‘Moxy’ founder less keen on seatback TV than JetBlue days


Twenty years after founding JetBlue and distinguishing the airline by offering free live TV in every seat, David Neeleman isn’t sold on the notion of offering seatback entertainment to passengers when his new low-cost carrier, codenamed ‘Moxy’, launches Airbus A220-300 service between secondary airports in the US.

“We’re certainly going to go with the Internet, probably have it for free,” Neeleman tells Runway Girl Network in reference to Moxy’s forthcoming #PaxEx.

In January, Moxy signed a firm order with Airbus to purchase 60 A220-300 aircraft with deliveries from 2021. Last month, GECAS and Neeleman agreed to a Letter of Intent for the purchase and leaseback of nine A220-300 aircraft with deliveries scheduled in 2021 and 2022.

“I think there is an argument to be made for seatback but by the time you’re two years out, we all have the devices, you can watch 50 movies, be connected on the Internet, so I’m not sure. Live TV is my hallmark; we’ll have live TV options, but I’m not so sure it’s as important as it used to be,” says Neeleman.

For what it’s worth, your writer recently flew aboard a Thales/LiveTV-equipped JetBlue E-Jet to and from Boston, and availed of the Amazon-sponsored inflight connectivity. But the free connection was far slower than anticipated both ways, and I was grateful for the added distraction of Bravo programming on the seatback.

Though Neeleman appears to still be in #PaxEx decision-making mode for Moxy’s A220s, he stressed to RGN that the airline will “definitely have a wireless solution”.

Naturally, there is a plethora of wireless IFE systems on the market these days, including kit that augments live Internet by supporting the streaming of cached videos to passengers’ own devices and/or to in-seat screens.

The wireless seatback IFE solution known as Gogo Vision Touch is linefitted by Airbus in Mirabel to Delta’s new A220s. Delta Flight Products is also rolling out its version of the tablet-based system on the US major’s Airbus A330-900neo and A321neo fleets, and when retrofitting the system to its Boeing 767-400s.

Incidentally, Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne tells RGN that Delta’s pivot from Gogo Vision Touch to a wholly-Delta-sourced wireless seatback solution “hasn’t hurt our relationship” with the carrier.

Thorne says nonchalantly: “They’re doing some aircraft and we’re doing some aircraft.” Whether that means Gogo can sell Gogo Vision Touch to Delta competitors remains to be seen. But the Chicago-based company is still promoting Gogo Vision Touch on its website.

Delta’s A220s feature wireless seatback IFE from nose to tail, in addition to offering Gogo 2Ku connectivity. Image: Delta Air Lines

Neeleman, meanwhile, believes a free tier of inflight connectivity is “definitely” a necessity for passengers on longhaul flights. As the co-owner of TAP – which offers a free tier of web-based messaging on its Panasonic eXConnect-equipped A330neos – the industry veteran says being disconnected for seven, eight, 11 hours is no longer acceptable especially “given our society today and how things are evolving”.

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  1. Howard Miller

    I have long respected and admired David Neeleman, and often refer to him in my reader comments posted (hither and yon!) using the word “visionary” for his many successes pre- and post- his founding of JetBlue.

    But, in the end, and I suppose because I’m a New Yorker who has flown JetBlue many times since it began in February, 2000, it’s David’s vision for JetBlue of “Bringing Humanity Back To Flying” that took elements other airlines viewed as “luxuries” or “frills” for economy class flyers such the wider seats on Airbus’s A320s versus Boeing’s 737s; the most legroom in coach/economy; 1st checked bag “free”/included with the airfare; free, unlimited snacks from well-stocked baskets; fewer and lower obnoxious fees that really are little more than greed grabs to fund obscenely generous annual stock buybacks; and ESPECIALLY the amazing LiveTV featuring 36 channels of live satellite tv that often made flying far more enjoyable than it had been for quite some time for economy class flyers.

    In fact, it often allowed me to watch my favorite programs while flying which I still look forward to when possible!

    So, to hear that David’s next great airline may be more Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier, or American Airlines than classic JetBlue or Delta and possibly not including real seatback IFE aboard his otherwise nifty Airbus A220s is disappointing because no matter how much it would seem streaming IFE to one’s own personal device is the way of the future, unless David has some sort of special, yet to be revealed trick up his sleeve, to date I have yet to find any personal device be it a cell phone, tablet or notebook computer anywhere near as satisfactory, much less pleasurable, as the seatback IFE (especially when it includes live satellite tv!) he introduced as the cornerstone of humanizing flying at JetBlue.

    Nothing works.

    In fact, the last two times my partner and I flew Delta Connection flights NYC-RDU-NYC 9-months ago aboard an Embraer 175 and a plane we hope to avoid whenever possible going forward, a CRJ-900, after about 20 mins of dealing with holding our handheld device in place, or even using a stand we brought with us, we became so fed up with all of the “maintenance” required to keep our device secure and in place that we just gave up, turned it off, and put it away for the rest of that flight.

    And for the return flight aboard the hideous CRJ-900, we didn’t even bother attempting to use any of our devices to stream IFE.

    Fortunately, NYC-RDU flights are typically 90 mins, so the lack of IFE wasn’t a big deal.

    But, be it for our flights taken together, or separately, and there have been more than enough in recent years on a variety of airlines; a variety of aircraft; of varying lengths for domestic and foreign itineraries; and even premium and economy classes, every which way we’ve tried to make streaming IFE or viewing preloaded content work on our personal devices, we’ve found it not just marginally inferior, but so much inferior to seatback IFE, that we now seek to avoid airlines, and aircraft, that lack seatback IFE.

    Obviously, for our trips to visit family in RDU, finding flights with seatback IFE is harder to do as only JetBlue, whose exceptionally limited frequencies make that airline a less desirable option than Delta, offers it fleetwide.

    So, for those 90 mins trips, we’ll likely have to make do without seatback IFE until Delta begins flying its new Airbus A220s between NYC and RDU (which we only wished Delta would begin using on this route the sooner the better given how awful those CRJ-900s are!).

    But, with the A220s offering enough range to fly trans cons, west coast-Hawaii, or even northeast USA to Ireland, which are 5-7 hour slogs, we’d be loathe to fly any airline that didn’t offer the ease and convenience of seatback IFE for flights that long.

    That’s all there is to it since we’ve had more than enough opportunities in recent years to experience flights WITH and WITHOUT seatback IFE – and this far, NOT once has the Personal device option been anywhere near as satisfying as the awesome seatback IFE that truly did humanize flying for us that David (correctly) saw as being every bit as transformational for coach/economy flyers as we know it to be!

    So, with that, here’s hoping “Moxy” or whatever David’s next airline is called includes seatback IFE as that airline will NOT be nearly as great as JetBlue was before it (sadly) joined the Race to the Bottom in recent years.

    And of course, NOT nearly as humanized if it goes the ticky-tacky, cheap AF route that American and the ULCC’s have taken on their sad, depressing, seatback IFE-less planes!

    JMHO – and my partner’s, too, since I’ve already experienced the dreaded “stank eye” when past flights were booked aboard airlines and aircraft that lacked seatback IFE!

  2. William

    How much is seat back TV going to cost? Touch screen technology is now highly mature and affordable. The system I recently experienced on an A321neo flight between Manila and Sydney was much crisper and useable than the extremely impressive system Emirates used only a few years previously on its A380s. I suspect the main costs are paying license fees rather than the technology itself. In that case just broadcast free news.

  3. What a business disaster, Bombardier first gave away the C-series, Airbus must laughing all the way to the bank, then they sold the Q-series and finally the CRJ , what is next the business aircraft, and / or transportation, soon there will be nothing left. After both Gov’t Quebec and Canada supported them they throw the towels. The Canadian aircraft manufacturing industry is dead. If the reason for selling all these assets is non-profitable , they just have to look in the mirror. Who will, profit with these transactions might be the management…………….