Seamless Air Alliance completes structural setup

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The Seamless Air Alliance has completed its structural setup, enabling new membership beyond the founding members and the addition of Nokia, Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes to the alliance.

The alliance said members across a group of industries will play a role in enabling travellers to board any flight on any airline across the world and use their own devices to automatically connect to the internet with no complicated login process or paywall.

A series of working groups will collaborate in tandem to develop an agreed set of standards on which to build a new ecosystem and that by empowering member mobile operators to extend their services into airline cabins, the alliance will provide a seamless passenger experience.

“Welcoming additional industry leaders to the Alliance is key to enabling a new seamless, high-speed, low-latency broadband experience for passengers. Together, we are committed to lowering the barriers to access and raising the standard of quality for in-flight connectivity on all routes,” said Jack Mandala, Seamless Air Alliance chief executive officer. “As Alliance membership continues to expand across industries, we are excited to lead the charge in making the paradigm shifting vision of seamless in-flight connectivity, a reality.”

The Seamless Air Alliance was founded by Airbus, Airtel, Delta, OneWeb and Sprint to accelerate the introduction of technologies on board aircraft to enable passengers to use their connected devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, watches, IoT devices) seamlessly.

The inaugural members’ meeting of the Seamless Air Alliance will take place on 18 June 2018, co-located with APEX TECH 2018, at the Sheraton Gateway in Los Angeles.

SunExpress partners with Immfly for new IFE system

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The leisure carrier SunExpress, a joint venture of Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, has partnered with Immfly to introduce a new in-flight entertainment system.

SunExpress Entertainment will be rolled out across the fleet of Boeing 737-800NG and MAX aircraft and will be personalised for every passenger with an on-demand function through the passenger’s mobile devices.

A range of entertainment modules such as TV shows, movies, music, games, newspapers and magazines, as well as children’s content, will be available on board the SunExpress aircraft.

To access entertainment content, passengers enter the Immfly Wi-Fi network on board through their own personal electronic devices (mobile phone, tablet, laptop).

As Immfly’s digital platform will be present in two distinct markets, the company said it will count on international providers such as 20th Century FOX, as well as local content from Turkey and Germany, respectively.

“In addition to only offering entertainment and flight information, Immfly works closely with SunExpress to perfectly fit their digitalisation strategy and enable SunExpress passengers to enjoy a digital seamless travel journey including the on-board experience,” said Vincent Tomasoni, chief customer and content officer at Immfly.

‘Your Destination’ provides guidance and tips for passengers about places to go, the less well-known highlights of the city and the various activities to seek out on you have arrived. The section offers information regarding transfer services, tours, where and what to buy, all available in a guide format covering the airline’s routes and in several languages.

SunExpress Entertainment also provides practical information about the flight itself. An interactive 3D map of the route in the ‘Flight Info’ section shows a real-time flight tracker to checkpoints of interest, the airline’s destination, the actual time at the destination, outside temperature, the aircraft’s altitude and speed, as well as the predicted arrival time. Passengers will also be informed about local weather conditions and forecasts at their final destination provided by The Weather Network.

Additionally, SunExpress’s catering and duty-free menus – SunCafe and SunShop – will be available on the digital platform. The airline plans to enhance this channel by allowing the passenger to select and pay for goods from the platform in a ‘self-service’ way and to choose to receive the order at their seat or from the galley.

“We are happy to work together with Immfly on our in-flight entertainment system in the future,” said Peter Glade, commercial director of SunExpress. “Our guests’ experience is of paramount meaning to us, which is why we need a strong partner as Immfly by our side in order to offer a diverse entertainment programme in line with additional services.”

AirFi hits milestone of reaching 100 million passengers annually

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AirFi, a provider of portable wireless IFE and Connected Crew on-board Mobile POS and Cabin Management platforms, has reached a milestone number of passengers served each year by its on-board digital platforms, reaching over 100 million passengers annually.

Martin Cunnison, CCO of AirFi, said: “It’s with great pride that we are announcing today that AirFi has reached the incredible milestone of reaching over 100 million passengers annually. At least one new client has joined our fast-growing family every month, a fantastic pace we have sustained now for 12 consecutive months, and we are now proudly serving 60 clients around the world.

AirFi created the Portable Wireless IFE system in 2014 to complement its Connected Crew mPOS platform, Cunnison explained, adding: “Through the relentless team-wide focus on operational excellence and continuous innovation, we have evolved AirFi to meet the ever-expanding needs of our customers.”

“As we meet in Dublin for Future Travel Experience Europe over the coming days, I’m also delighted to share recent highlights since the success of Aircraft Interiors Expo. We had a hugely successful launch of the latest generation Venus Box and turnkey Wireless IFE service across Aurora Airlines’ fleet of 15 aircraft in April. Later this month, 41 Venus-equipped aircraft go live with our full service Wireless IFE platform across Aegean’s all-Airbus A320-Family fleet.”

“Connected Crew deployments continue to grow rapidly across our airline partners, in key growth regions and in other key mass transit markets. This growth is a great demonstration of the operational stability and capability of our platforms as passenger transaction volumes sharply increase. The European launch of first-to-market offline debit card processing, has resulted in a significant “step-change” increase in on-board sales-per-flight across our partner airlines,” Cunnison continued.

AirFi recently opened new offices in Singapore and Sydney to complement its existing Asia-Pacific operations in India and Indonesia.

Virgin Australia launches international in-flight Wi-Fi

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Virgin Australia is to officially launch international in-flight Wi-Fi after a successful testing phase, with passengers travelling between Australia and Los Angeles now able to remain connected to family and friends, TV shows or the news for the duration of their flight.

Virgin Australia said that by making this Wi-Fi service officially live, it becomes the only Australian airline to offer international Wi-Fi.

The airline suggests the introduction of in-flight connectivity will help Australians facing ‘net-lag’ – the inability to stay connected in-flight, leading to feelings of stress and the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO), after the results of recent passenger research were published.

According to the new research, commissioned by Virgin Australia, 70% of Aussies confessed to having experienced ‘net-lag’ during a flight and feeling frustrated because they couldn’t access the internet. More than 65% of passengers admitted to feeling overwhelmed catching up on emails, messages and other unread notifications once they landed.

Dr Andrew Campbell, a Cyberpsychologist at The University of Sydney, said: “We know that the inability to keep up-to-date with the online world and stay in touch with friends is a real fear that’s only grown since the introduction of smartphones. Like it or not, staying connected has become an essential part of life for most of us and certainly seems to be where we’re headed as a society.”

Aussies indicated that the ways they would use in-flight Wi-Fi if it were available on international flights would include, using social media to check Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (23.8%), stream movies or TV shows (21.3%) and for personal email and web browsing (16.5%).

Passengers also indicated they would use it to read the news (15.6%), instant message family and friends (14.6%) and for their business/work email and web browsing (8.3%).

The research also found 71.3% of people felt their time on a long-haul flight would be more productive with Wi-Fi, and more than three quarters would perceive their flight to be more enjoyable if they could stay connected.

Group executive, Virgin Australia Airlines, Rob Sharp said: “Most of us use our phones on a daily if not hourly basis, meaning it can be incredibly disruptive to have extended periods of time when you can’t connect with friends, family, colleagues, or what’s going on in the world. We’re proud to be the leader in providing Australians with greater in-flight connectivity on international flights.”

Virgin Australia also said that the carrier and Delta Air Lines have also become the only Trans-Pacific alliance to consistently offer in-flight Wi-Fi across all alliance aircraft, allowing guests to stay connected when travelling with either airline.

In-flight Wi-Fi is now available on all five Virgin Australia Boeing 777 aircraft and on 10 Virgin Australia Boeing 737 aircraft with 75% of the fleet to be complete by the end of the year. In-flight Wi-Fi will be fitted on Virgin Australia’s A330-200 aircraft in early 2019.

Phasor and Astronics partner on ESA-based aeronautical terminals

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Phasor, a developer of enterprise-grade electronically-steered antenna (ESA) systems for mobile broadband and Astronics AeroSat have formed a partnership to produce scalable, dual-beam ESA-based aeronautical terminals, which they say will enhance the passenger and crew experience onboard connected business and commercial airlines.

Phasor’s solid-state, software-defined and modular ESA conforms to the size and shape of an aircraft fuselage, which the company says enables commercial airlines and business aviation fleet operators to reduce drag-weight while optimising bandwidth for in-flight connectivity (IFC).

Astronics AeroSat will integrate Phasor’s phased-array technology into an agile aviation antenna solution that will operate seamlessly with geostationary (GEO) and non-geosynchronous satellites, such as Low Earth Orbit (LEO) wideband constellations, currently in development.

The companies said: “The new antenna will feature dual-beam technology, defined as the simultaneous ability to send and receive signals, with a ‘make-before-break’ capability.”

Matthew Harrah, president of Astronics AeroSat said the alliance between the two companies represents “the next phase of in-flight connectivity capability” and said: “We are working our way towards certification and commercialisation of this new dual-beam SATCOM terminal/OAE (outside aircraft equipment) and look forward to continuing to work closely with the Phasor team.”

David Helfgott, Phasor CEO said the strategic agreement “brings together the best of both worlds” adding: “Together we will deliver next-generation in-flight connectivity across multiple airframe-types and satellite communications networks.”

SAUDIA expands in-flight WhatsApp plan

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A month after the initial roll-out of Saudi Arabian Airlines’ (SAUDIA) free WhatsApp plan on domestic routes, the airline has expanded the package to international destinations.

In May this year, Saudia launched a free WhatsApp package for all domestic flights within Saudi Arabia and select international routes, to allow passengers to access a free WhatsApp plan which includes a 10MB data limit and is configured for text messaging only.

Following “overwhelmingly positive feedback” from passengers, the carrier has expanded the free WhatsApp package onboard all flights enabled with Wi-Fi connectivity.

Each guest can access free text messaging through WhatsApp by logging into a specially-created plan on the Saudia in-flight web portal. Saudia said in a statement it is the first carrier in the Middle East to offer a special WhatsApp data plan free of charge for all passengers.

Saudia’s fleet with Wi-Fi connectivity includes the Boeing 777, Boeing 787, Airbus A320 (latest deliveries 2016-2018 models have been equipped for Wi-Fi connectivity) and Airbus A330. The airline currently offers internet options on 47 destinations across all regions the airline flies to. Saudia uses the SITAONAIR connectivity system, the airline commissioned SITAONAIR to deliver the social media application in-flight to passengers.

Gogo’s study finds in-flight Wi-Fi makes passengers feel less anxious

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Gogo’s most recent Global Traveller Study has found that more than 75% of travellers say that having in-flight internet makes them feel less anxious as they can stay in contact with friends and family on the ground.

The study also found that 65% say if makes them feel less anxious because they can stay connected to work.

“Today, we see a shift as in-flight internet moves from being a luxury to an expectation for travellers around the world,” said Alyssa Hayes, director of insights at Gogo. “The importance of internet in the booking process has been increasing as now one-third of passengers are looking for in-flight internet when they book their flights. The desire for people to stay connected and in contact with the ground is prevalent; passengers look to not just browse the internet but also engage with social media, read the news and check their email.”

The report found that in terms of devices brought onto the plane, 90% of passengers bring a mobile device, 59% bring a laptop and 48% bring a tablet. However, laptops tend to stay in bags as 62% of passengers use their mobile device in-flight, 35% use a tablet and 34% use their laptop.

The majority of passengers still say they want internet access for general browsing (75%), followed by social media (63%), checking emails (60%) and reading the news (60%). When it comes to streaming, 44% of passengers want to stream movies and TV shows in-flight. Youtube, Netflix and Spotify are the top desired sources for streaming content.

The study also found that 47% of air travellers prefer seatback screens in-flight, compared to 33% who prefer their own personal devices.

Those who prefer seatback screens say they like the ease of use and more than half say they like that they don’t need to worry about charging their device, while of those who prefer personal devices, 65% cited privacy as the primary reason.

The study also fond that multitasking in-flight is the expectation, with people comfortable watching a film on the seatback while texting on their smartphone.

Gogo’s Global Traveller Research Study has been significantly expanded for 2018 and now includes data gathered from more than 9,000 air travellers in 18 countries.

ThinKom confirms multi-constellation, multi-orbit interoperability antenna technology

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ThinKom Solutions has announced the interoperability of its phased-array antenna technology with the next generation of low-earth orbit (LEO) and mid-earth orbit (MEO) networks, as well as geostationary (GEO) satellites.

According to the Los Angeles-based company, agility tests have shown that its antenna design achieves switching speeds of less than 800 ms. This has been determined by LEO and MEO service providers to be more than sufficient for beam switching among the fast-moving satellites with virtually no interruption in connectivity.

“ThinKom’s patented phased-array architecture provides rapid switching speeds without the limitations of electronic scanning antennas in terms of instantaneous bandwidth, low-look-angle performance, power consumption and aperture efficiency,” said Bill Milroy, chairman and chief technical officer of ThinKom Solutions.

“The new LEO and MEO satellite networks currently under development have the potential to disrupt the satcom market with inexpensive bandwidth and offer unique benefits in terms of latency, coverage, throughput and redundancy,” said Milroy. “At the same time, GEO high-throughput satellites (HTS) represent proven lower-risk technology but have limitations in terms of high-latitude coverage, lower spectral efficiencies and latency. This presents a dilemma for companies facing multi-year planning cycles for satcom terminal selection.”

“Our position is that users and sellers of aeronautical satellite connectivity should not have to make an ‘either-or choice’,” said Milroy. “Our antenna technology has the versatility to support an integrated multi-constellation solution offering gap-free, pole-to-pole coverage with automatic beam switching, rapid outage recovery and network optimisation for different geographical regions.”

EBACE 2018: Embraer first OEM to select Viasat’s Ka-band connectivity solution

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Embraer has become the first original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to select Viasat’s high-speed, high-capacity Ka-band connectivity solution for its Legacy 450 and Legacy 500 executive jets.

Aircraft will be equipped with Viasat’s Global Aero Terminal 5510, which will tap into the ViaSat-1, ViaSat-2 and European Ka-band satellite platforms today, and will be forward-compatible with Viasat’s future-generation satellite constellation, ViaSat-3 – enabling use of the ViaSat-3 capacity with no additional hardware upgrades. ViaSat-3 is an ultra-high capacity satellite platform, which will be comprised of three ViaSat-3 class satellites offering global coverage. Each ViaSat-3 satellite is expected to deliver one terabit per second capacity, which is more than the total network capacity of the approximately 400 commercial communications satellites in space today – combined

“We are excited to lead the industry with the Viasat solution as it will elevate the user experience for non-stop business connectivity and in-flight entertainment,” said Luciano Froes, senior vice-president, Marketing, Embraer Executive Jets. “By adopting innovative technologies that deliver higher performance, we are adding true value to our customers’ experience.”

The Embraer/Viasat partnership also marks the first Ka-band satellite broadband connectivity linefit selection for a medium cabin business jet. This enables Embraer’s customers to have immediate access to Viasat’s connectivity system directly from the factory. Initial speeds offered are expected to be 16 Mbps; Viasat expects those speeds to increase as it brings more capacity online. In addition, Viasat will offer a live TV streaming feature, which will give passengers the ability to watch live TV, content and entertainment on their portable electronic devices.

Jerry Goodwin, vice president, Network Services, Viasat, added: “We’re very excited about our partnership with Embraer. They have a vision that strongly aligns with ours: to enable Embraer aircraft to have an excellent connectivity experience, exceeding what is available in the market today for any class of business jet. Our capacity-rich satellites are proven to deliver superior internet connections during all phases of flight, ensuring business jet owners can be as productive in the air, as they are in their offices and homes.”

EBACE 2018: Honeywell boosts in-flight Wi-Fi for Global 6000 aircraft

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Honeywell’s CNX-900 cabin network router has been selected for integration with the company’s JetWave system on-board two Paris-based Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft.

The router offers the aircraft a broad set of connectivity features, including direct access to Honeywell’s GoDirect Cabin services, that enhances the flight experience for passengers, offering more than a dozen apps and services, including real-time TV, video-on-demand, videoconferencing, email and voice-over-internet protocol.

“We know the in-flight connectivity market is rapidly growing and increasingly competitive, so providing the business aviation market with tried-and-tested solutions to meet passenger demand is key to staying in the game,” said John Peterson, senior director, Connectivity Services, Honeywell Aerospace. “The Honeywell CNX-900 cabin network router offers a secure and reliable Wi-Fi connection, and working alongside GoDirect Cabin services, we help passengers realise a true ‘office in the sky’ experience.”

JetWave is the exclusive hardware to power a passenger’s connection to the Inmarsat Jet ConneX service from the cabin. It is optimised for Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band network to ensure reliable and fast connectivity across the globe. The JetWave system has been integrated with the CNX-900 router with Honeywell activating GoDirect Cabin services.