Qantas Airways surprised the inflight entertainment world today when it announced it has selected Panasonic Avionics to fit its wireless IFE solution, eXW, to the carrier’s entire Boeing 767 fleet, despite running a successful – and ongoing – trial of Lufthansa Systems’ competing BoardConnect solution on a single 767.
The Australian carrier is the first publically announced customer for eXW, which will provide over 200 hours of on-demand IFE content via iPads at every seat on the 767s. The service will be offered free of charge and branded for Qantas as QStreaming just as Lufthansa Systems’ own offering has been.
The first aircraft with eXW is set to roll out in the fourth quarter of this year and will predominantly operate east coast routes and also across to Perth. Qantas’ Boeing 767s do not offer embedded seat-back IFE so QStreaming will serve as an enhancement to the passenger experience.
The reason for Qantas’ change of course was not given; the carrier says its trial of BoardConnect has been “successful”. But Qantas has a close relationship with Panasonic, as it is a long-time customer of the firm’s wired seat-back IFE. Indeed, Qantas says it is “now looking at ways to evolve this [eXW] technology platform even further with our partner Panasonic to bring new standards of in-flight entertainment to our customers”.
Reacting to the news Lufthansa Systems did not betray any emotion. Asked by the APEX editor’s blog when it was made aware of Qantas’ decision to select an alternative provider for QStreaming, Lufthansa Systems said the information “is confidential”. Additionally, Lufthansa Systems says it currently has “no information on any changes regarding the trial”.
The company stresses that both Qantas and Lufthansa Systems “have been successfully conducting a wireless IFE trial aboard a Boeing 767 with 254 airline-provided iPads since last February, as announced by Qantas on February 1, 2012. This trial was recently extended for another six months. As stated by Qantas, feedback on the trial with Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect has been excellent concerning technical performance and reliability of the system as well as comments by passengers, management and crews. This emphasizes the system’s strong performance at full load.”
Lufthansa Systems adds: “All parties – the airline, passengers and our own specialists – were extremely pleased with the results of the trial. Best to our knowledge, Lufthansa Systems remains the only provider that offers a working wireless IFE solution that has been proven under real conditions in flight. It is easy to install during regular nightstops and offers a variety of streaming options to either passenger or airline-owned devices as well as in-seat screens.”
Gogo has been offering wireless IFE to passengers’ own personal electronic devices for some time aboard US operators. Pressed to clarify its believe that it is the only provider offering wireless IFE “under real conditions in flight”, Lufthansa Systems says: “Best to our knowledge, BoardConnect is the only wireless IFE solution that is proven to make video on demand content available to 100% of passengers across the cabin at the same time – currently up to 260 passengers proven in live operations since many months.”
Lufthansa Systems burst onto the IFE scene in March 2011 when it announced that it would bring BoardConnect to German holiday carrier Condor’s Boeing 767s. Then in September of last year the company generated huge buzz when Virgin America announced at the Airline Passenger Experience Expo (APEX) in Seattle that it had selected BoardConnect for the next iteration of its Red IFE platform. The deal dealt a big blow to Panasonic Avionics, which supplies the hardware for Red.
Neither the Condor nor Virgin America BoardConnect programmes have launched yet, but Condor recently received EASA supplemental type certification for installation on 767 aircraft so “the airline is currently preparing the launch of BoardConnect for the next weeks”, says Lufthansa Systems.
The company says it offers all required maintenance support for its wireless IFE offering. “This includes hard- and software maintenance, a 24/7 service desk and system monitoring, among other things.”