Building on its announcement earlier this week regarding an extension and expansion of its trial operating license in China, Panasonic Avionics (PAC) in partnership with China Telecom Satellite, has confirmed another order in the country. China Eastern Airlines will significantly expand its commitment for connectivity with PAC, more than tripling the committed fleet to 84 aircraft including widebodies and narrowbodies.
The original agreement between the two companies was for 20 linefit 777-300ER aircraft (though China Eastern had also quietly gone PAC on several other aircraft).
The revised deal includes the following:
- One B737-800 (retrofit)
- Four B767-300 (retrofit)*
- Two B767-300ER (retrofit)*
- 20 B777-300 (linefit)
- 31 A330-200 (retrofit)
- 11 A330-300 (retrofit)
- 15 A330-300 (linefit)
The retrofits represent the bulk of the existing widebody fleet. Notably absent from the order is a commitment for the carrier’s pending A350 or 787 orders. Those aircraft represent another 35 large aircraft likely to see connectivity. Presumably negotiations are ongoing for that fitting, though a decision will need to be made relatively soon if they are to be linefit installs.
The one 737-800 may seem out of place but it does serve a purpose. It is essentially a proof-of-concept opportunity for PAC to demonstrate the value of the product in the domestic Chinese market. With just over 250 Airbus A320 family aircraft and another 93 Boeing 737NGs in the fleet, the potential value there to PAC is huge.
PAC remains the only service provider flying in revenue service in China, and this deal secures a significant portion of one of the country’s largest carriers. The previously mentioned expansion of the license in China is truly a significant factor at this point. The company has invested significant time and capital in the market, and is also believed to control the lion’s share of Ku satellite capacity in the country. Global Eagle Entertainment and Gogo have also inked deals to launch trials in China but at a smaller scale than PAC’s position there.
*China Eastern does not operate any 767s in its fleet directly. These aircraft are part of the company’s Shanghai Airlines subsidiary but will operate with the parent company wifi kit, including on-board branding.