Lufthansa is offering in-flight high-speed Internet on about 60% of its long-haul fleet, and expects to complete installations of Panasonic Avionics’ Ku-band satellite-supported system across the remaining 40% by the end of 2012.
A former customer to now defunct Connexion by Boeing, Lufthansa reignited in-flight Internet service – dubbed FlyNet – in late 2010. It started with its Airbus A330s, moved to the A340-300s, and is now fitting A340-600s and Boeing 747s.
“Six out of 10 planes have it,” a Lufthansa spokesman tells the APEX editor’s blog.
“We have a complete new installation of the Panasonic system [with new EMS antenna] on a couple of aircraft, then we have a [Panasonic] modification of existing Connexion by Boeing installation [with the new antenna], and the third configuration is a modification of the existing Connexion using the old [Melco] antenna.”
Lufthansa’s new Airbus A380s will be retrofitted with the system last. Also, initial deliveries of Boeing 747-8 aircraft to Lufthansa will not be equipped with Panasonic’s system. However, Lufthansa expects Boeing to cut into production at some point and install it at the factory.
In the year since it reinstated FlyNet for passengers, Lufthansa has learned that business travellers are not the only people seeking to be connected in flight.
“One interesting scoop we got from the introduction phase was that in the beginning, with Connexion, we were always targeting the business traveller, who would finish up work while travelling, do emails, and want to stay connected. Now we also see that it has become a tool for those people who feel they need to be connected all the time via FaceBook (and other social media), and it really goes down to the young ages, the teenagers,” says the Lufthansa spokesman.
“It’s just a change of the times, but we get a lot of demand from this side as well. When we talk to our crews, they certainly notice that a lot of young people use the service to stay connected.”
Lufthansa suggests that its pay-for-service model is not under the same type of pressure as air-to-ground (ATG)-based in-flight Wi-Fi on US domestic flights. “I think you really can’t compare domestic Wi-Fi service because normally it’s narrowband and not based over water and the flights are at max five or six hours [in duration],” says the spokesman.
Lufthansa continues to charge passengers a one-hour flat rate of EUR 10.95 or a 24-hour flat rate of EUR 19.95. Many customers opt for the 24-hour package, as it facilitates connectivity “from flight-to-flight and in the lounge if connecting in Frankfurt, for example”, he says.
“Also, there has been a lot of discussion about ancillary revenue where many airlines are stripping off all the elements of price, unbundling [the services] and charging for it. Lufthansa made a decision to not go that route, but instead create services that hadn’t been there before and charge for those. We are not taking anything away but adding value and would of course like to see some revenue for this. I think it is still a service that is second to none.”
Lufthansa still intends to fit its long-haul fleet with Panasonic’s in-flight GSM/GPRS service, provided by partner AeroMobile. But it is holding strong on a prior decision not to allow passengers to make voice calls.