 2018.

“Leveraging our first generation network is key to making this next generation network highly reliable and economical to deploy,” added Anand Chari, Gogo’s cto. “Gogo’s next generation network will also be backward-compatible with Gogo’s first generation network, which means an aircraft will be able to seamlessly switch between the two networks, similar to how a cell phone on the ground connects to the fastest available network.”