Inmarsat reveals status of GX linefit offerability with Boeing

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Securing linefit offerability on aircraft can be both costly and time-consuming. Suppliers in the passenger experience space often spend several years – and several million dollars – seeking approval to interface with an airframer’s IP. But there is plenty of incentive for them do so.

For starters, many airlines want to take delivery of new aircraft with connectivity already installed. Moreover, carriers which are hurting financially may obtain better financing opportunities if they’re able to simply tick the linefit box and order everything all-in-one versus having to fund separate post-delivery retrofit modifications, which require either a delay of service-entry or the need to pull aircraft out of service.

Inmarsat’s inflight broadband connectivity service, GX Aviation, has been offerable across Airbus types for years. But over the last year, the London-headquartered firm has made serious headway with Boeing. Indeed, Inmarsat tells Runway Girl Network that GX is available for airline selection on Boeing 737 MAX, 777X and 787 types with Honeywell and Inmarsat equipment.

“In addition, Boeing Global Services (BGS) post-delivery service bulletin installation and activation activities have been utilised on Boeing 737 MAX and 787 types. A number of leading airlines have installed GX Aviation on new Boeing 787 aircraft, including Norwegian Air Shuttle, Air New Zealand and Avianca. Inmarsat and our partners are committed to working closely with aviation OEMs to understand their future product approaches and to secure further linefit approvals for future aircraft types,” says the firm.

To be clear, certain carriers including Air New Zealand accepted some 787 aircraft with GX provisions and then activated the system post-delivery under the approval of a Boeing Global Services Service Bulletin. Air New Zealand’s broader IFEC installation incorporates unique connectivity integration with Panasonic’s eX3 IFE – a combo which has won a number of awards and likely speaks of things to come now that Panasonic is a strategic VAR for GX.

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Interestingly, Inmarsat aims for GX to be “the world’s first inflight connectivity solution to be linefit installed on the Boeing 777X with Honeywell and Inmarsat Value Added Reseller (VAR) equipment”.

It adds: “This has been selected by a number of leading international airlines for their cabin connectivity solution on future Boeing 777X fleets. The latter includes Emirates Airlines, who announced their intension to develop a state-of-the-art inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) solution with Inmarsat Global Xpress and Thales Avant on Boeing 777X aircraft.”

Some of Inmarsat’s comments are a revelation. When last we checked on linefit offerability for the 777-300ER, specifically, Inmarsat said it was not linefit offerable. And, to be clear today, that has not changed on the 777-300ER. Asked by RGN if Inmarsat is working towards offerability on the current-generation 777 or if the focus is now on the 777X, the company says:

Inmarsat Global Xpress utilising the Honeywell provided Jetwave system has not been positioned for linefit on existing B777-200 and B777-300 series aircraft programs. Inmarsat Global Xpress is currently operating on B777-200LR and B777-300ER types under FAA/EASA STC certification.

Inmarsat says its high-speed GX solution was introduced within the Boeing catalogue in 2018. The lack of PR around this achievement is notable, but keep in mind that Inmarsat’s prior president of Inmarsat Aviation, Leo Mondale, insisted in 2017 that obtaining linefit offerablity “is largely a distraction”.

He said at the time: “Whether you have to do 10 aircraft of retrofits out of a 40-aircraft fleet delivery or six aircraft, it’s not what materially drives an airline selection of a connectivity provider so what I’m trying to say is airlines are not being forced to pick a provider in a way that they had to a couple of years ago.”

That may be so, to a point, but it hasn’t stopped Inmarsat from securing linefit offerability for GX. Given the company’s headway on this front, readers will no doubt wonder what motivated Qatar Airways, a GX customer on the 777 (retrofits) and the A350 (linefits), to select Gogo 2Ku for its 787-8s, 787-9s and A380s? Perhaps the answer is simply related to price or performance. Or perhaps it’s just good business to diversify. If the Boeing 737 MAX grounding has taught us anything it is that equipment diversification has its benefits.

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