Gilat launches dual band terminal for in-flight connectivity

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Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd has launched AeroEdge 6000, a dual-band terminal that includes Gilat’s ER 6000-A Ku/Ka antenna, SkyEdge II-c Taurus MODMAN, Ku/Ka Antenna Networking Data Unit (KANDU) and Wavestream’s Ku/Ka Radio Frequency Unit (KRFU).

The terminal allows seamless transition between Ka-band coverage and Ku-band coverage. In support of a high quality passenger experience, the Taurus MODMAN is equipped with a full set of embedded protocol optimization and application acceleration features. High spectral efficiency is delivered via wideband DVB-S2X carriers in the forward direction and fast adaptive and spread-spectrum LDPC transmission in the return direction. Operated over Gilat’s SkyEdge II-c multi-service platform, AeroEdge 6000 is a new addition to the family of SkyEdge terminals.

“We are pleased to bring to market AeroEdge 6000, a complete terminal with superior system transmission performance and efficiency. The terminal maintains application continuity with automatic beam/gateway and satellite switchover, and was designed to assure continuous gate-to-gate operation,” said Amir Yafe, head of products at Gilat. “The terminal recently achieved download speeds of 130 Mbps in a live customer demonstration in China with dozens of concurrent users. This terminal is a major milestone in Gilat’s strategy to leverage our global IFC expertise and leadership for adoption to local markets and with regional service providers where different frequency bands are used in different flight routes.”

ANA announces US$10 million XPRIZE competition to develop real-life avatars

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ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS (ANA) has launched the US$10 million ANA Avatar XPRIZE, a four-year global competition to develop real-life avatars.

The competition to accelerate the development of a multi-purpose avatar system that will enable us to remotely see, hear, and interact with physical environments and other people was launched at this year’s South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, in partnership with founder and executive chairman Dr. Peter H. Diamandis.

“As the sole provider of global long-distance physical transportation, the airline industry has long served as the catalyst for global relationships, business, diplomacy, and mutual understanding,” said Shinya Katanozaka, president and CEO of ANA HOLDINGS INC. “However, our ability to provide this service throughout the world is limited by physical infrastructure and current technology. By launching the ANA Avatar XPRIZE, ANA hopes to break through the remaining barriers that exist to bring about an unprecedented era of physical connection, resource sharing, and collaboration for a brighter future for all.”

The deadline for teams to register through the XPRIZE website is October 31, 2018. The winning team of the ANA Avatar XPRIZE will combine state-of-the-art technologies to demonstrate a robotic avatar that allows an untrained operator to complete a diverse series of tasks, from simple to complex, in a physical environment at least 100 km away. Two milestone competitions will take place in April 2020 and April 2021, respectively, during which all teams will compete for a $1 million prize purse each year. The $8 million grand prize will be awarded in October 2021.

The ANA Avatar XPRIZE is the cornerstone of ANA’s Avator Vision, a multi-faceted breakthrough endeavour to advance and pioneer real-world avatar technologies, and a commitment to the “super-smart” society initiative announced in the ANA Group mid-term corporate strategy for FY2018-2022.

Other pillars of the Avator Vision include the Oita Test field – the world’s first avatar test field, in partnership with Oita Prefecture in southern Japan, to boost research and development of existing avatar technologies, with a focus on space exploration; ANA’s crowdfunding platform, WonderFLY, will be leveraged to raise market awareness, participation, and capital for avatar development. Teams participating in the ANA AVATAR XPRIZE and innovators with core avatar technologies are welcome to utilize the platform for the advancement of their respective visions. Avatar-related projects have already been registered and have begun fundraising on WonderFLY; and ANA AVATAR Service Platform which will rapidly release avatar services into the marketplace. Avatar service concepts that are successfully designed, tested, and proven at the ANA AVATAR Oita Test Field will immediately be developed and released to the public via the ANA AVATAR application which is currently under construction. This application will allow anyone in the world to easily connect to a remote avatar and will form the basis for the world’s newest form of physical transportation.

According to press release, ‘With the official release of the ANA AVATAR Vision, ANA will spearhead the avatar initiative to magnify its ability to provide this core service to the entire world and become an airline for all.’

Management change and investment injection for Global Eagle

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Jeff Leddy has been appointed executive chairman and chairman of the Board of Global Eagle Entertainment, effective 1 April, 2018.

Leddy currently serves as chief executive officer, a position he’s held since February 2017, and will be succeeded in the role by Josh Marks, the current executive vice president of the Company’s connectivity segment.

As executive chairman, Leddy will continue to drive Global Eagle’s strategic vision, focusing on its major customers and stakeholders. “I have been very impressed with Global Eagle’s capabilities and am excited about our opportunity to be the leader in connectivity-enabled entertainment,” added Leddy. “With our recently announced investment from Searchlight Capital, we are well positioned to execute our strategic plan and drive significant growth.”

As chief executive officer, Marks will be responsible for the day-to-day execution of the business. “I am looking forward to having Josh in the CEO role as we continue to execute our multi-year strategic plan. I firmly believe that Josh’s passion for our industry and his leadership and entrepreneurial skillsets, as well as his track record of elevating performance, make him an exceptionally strong executive. He is the right person to lead our global team to achieve greater success for our customers, employees, and stakeholders,” remarked Leddy. He continued, “The Board and I are confident this will be a seamless transition.”

The change in management structure followed news of a US$150 million Investment from Searchlight Capital Partners, a global private investment firm.

Global Eagle intends to use $78 million to repay all existing revolving-credit facility debt.

Leddy commented, “We are pleased to announce this agreement with Searchlight and believe that this investment will significantly strengthen our liquidity and create a capital structure to support our growth initiatives, positioning us to deliver significant long-term shareholder value. Searchlight brings a wealth of technology and operational expertise, and we are excited to partner with them as we drive our company to the next level of performance and profitability.”

gategroup and SunExpress sign contract for retail on-board services

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Turkish-based SunExpress has signed an exclusive agreement with gategroup for the provision of in-flight catering and provisioning services its entire domestic and international network.

Since the beginning of February, gategroup has acted as the sole concessionaire of SunExpress’ food and beverage retail on-board program providing passengers with the opportunity to purchase from a wide range of high quality food and beverage products for on-board consumption.

gategroup will deliver the service in partnership with Sancak Inflight Service, who will provide the catering and logistics services required at SunExpress’ main bases at Antalya and Izmir Airports and throughout Turkey.

gategroup president EME and Americas Herman Anbeek said, “We are excited to provide our services to the Turkish market through this exclusive agreement with SunExpress as we see tremendous potential for the leisure tourism sector in this well-developed country. Working with Sancak Inflight Service as our business partner in Turkey ensures an optimal service for SunExpress and its passengers.”

SunExpress deputy managing director Ahmet Çaliskan stated, “Customer satisfaction is one of the top priorities for SunExpress. We have cooperated with gategroup and its experienced business partner in Turkey, Sancak Inflight Service, to offer our passengers more delicious and more diversified service by carrying customer satisfaction to a higher level.”

Space at the heart of new business class seats for Emirates

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Emirates has unveiled a new business class cabin and configuration on its Boeing 777-200LR, following a US$150+ million investment to refurbish the 10 existing 777-200LR aircraft in its fleet.

The newly refurbished 777-200LR aircraft is set in a two-class configuration offering 38 business class seats and 264 seats in economy class.

 While retaining the same design and shape of Emirates’ latest lie-flat seats – with champagne coloured finish and diamond stitch pattern on the full leather cover, and ergonomically designed headrest – the business class seats are two inches wider.

With a pitch of 72 inches and ability to move into a fully flat sleeping position, the seat includes touchscreen controls for the seat and in-flight entertainment system, several personal lighting options, privacy panels between seats, a shoe stowage area, footrest and a personal mini-bar.

To increase the feeling of spaciousness, overhead bins in centre of the cabin have been removed.

The cabin also features the Ghaf tree – considered the national tree of the United Arab Emirates, and now a signature design on the latest Emirates aircraft.

In addition, the new business class cabin features a social area – unique to the Boeing 777-200LR fleet. The mini lounge area features snacks such as crisps, sandwiches and fruit, as well as beverages for customers to help themselves to during the flight.

Economy class seats have also been refreshed to the latest colour palette of soft greys and blues. The ergonomically designed seats come with full leather headrests that have flexible side panels and can also be adjusted vertically for optimum support. The aircraft is also equipped with Wi-Fi and Live TV across all classes.

 The newly refurbished 777-200LR aircraft will go into service on 6 March to Fort Lauderdale, the first of 10 aircraft to be retrofitted with the new configuration over the course of the year.

British Airways makes over World Traveller Plus and World Traveller cabins

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British Airways has revamped its World Traveller Plus and World Traveller cabins on its Boeing 777 fleet with new seats.

The new World Traveller Plus and World Traveller cabins, which have been fitted with elegant new seats with 50% larger entertainment screens, will roll out across the airline’s fleet of 10 long-haul aircraft based at Gatwick.

The six three-class Boeing 777 aircraft will be completed by winter 2018, with the three four-class variations finishing by summer 2019.
The new seats have been developed by the airline’s in-house design teams, in collaboration with an unnamed seat supplier.

Attention has also been paid to how the customer uses their seat, with the World Traveller Plus design featuring a new leg and footrest, as well as an improved fully adjustable six-way headrest to suit customers of all heights. The new seat also has a cocktail table at the front and in-arm tray tables. In response to customer demand the size of the World Traveller Plus cabin in the three-class 777s will more than double.

The World Traveller cabins have also been fitted with the newest, most enhanced seating, which feature a six-way headrest with adjustable ears for added comfort and movable middle arm rests, which is particularly useful for customers travelling with children.

The new in-flight Panasonic entertainment system has been updated with larger HD screens and gesture control to navigate the interface like using a tablet. The screen size will double from six to 12 inches in World Traveller Plus, and increase from six to 10 inches in World Traveller. New USB sockets are available at every single seat allowing all customers to charge a range of different electronic devices during their flight and World Traveller Plus seats also have an additional power outlet socket for UK, US and EU plugs.

Bespoke lighting has been fitted in every cabin and can be set to reflect the time of day, helping to lull travellers to sleep at night and wake them in the morning so customers arrive feeling fresher and the effect of jet-lag is lessened.

Sean Doyle, British Airways’ director of network and alliances, said, “We are one of the very few global airlines that offers a choice of four cabins for customers to travel in and World Traveller Plus appeals to a broad mix of both leisure and business travellers. In response to demand we’re increasing the size of the cabin so we can offer more of these popular seats to our customers, while keeping the cabin intimate and retaining the expert, attentive service that our travellers love.”

British Airways marks International Women’s Day with all-female team

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To mark International Women’s Day (8 March) British Airways bought together more than 60 women roles including baggage handlers, pilots and cabin crew, flight managers, loaders and push back teams, security, check in and airport teams as part of the UK’s biggest ever all-female flight, from Heathrow to Glasgow on 5 March.

Passengers travelling on British Airways’ short-haul flights on International Women’s Day have been able to watch a video as part of the in-flight entertainment showing the all-female team in action.

8 March is also the anniversary of the first woman to receive a pilot’s licence. One hundred and eight years after Elise Raymonde Deroche’s milestone achievement, British Airways had three female pilots in the cockpit for its special flight. Cameras in the cockpit offered a bird’s eye view of their take off from Heathrow and landing into Glasgow Airport, and captured their conversations with the three female air traffic controllers who guided them out of Heathrow airspace.

British Airways Captain, Julie Levy, said, “I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of the team on our all-female flight.

“As a mum of two teenage daughters I think it’s crucial that we grab every opportunity we can to inspire the next generation. There wasn’t any visibility of female pilots when I was growing up, so I think events like this are important to help show the range of different careers that are available to women. I’m proud to be part of an organisation doing something about that.”

On board the flight, cabin crew handed out special cupcakes to customers on the flight with the hashtag #ProudtoBAwoman to mark the occasion.

Three degrees of economy as Virgin Atlantic unveils latest cabin investment

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As part of a multi-million pound investment in its economy cabin experience, Virgin Atlantic is to introduce three new ways to fly.

Craig Kreeger, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said, “We’re unveiling the biggest change to our economy cabin in over a decade – launching three new ways to fly, and a host of innovations on the ground and in the air as part of a wider £300 million investment in our customers. We know that one size doesn’t fit all, and from spring our customers can afford to be choosy and still travel in the UK’s leading economy cabin.

“We always want flying with Virgin Atlantic to be more special than other airlines, and we’ll never compromise on excellent service, industry leading food and drink and cutting edge in-flight entertainment – regardless of which economy ticket our customers are travelling on, they’ll be able to enjoy all this on-board.”

In a move echoing its partner Delta, Virgin’s economy delight, economy classic and economy light will complement Delta’s Comfort +, Main Cabin and Basic Economy products.

According to Virgin, “economy delight will offer the leading economy product of any UK airline.” The airline is retrofitting its fleet to provide up to 36 economy delight seats on every flight – offering passengers a 34 inch legroom, priority check in and boarding as well as advanced seat assignment.

economy classic will offer free seat assignment – enabling families and groups to sit together.

The new economy light ticket will always offer Virgin Atlantic’s lowest fare and will permit hand luggage only.

Regardless of the ticket type, all passengers will receive a three course meal plus complimentary drinks and snacks – with a focus on supporting independent suppliers such as UK based Fairfield Farm Crisps, and the Grown Up Chocolate Company – Wi-Fi, and hundreds of hours of in-flight entertainment, USB charger in seat and blanket, pillow and headphones.

For the first time Virgin Atlantic is also introducing automated bag drop at London airports, with four kiosks to open at London Gatwick this summer, followed by a further 18 kiosks at London Heathrow from winter 2018.

In addition,12 new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft will join the fleet from spring 2019 – offering a brand new economy cabin designed with Virgin Atlantic’s customers in mind.

British Airways brings award category to IFE

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In celebration of the 90th Academy Awards ceremony (the Oscars), and the British Academy Film Awards (the BAFTAs), British Airways has added a new in-flight entertainment category which offers a collection of award-winning films.

The category, called ‘Award Worthy’, features films which won 12 Oscars and 12 BAFTAs in this year’s awards season, as well as receiving 87 nominations across the two ceremonies.

Films in this category include The Shape of Water which gained 13 Oscar nominations and won four awards including ‘Best Picture’, building on the 12 nominations received at the BAFTAs and the three awards won.

Thee Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is also in the category, receiving nine nominations with five awards last month at the BAFTAs.

British war drama, Darkest Hour, has been added to the category. Gary Oldman won the Oscar for ‘Best Actor’ for his performance and also picked up the ‘Leading Actor’ BAFTA, while the film won the award for ‘Makeup and Hair’.

The category also hosts Call me by Your Name which won ‘Adapted Screenplay’ at the BAFTAS and was nominated for four Academy Awards, and Roman J Israel, Esq. which received one nomination.

“For many of our long-haul customers, being able to watch some of the latest film releases is one of the parts of the flight they most look forward to,” said Carolina Martinoli, British Airways’ director of brand and customer experience. “That’s why we do everything we can to make sure our in-flight entertainment systems are loaded with up-to-date, award-winning content, guaranteed to keep customers entertained.”

A number of films which have performed successfully in previous award seasons will also be added to the channel, spanning a range of genres, from Silver Linings Playbook to the Silence of the Lambs.

MAC Interiors completes cabin modification project for Med-View Airlines

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MAC Interiors has completed the full cabin modification of a Med-View Airlines Boeing 767 aircraft.

The UK-based aircraft interior specialist served as a total technical care partner to Med-View, unlike previously when MAC Interiors was limited to kit supplies.

The project started with a galley refurbishment, before Med-View identified the potential to amplify the scope of the project to complete cabin modification; covering the design of the full concept, lavatory updates, installation of surveillance cameras and lighting throughout the entire cabin, production & installation of carpets, curtains and new dividers, stowage installation, GPS installation, as well as the modification of all business, premium and economy class seats.

“This is a benchmark project for MAC Interiors to emphasise our umbrella brand’s ‘Total Technical Care’ attitude.” said Rubin Flower, VP of Sales. “This has been a very exciting and educating challenge for us, the significance of such an experience is unmeasurable. We certainly are looking forward to similar business in the near future as we will apply our experience and knowledge from the whole project.”

“We are delighted to team up with MAC Interiors and fully satisfied with their service quality that truly enhanced our cabin.” stated Med-View Airline’s CEO Alhaji Muneer Bankole. “We are about to conclude a long-term collective agreement and looking forward to working together again for future projects.”