AirAsia firms high-speed connectivity plans

AirAsia is set for a big boost in inflight connectivity. The airline group, along with ROKKI and Inmarsat will install the Global Xpress (“GX”) kit across the fleet, including A330 and A320 aircraft, with potential to grow. The companies also state that the deal covers “the scope to include any additional aircraft types due for delivery in the coming years, such as the Airbus A350.”

AirAsia guests will soon be able to enjoy one of the richest digital inflight experiences in Asia, while also enhancing our knowledge of our guests with very rich data. – Tony Fernandes, Air Asia Group CEO

Air Asia currently offers a slower SwitfBroadband L-band connectivity solution on some of its A320 fleet. The new solution massively increases bandwidth available to the planes and adds the AirAsia X twin-aisle aircraft to the plan. It also confirms the upgrade path for the existing installs.

Also, as AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes notes, the new system dramatically improves the ability for the company to learn about customers and market to them. That’s part of pretty much every ancillary product airlines roll out but when tied to the day of travel the data is often more valuable to advertisers and the company.

The release cites “all existing and future Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft operated across the AirAsia Group” to be fitted across but the total Group fleet is north of 200 planes flying. An Inmarsat spokesman says the 120+ is for new installs and the retrofits are counted separately, nearing the full fleet number. But the increase in total backlog only increases by the ~120 number, not the full 200. Still some room for those details to be ironed out. Also, while the order “framework” likely has potential to cover the significant A320neo order the AirAsia Group currently sits on those aircraft are not included in the firm part announced today.

For those thinking, “Gosh, I feel like I’ve heard about this deal before,” that’s because you have. It was originally announced in April at Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg as a MoU. Now it is a firm order. It is also a slightly delayed order. Initial plans had planes installed in the October/November timeframe. The new order pushes that to the first half of 2018. The companies indicate that “the scope of the contract between Inmarsat and AirAsia Group for GX Aviation has been expanded since the announcement of our MoU at AIX. This required additional time to finalise contracts, hence the renewed timelines. Launch of the commercial service remains within the same timeframe.”

Overall good news for passengers as the opportunity to find more aircraft fitted with high-speed connectivity increases.

Header Image: AirAsia A320 via Airbus

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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.