Rockwell makes big bet on PaxEx with Arinc buy

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Rockwell Collins is heading into the New Year positioned to provide end-to-end solutions in the airline passenger experience (#PaxEx) space after successfully completing the acquisition of Arinc from The Carlyle Group for $1.4 billion.

Established in 1929 in the US as Aeronautical Radio, Incorporated, Arinc is perhaps best known for introducing ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) to airlines in the late 1970s, and for working with industry stakeholders to develop myriad standards covering the installation and interfaces of systems on aircraft. But in recent decades, the company has built up its #PaxEx portfolio to support passenger handling, baggage handling, information system design and installation, airport operations, passenger and facilities security and IT maintenance and systems integration.

Discussing an array of different #PaxEx technologies at the recent Future Travel Experience conference in Las Vegas, Arinc marketing manager Katie Ashmore highlighted the company’s vMUSE (multi-user system environment) solution as meeting the needs of today’s crowded airports.“A kiosk solution [at the airport] isn’t always the correct solution for every passenger; there is always special needs that need to be addressed with an actual agent, so we offer vMUSE, which is a common use solution [that] gives an airport the flexibility to better utilize real estate, which is really important in today’s world just because there has been encroachment and lack of room for expansion,” says Ashmore.

Raymond Hooke, airside operations manager at George Best Belfast City Airport notes that if the airport didn’t have vMuse, it would need every airline that operates there to have its own hardware and connectivity “and that would mean multiple PCs at every check-in and boarding point and a hugely complex and space- hungry communications infrastructure”.

Arinc also offers airport security solutions such as VeriPax, which complements existing manual processes for boarding pass validation, notes Ashmore. “You can choose the level of validation.You can have it hooked into an airline’s DCS (departure control system), so it will validate that, ‘yes this passenger information is correct; this passenger is flying today; and they are flying our carrier’, so adding an extra layer of security rather than just the visual checks that you see a lot of the TSA agents doing.”

Once on board aircraft, passengers may encounter Arinc’s inflight connectivity services. Its so-called ‘Cabin Connect’ Wi-Fi solution is being trialled by Virgin Atlantic on Airbus A330 airliners, and Arinc is hopeful of signing up more airline customers in the coming months. Cabin Connect operates over Inmarsat’s L-band satellite-supported SwiftBroadband aeronautical service, but is provisioned to migrate to Inmarsat’s forthcoming Ka-band service.

Leveraging Arinc’s cockpit connectivity prowess and cabin connectivity solutions is “absolutely” in the cards for Rockwell Collins, Rockwell Collins manager, media relations Pam Tvrdy-Cleary told Runway Girl Network today.

“Rockwell Collins has excelled is in the avionics on board the aircraft and this acquisition of Arinc enables us to take advantage of their air-to-ground communication network and opens up a whole new realm of possibilities with some of their airport communication systems, as well as other new areas in the transportation sector,” she adds.

Rockwell Collins also holds a solid footprint in #PaxEx, providing satcom hardware for various services, as well as overhead, in-seat and wireless IFE to narrowbodies. It also supports legacy Rockwell Collins IFE systems on widebody aircraft, and its Airshow moving map is popular in both the commercial and business aviation sectors.

At a time when US defense spending has been slashed, the acquisition of Arinc shifts the balance of Rockwell Collins toward the expanding commercial aviation sector. However, to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest, Rockwell Collins sold Arinc’s Industry Standards Organization to SAE International simultaneously with the completion of the Arinc acquisition.

Additionally, “due to a lack of fit with its long-term strategy”, Rockwell Collins says it has initiated preparatory efforts to divest Arinc’s Aerospace Systems Engineering and Support business, which provides military aircraft integration and modifications, maintenance, and logistics and support.

For the near term, customers of the two companies can expect business as usual. The majority of integration activities are expected to be completed in six to nine months.

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