Over the past couple of weeks, there have been a few interesting and unexpected developments in the inflight connectivity ecosystem. By keeping a close eye out for new humps, RGN can confirm one new airline program, and two expanding programs.
LOT POLISH AIRLINES
We start in Poland, as LOT Polish Airlines prepares to take delivery of its last on-order Boeing 787-8. Surprise – this final 787-8 comes with a radome installed, a first for any LOT aircraft.
A reliable source says there are no current plans to retrofit existing 787-8s with connectivity, but upcoming deliveries of LOT’s 787-9s will also come with wifi installed.
The next 787 for LOT Polish Airlines SP-LRH LN583 rolled out of final assembly. pic.twitter.com/38oOq6cvOt
— Chris Edwards (@AeroimagesChris) June 8, 2017
LOT did not respond for a request for comment in time for publication, and Thales declined to comment, but the airline has historically been a Thales customer for inflight entertainment on its 787s.
Interestingly, it has also been confirmed to RGN that this particular LOT installation is not a Panasonic product, signaling that other broadband connectivity options may now be available directly from Boeing.
Several weeks ago, it was revealed that Norwegian is taking its 737 MAX 8’s from Boeing with provisions for wifi, including a line-fit (Boeing tri-band courtesy General Dynamics?) radome, but without the requisite hardware installed. This may now also be an option for the 787 program, making your author’s #humpspotting job a little more difficult.
Speaking of Norwegian, it appears that progress is finally being made to roll out wifi to its long-haul 787 fleet. During a 2015 interview with RGN contributing editor Seth Miller, Norwegian said it expected its 787-9 fleet to be delivered with wifi, but that did not happen. Now with multiple 787-9s already in service, a new 787-9 delivery has rolled off the Boeing line with a radome.
Norwegian is currently a Global Eagle customer for wifi on its sizable 737-800NG fleet, but the provider for this new 787-9 is unknown at this time. Could this be Inmarsat GX via Norwegian’s new deal with integrator Rockwell Collins? A naked-under-the-hood-waiting-for-GX iteration?
— Paine Airport (@mattcawby) June 15, 2017
Meanwhile, in Spain, SkyTeam member Air Europa will become the third airline to take a 737NG line-fit with Panasonic’s eXConnect Ku connectivity system (photo here).
Air Europa is no stranger to wifi, as it has taken all of its 787s line-fit with Panasonic Ku, and has recently completed a major retrofit program on its entire A330 fleet.
But Air Europa has quickly become one of a small handful of airlines offering full coverage on its long-haul aircraft. Panasonic says it currently has an overall backlog of 2,000 aircraft for Ku.