Brazilian operator Azul is differentiating its service by offering free inflight connectivity, powered by Viasat, on 17 domestic aircraft, with plans to fit more than 80 additional aircraft.
The São Paulo-based carrier selected Viasat IFC for more than 100 twinjets across its Airbus A320neo and Embraer E195-E2 fleets. The initial announcement was made by Viasat during an earnings update in November 2019.
“Azul’s free IFC service is currently available on 15 Airbus A320/321 and two E195-E2 aircraft, with installations ongoing,” said Viasat in a statement shared with press. Passengers can avail of free web browsing, messaging and social media across all Azul domestic flights equipped with the Viasat IFC system.
The high-speed solution in Brazil leverages capacity on Viasat’s Ka-band partner satellite, SGDC-1, owned by Telebrás. “Everyone’s design is different, but we’re getting what we expected out of it. It is delivering on the promise that we had set up,” Viasat vice president commercial mobility Don Buchman told Runway Girl Network in reference to the SGDC-1 satellite.
Viasat plans to augment the SDGC-1 network with its next-generation Ka-band satellite constellation, ViaSat-3, which will deliver even more data and higher speeds across Brazil. The first of three ViaSat-3 satellites is expected to launch in 2022, providing coverage in the Americas, including South America, and driving fresh IFC equipage opportunities for Viasat.
“We’ve been pretty successful getting ahead of the market,” noted Buchman to RGN. “When we launch satellites, we have markets that have been proven or ready to go.”
Viasat also counts Aeromexico as a customer.
Azul was founded by serial entrepreneur David Neeleman. He also launched JetBlue, which later became a Viasat customer, and set the standard for offering free Internet browsing to passengers.
More recently, Neeleman founded US start-up Breeze Airways, which has been in talks with multiple inflight connectivity suppliers — spanning virtually all IFC technologies — with an eye on equipping its forthcoming fleet of Airbus A220s, likely via post-delivery retrofit modification.
Regarding an IFC decision for the A220s, Breeze chief operating officer Tom Anderson told RGN in late May: “I think we would keep at this point all options open. Once you start cutting holes in an airplane, and running wires, these tend to be longer term commitments. So you do want to be somewhat methodical.”
Viasat’s Buchman declined to talk specifics about any potential talks with Breeze, but said generally that “if someone is interested in connectivity, we’re interested in talking with them.”
Meanwhile, the Viasat executive is “super excited” about launching service on Azul. “Launching in this COVID environment has been very difficult but very exciting. It’s great to have a partner like Azul that does see the value, and keeps everything running.”
He added: “I think doing this now positions them when recovery starts hitting full steam to kind of have a good product in place so passengers are met with this.”
Featured image credited to Airbus S.A.S. 2014/Fixion – GWLNSOD