Qatar faces user experience decisions as A350s get fitted with GX


A Qatar Airways Airbus A350, MSN42, has been installed with Inmarsat Global Xpress inflight connectivity, the carrier’s GX integrator and value added reseller Thales confirms. However, the airline is still deciding on a service provider.

Speaking to RGN today about Thales’ GX solution for the A350, Thales Inflyt Experience CEO Dominique Giannoni said, “We are on time in terms of installations; the first has been installed on the frame and we are continuing our testing with Inmarsat and [terminal unit provider] Honeywell.”

Though Thales now has the infrastructure to support Qatar Airways as service provider for the program – having expanded its proficiencies with the acquisition of LiveTV in Melbourne, Florida – Giannoni revealed that a final decision has not yet been made by the airline. Qatar is “still deciding on service provider”, he said, and indeed what the user experience is going to look like. “The model is in discussion.”

Qatar Airways currently uses a mixed bag of inflight connectivity and service providers. For example, SITA OnAir is service provider on the carrier’s Inmarsat Swiftbroadband-connected Boeing 787s, and Panasonic is fitting certain subfleets with its Ku solution. It’s unclear if carrier will take the opportunity to offer a consistent portal experience to passengers.

Lessons could be learned from United Airlines, which uses Panasonic and Thales solutions on the bulk of its mainline fleet while Gogo serves the p.s. planes and large regional jets using both ATG and ATG-4 systems. This meant a different experience and pricing model depending on which aircraft passengers would board. In recent months, however, the carrier has worked to bring the online portal experience as close as possible to a common interface for the Panasonic and Thales systems. And as of November the Gogo planes will join the party. (United previously hinted it might take this direction).

Speaking broadly about portal consistency, Thales’ Glenn Latta said, “We want to make sure the airline has the opportunity to do what they need to do …. So we’ll provide a platform, and can take it to a retail model if needed and control that or have the airline customize their look, feel and brand but use other technology in their fleet. I do believe the passenger wants that familiar experience, and if familiar they’re more likely to use the product consistently.”