The time has finally arrived when passengers can use onboard inflight wi-fi in the European shorthaul market, thanks to a partnership between Lufthansa and Inmarsat Aviation.
Being able to use wi-fi inflight is now common in the USA and on longhaul flights between Europe and regions such as the Middle East and North America.
But getting wi-fi on a shorthaul flight inside Europe? This is a first!
Lufthansa has led the pioneering effort and has already begun offering the service for free to some fortunate passengers flying on their A320 network. Just a few aircraft are equipped by the Spring, up to 100 aircraft could be offering the wi-fi from the ka-band GX Aviation network from Inmarsat.
Inmarsat Aviation president Leo Mondale said earlier this week, ‘Billions of dollars and years of engineering have been invested to ensure that GX for Aviation delivers a solution that is not just robust, but transformative. 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.’
The installation work on Lufthansa’s single aisle fleet is taking place during the winter season to avoid downtime in aircraft scheduling in the summer of 2017.
The airline already offers passengers on longhaul flights a separate wi-fi service under the brand name FlyNet provided by Panasonic Avionics eXconnect, a ku band network.
Lufthansa is waiting for more aircraft in its fleet to be equipped before commenting openly on the ‘soft launch’.
The current ‘soft launch’ will ‘give everybody the chance to try it for free so everyone can give it a spin’ according to Inmarsat Aviation svp stratey & business development Frederik van Essen.
More airlines will follow. Inmarsat has a ten-year deal and contract to outfit 150 Lufthansa aircraft and includes other member airlines in the Lufthansa Group comprising Germanwings, Eurowings, SWISS and Austrian Airlines. The Group also has equity interests in Brussels Airlines and SunExpress.
And later next year into 2018 passengers may get the chance to try out a new wi-fi service system from Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, which could also be installed on Lufthansa.
The European Aviation Network (EAN) will use Air To Ground and a new satellite from Inmarsat paving the way towards a truly affordable solution for airlines large and small. But it is still in the development stages. The ground tower network is being set up across Europe.
The GX service which Lufthansa is launching right now, has another undisclosed European airline customer in the pipeline, ready to outfit 125 aircraft in Europe.
So European passengers will finally get a chance to connect without having to board a longhaul flight.