Air New Zealand is on track to commence internet wifi trials in the second half of 2017 after finalising contacts with satellite communications provider Inmarsat.
In October, the airline announced it would introduce onboard internet on its jet aircraft across domestic and international routes utilising Inmarsat’s new Global Xpress (GX) satellite constellation.
At the time, Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said trans-Tasman services would be the first to receive wifi, followed by the rest of the international jet fleet. Domestic jet services would offer wi-fi from 2018. The airline planned to have wi-fi as a gate-to-gate offering. Pricing details were not disclosed.
On Thursday, Inmarsat said it had signed a contract with Air New Zealand to provide the service, which for the first time will be integrated with the airline’s seat-back Panasonic inflight entertainment system.
“This was specifically requested by Air New Zealand and all parties have embraced the opportunity to come together to meet their needs,” Inmarsat said in a statement.
“The first GX-equipped aircraft are expected to begin proving flights in the second half of 2017, with services progressively available on Tasman, Pacific and long-haul fleets from the end of next year.
“The global nature of the GX network means that Air New Zealand’s ultra-long-haul routes, across the Pacific and on to the United Kingdom are covered, whilst the ability to layer-in capacity over Air New Zealand’s key regional destination hubs, such as the East Coast of Australia, will ensure that the customer experience will be of consistently high quality,” Inmarsat said.
Inmarsat Aviation president Leo Mondale said the company was focused on providing Air New Zealand passengers a “frictionless inflight broadband experience”.
“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,” Mondale said.
Aviation Week reported in October proving flights would be on a new Airbus A321neo and refitted Boeing 777-300ER.
Inmarsat, which launched its third satellite for GX in August, said Air New Zealand joined the likes of Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines to have chosen the GX technology for onboard internet wifi.
Air New Zealand chief digital officer Avi Golan said the airline tested the GX technology on Honeywell’s Boeing 757 test aircraft that was seen in this part of the world in August.
“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,” Golan said.
In November, Qantas said it had finished installing internet wi-fi equipment on board Boeing 737-800 VH-XZB, with trials of the technology provided by ViaSat to occur for a few months before it was turned on for passengers early in 2017.
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia in July flagged plans to equip its Boeing 777-300ER, 737-800 and Airbus A330-200 fleet with in-flight internet wi-fi from mid-2017. However, the carrier was yet to announce details about the technology it would use, the pricing model and any potential partners for the service.