[Satellite News 11-28-11] Turkish Airlines (TA) is looking to ramp-up its in-flight connectivity options to passengers. The airline is working with Panasonic Avionics on developing new solutions and options for passengers. The original deal between the two companies was signed back in 2010, and TA is now working on bringing the system to passengers. In particular, it is looking to bring the service to its new widebody airplanes — the Boeing 777 300ER’s. In terms of where it is with its rollout, Faruk Cizmecioglu, Chief Marketing Officer, Turkish Airlines, told Satellite News, “Currently one B777-300ER aircraft is equipped with the system and we will modify our remaining airplanes in a short while. As you know there are always improvements in the technology. It never ends and we are a very close follower of new technologies.”
Bringing these new services to passengers is a long process. In terms of how the technical trials have gone, Cizmecioglu says, “Currently only eXTV (which provides uninterrupted TV during the whole overseas flight) is activated on one aircraft and eXConnect (Wi-Fi Internet) will be activated as soon as we have the approval from our Turkish Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). We will have a short trial period with the Wi-Fi service to check the system performance for being able to provide best service to our passengers. Wi-Fi connectivity and live TV may be a known well in U.S. aviation but for other regions and overseas flights, it is very new.”
It has been working with Boeing to install the system. “As we are one of the first airlines to decide to install this Panasonic’s Global Communication Suite (GCS) we knew it would not be easy to install this system and there would be some technical challenges. There are issues with software integration which need to be solved before activating the system. Therefore, we preferred this system to be installed by Boeing, which has a lot of experience having been involved with the ‘Connexion’ system,” says Cizmecioglu.
In terms of the return on investment it is looking to provide passengers, Cizmecioglu says, “It is our goal that our passengers have the best in-flight experience and we believe the services which will be provided via the GCS system will help us a lot. Rather than considering the services of GCS as a revenue cost, we believe they are a part of an in-flight entertainment system. eXTV is offered out to our passengers at no cost (like all other movies, music, games, etc. on our IFE system). During the trial period we will also offer Wi-Fi services at no cost to our passengers. It is mainly because we would like more passengers to get to know and experience the system. But, obviously, we have made some investments plus there are some charges (satellite capacity, etc.) to be able to provide Wi-Fi service on board the airplane. Therefore, after the trial period, the Wi-Fi service will have a price and passengers will be able to buy sessions via their credit cards. We may also consider generating advertisement revenues from our entertainment system”
It is becoming an increasing necessity for airlines to invest in these services. In the Middle East, airlines such as Gulf Air, Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airlines have already made investments in these services. Tim Farrar, President, TMF Associates says these are becoming increasingly important for airlines. He says, “They are important as differentiators, but not as revenue generators for the airlines. This is a big change from expectations only a few years ago, when low cost airlines such as Ryanair thought in-flight communications could provide a significant ancillary revenue stream. The biggest boost is when a single airline is out in the lead. This is the case with Lufthansa at the moment, and we see them advertising FlyNet heavily. In the United States, it is become more of an expected amenity and Southwest is more in catch-up mode than out in front. However, the cost advantage provided by Ka-band could mean the JetBlue and Continental deployments leap ahead of the competition (Aircell’s Gogo ATG service is dominant in the United States at present).”