The adoption by US carriers of in-seat live satellite television – together with connectivity services - is growing leaps and bounds.
This trend is “really exciting”, says Panasonic director of strategic product marketing David Bruner. “The US market could end up in the next couple of years with a totally different experience when you get onboard the airplane than what you saw a couple years ago.”
A strategy launched at inception by JetBlue Airways through its LiveTV subsidiary is being copied on a broad scale. Frontier and WestJet are long-time customers of LiveTV’s in-flight television system. Continental Airlines recently announced plans to install LiveTV across a large portion of its Boeing narrowbody fleet.
Delta Air Lines, through its Song experiment, followed JetBlue's lead when it began offering Panasonic Avionics-manufactured in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems – with live television – onboard domestic flights. It later announced it would extend the offering to its entire transcontinental fleet.
Start-up Virgin America, meanwhile, offers television and (video on demand) VOD onboard its Airbus A320s.
Added to this, JetBlue, Frontier and Continental have all gone public with plans to offer connectivity over LiveTV technology, while Virgin America plans to offer AirCell connectivity.
That the combo of live television and connectivity is proving hard for carriers to resist is evident by the number of requests for quotations (RFQs) in the market right now, say Bruner.
Although LiveTV intends to offer live television and light connectivity to airlines, Panasonic is going a different direction. In addition to television and VOD, the company is offering satellite-based “full Internet connectivity and the broadest broadband in the world”.
A customer has not yet been announced but Panasonic is confident installations will begin on a US airline by year-end. “The airlines are now very focused on not what is the cost of the system, but what is the net cost of the system if it generates revenue. It may pay for itself and make its customers happy and bring you more customers. That's a positive thing,” says Bruner.
So are the Canadians next to introduce connectivity? As mentioned earlier, WestJet's aircraft are equipped with LiveTV. Air Canada, on the other hand, offers Thales IFE.
(Photo above right of JetBlue's LiveTV system)