Latest News

Intelsat Wins American Airlines IFC Deal to Connect 500 Regional Jets 

By Rachel Jewett | December 1, 2023

Photo: American Airlines

Intelsat will equip nearly 500 American Airlines regional jets with satellite in-flight connectivity under a deal announced Nov. 30. American currently offers high-speed Wi-Fi on more than 900 mainline aircraft, and this update to regional aircraft will bring the number of satellite-connected aircraft to more than 1,400.

Intelsat’s solution includes its multi-orbit electronically steered array (ESA) antenna which can operate on both Intelsat’s Geostationary (GEO) satellites and Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites from partner OneWeb. Ball Aerospace and Stellar Blu Solutions worked with Intelsat on the antenna

Dave Bijur, head of Commercial Aviation at Intelsat, told Via Satellite that Intelsat won out in a competitive contracting process for its multi-orbit antenna and the economics of its service. 

“This multi-orbit antenna is a big deal. We’re a known, mature entity. Being reliable and performing well for airlines is a big deal,” Bijur told Via Satellite. “We put very simple and compelling economics on the table that let the airline be who they want to be. If they want to go free, they can go free. If they want to make a paid service, they can do that. That gives airlines a lot of flexibility and optionality.” 

The regional jets for this contract are currently equipped with Gogo’s legacy air-to-ground (ATG) solution, which will no longer be supported by early 2026. The Gogo phase-out has opened up a market for regional airline IFC deals — Intelsat won similar deals for Alaska Airlines and Air Canada, and Hughes Networks Systems recently won for Delta

Intelsat CCO Michael DeMarco addressed the win on Nov. 30 during Intelsat’s investor day, saying Intelsat has done work in the last year and a half to improve the performance on its network, and its roadmap for IFC includes its upcoming software-defined satellites. 

“The overlay of LEO is resonating with airlines. The multi-orbit capability is definitely a differentiator,” DeMarco said. “But the work we’ve done to spell out the roadmap from a satellite standpoint, a terminal standpoint, a line-fit interoperability standpoint — it’s been a reinvention of this company and it’s starting to pay off.”