Europe progresses in gate-to-gate PED clearances

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About 50% of European carriers are expected to permit the gate-to-gate use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) before the end of the year, wireless IFE provider and IT specialist Lufthansa Systems says.

“I think the EASA ruling is a little bit different than the FAA one if you look at the details. It may take a little longer for airlines to comply but I think the pressure will be there,” says Lufthansa Systems senior VP BoardConnect Norbert Mueller.

Ryanair, for instance, today confirmed that all  customers may – with immediate effect – use their PEDs (including tablets, smartphones, e-readers and MP3 players) for the entire duration of their flight, once these devices are switched to ‘flight mode’ and all safety demos/briefings are observed.

The Irish carrier’s previous decision to offer OnAir inflight mobile connectivity to passengers – though no longer available – may have given it a leg up in getting fast approval for gate-to-gate PED use. Airlines must demonstrate aircraft PED immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMI) when bringing connectivity on board their aircraft, and this is also a prerequisite for obtaining approval for gate-to-gate PED use.

Lufthansa Systems’ Mueller says EASA’s decision to issue guidance on gate-to-gate PED use – tabled after the FAA provided guidelines to US carriers late last year – will also serve to improve the business case for wireless IFE, such as the BoardConnect solution offered by Lufthansa Systems.

“The really good thing is it eases the business case on wireless on continental fleets, because flights are so short, so it increases the ability to use PEDs and access wireless by 50%,” he says. “So think about Frankfurt-London or Frankfurt-Munich, that’s 40 minutes of air time, but it PED use may be limited to 15 minutes above 10,000ft; there is a big difference in percentage. And of course that goes into the business case because you have more time to consume content, do shopping, and that’s easing the touch point opportunities for the airlines and their customers.”

The fact that most European carriers do not offer inflight connectivity may also prove beneficial for the business case for streaming video in the near term, though Lufthansa Systems intends to play a role in future airline connectivity programs.

“The information business case and shopping business case applies to connectivity. Wireless IFE would be perfect [to fill the niche] while carriers still don’t offer connectivity. However we also see some tenders coming up with respect to connectivity in Europe – if not this year it will be next year in connectivity. We’re part of this and BoardConnect is the perfect platform; we can handle the distribution and we can be inter-connectable with connectivity solutions and we can give the airlines the option to add Hollywood movies on the same equipment,” reveals Mueller.

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