Gogo, Virgin Atlantic partner for connectivity upgrade

Get ready for faster in-flight internet service on Virgin Atlantic flights. The carrier has agreed to terms with Gogo to install the latter’s 2Ku system on its existing fleet of Airbus and Boeing wide-body aircraft. Virgin Atlantic is the first European carrier to choose the 2Ku solution. Timing on the installs is not clear however a Gogo representative suggested this week at the APEX Expo conference that they expect the solution to be in service starting in the second half of 2015. No word on whether Virgin Atlantic or another customer will be the first to receive the kit.

For Virgin Atlantic and Gogo the news does leave one small bit unanswered: What about the 787-9s? Those aircraft will be delivered starting later this year; the first is undergoing pre-flight prep on the flight line in Everett right now. Photos of that aircraft show a radome hump suggesting that it will have connectivity available at delivery but the Gogo 2Ku solution is not yet available (and the radome profile is different from the typical Ku-band solution). Executives from all the associated companies have remained coy with respect to which connectivity solution will be on the 787s. Moreover, the press release clearly states only “existing aircraft” will be converted to the 2Ku solution. This all suggests that the new 787s for Virgin Atlantic will have connectivity but NOT the Gogo-provided solution.

Of course, with Virgin Atlantic acting more than ever as a Delta transatlantic feeder, this move raises some interesting questions about how the Gogo 2Ku solution might expand into the much larger Delta fleet. Gogo is already the connectivity and content provider for Delta’s fleet but as of yet there have been no commitments to switch from a traditional Ku solution to the 2Ku platform. Is it possible that Delta is using Virgin Atlantic as a test platform for the new service? With some fleet overlap and mostly similar route profiles it is not out of the realm of possibility.

Alas, like nearly everything in the in-flight connectivity world, the announcement mostly just means another year of waiting until we actually get to see the solution in action and use the service. Still, even with the waiting we do know where we can expect to find the improved connectivity in the not too distant future. And that’s most definitely a good thing.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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