Lufthansa Group extends IFE contract with Spafax

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The Lufthansa Group, which includes members Austrian Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa and SWISS, has renewed its in-flight entertainment contract with Spafax until 2022.

The agreement will include licensing, programming and delivery of in-flight content across six different in-flight entertainment systems for the four carriers, whose combined fleet is over 600 aircraft.

This includes both video and audio programming in up to 20 different languages as well as production services for inflight announcements, safety videos and more.

The Lufthansa Group/Spafax relationship will continue to be managed by the Spafax team based in Frankfurt, with oversight and technical support from Spafax’s London headquarters.

Aeroco Group announces further investment plans

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Aircraft cabin and component maintenance specialist Aeroco Group International is to double the size of its brand-new state-of-the-art facility in response to growth in customer demand.

Jonathan Bird, managing director of Aeroco Group International commented, “Today’s further investment announcement reinforces our ambition and drive to support new and existing customers. We are seeing continued growth with airlines increasing focus to improve the look and feel of their cabins and the expanding capabilities within the aircraft component repairs and overhauls.

At the beginning of January, the company announced it had acquired a 20,000 sq ft new facility at Stockport, UK. Aeroco has now taken the decision to secure an additional 20,000 sq ft, increasing the capacity to 40,000 sq ft in total, complementing Aeroco’s existing facility at Manchester Airport.

The fit out is already underway and due to be completed and operational by the middle of this year.

The new premises will support Aeroco’s increasing customer base of airlines, leasing companies, MRO’s and component traders with industry leading aircraft cabin and component maintenance and advanced manufacturing services.

FAI Technik becomes authorised Rockwell Collins dealer

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FAI Technik GmbH, part of the FAI Aviation Group, has signed a dealership agreement with Rockwell Collins to become one of its accredited dealers.

Effective immediately, the agreement means FAI Technik can sell, install and maintain Rockwell Collins’ avionics and cabin electronics equipment from its headquarters at Albrecht Dürer International Airport in Nuremberg, Germany.

The announcement marks a new phase in the relationship between Rockwell Collins and the broader FAI Aviation Group, which began in July 2016 and was formally launched on 5 January, 2018.

Rockwell Collins’ regional sales manager for Germany, Robert White, commented, “Given FAI’s growth since 2016, we believe we are best placed to take advantage of the upturn within business aviation. Adding FAI Technik to our group of dealers in Europe brings an encouraging scope to both our cabin and avionics capabilities, providing our customers with targeted aftermarket solutions being carried out by a competent and qualified dealer.

“We are excited to further expand our maintenance capabilities by offering Rockwell Collins’ industry-leading products to our customers,”

“FAI Technik is growing incredibly fast,” stated Siegfried Axtmann, chairman and co-founder of FAI Aviation Group. “In 2017, we inaugurated our new hangar 8 and undertook some of our most challenging maintenance projects to date. We also marked our most impressive year in terms of revenue, which increased by 40% compared to 2016.”

Diehl Aerosystems launches on-site-support service to support Boeing South Carolina

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Diehl Aerosystems has officially launched its On-Site-Support Service (OSS) in Charleston, South Carolina, US.

The Diehl OSS in the Leeds area near Charleston is based in a newly refurbished facility covering 550 sq meters, and will be overseen by service supplier Vartan.

This local presence will enable Diehl to provide the ability and agility to deliver just-in-time support to the growing demands of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner family production system, for which it provides state-of-the-art cabin interior lighting solutions. The facility also has the potential for expansion to support additional activities such as warehousing and kitting along with capacity for potential growth opportunities.

OneJet introduces enhanced on-board experience

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US-based business aviation and regional carrier OneJet is introducing its latest product, OneJet Plus to the Pittsburgh market.

The soon to launch Pittsburgh – Kansas City route becomes the second route to offer the expanded service on-board the larger 30-seat Embraer ERJ135 aircraft

The brand new leather interior is complemented by exit-row legroom at each seat; free 4G high-speed Wi-Fi; streaming entertainment gate to gate; and complimentary beer, wine and snacks en route. Travellers will also receive the same check-in conveniences that standard OneJet flights provide, including TSA Pre access for eligible travellers and valet planeside baggage service.

“For the past two years, OneJet’s right-sized, point-to-point, nonstop services have met our customers’ demand for expedited travel between key business and leisure destinations,” OneJet CEO Matthew Maguire said. “The introduction of the OneJet Plus service marks a major milestone for the company, providing access to longer routes, along with an even further enhanced in-flight experience. We look forward to continuing to expand our network and supporting the growth of the communities and corporate customers we serve.”

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.