This story is produced in partnership with PaxEx.Areo - The Business of Passenger Experience
Free wifi will soon join low fares on Norwegian’s transatlantic flights. The carrier’s installation of inflight connectivity on its 787 Dreamliner and 737 MAX fleet is underway. And, similar to its offering in Europe, basic connectivity will be free for all passengers on board. For passengers wanting to stream music and movies the new system will also offer a paid premium connectivity option, “Fast enough to stream music, movies and television shows on Netflix, YouTube and Hulu among others.”
Norwegian is the only airline offering free web browsing in flight to all passengers across the Atlantic. Delta Air Lines offers a more limited free “messaging” option on its flights. Initial pricing for the premium option is $14.95 for three hours online. The company expects to adjust the price and duration of the packages based on route and seasonality moving forward.
Norwegian’s transatlantic connectivity will operate on the Inmarsat GX Aviation satellite network. Integration services are being provided by Collins Aerospace (Rockwell Collins at the time the deal was signed, in October 2016). Collins’s CabinConnect™ platform will deliver the on-aircraft services, including the portal interface and a moving map.
We’re continuously improving the inflight customer experience and we’re delighted to be the first airline offering free WiFi for the full duration of long-haul flights. Millions of Norwegian customers have already enjoyed free WiFi over the skies of Europe and now long-haul passengers can continue to rely on free and high-speed internet connectivity that will enhance and personalize their journeys. From being the first European airline to launch free WiFi on all short-haul flights followed by free live television, Norwegian’s rollout of high-quality inflight broadband services will offer business and leisure travelers even greater value at affordable fares. – Norwegian’s VP Business Development Boris Bubresko
The first aircraft to receive the system is the 787-9 registered as G-CKWP and flying with Mark Twain on the tailfin. The GX solution for that aircraft was installed at the Boeing plant in Everett. Norwegian expects to take delivery of five additional 787s from the factory this year, all equipped with the connectivity platform.
Services on board
While the onboard system has some similarities to the 737NG platform it also has some differences. The 737 MAX version will lack an on-board streaming media server. The 737NG carries a limited amount of content but the MAX will not have any. Passengers looking for audio or video entertainment will need to buy the premium connectivity package to stream that content.
The company is also breaking from market trends in one potentially divisive area. The company expects that the service will be fast enough for “passengers to stream video and music content, browse the web, access social media, voice and messaging services.” Keeping voice services available in-flight is a rare choice and often one that elicits a strong, negative reaction from travelers. The company confirmed that it will implement “no restriction on voice” in the system.
Retrofit installations are also underway on the 787 planes already delivered. Norwegian expects more than half of its 787-9s to be fitted by the end of 2019, meaning a minimum of nine retrofits completed this year. The 787-8 subfleet will not have the connectivity system installed.
The 737 MAX installs will begin in mid-January with new deliveries; 19 737 MAX are due in 2019. Retrofits for the 737 MAX will begin at a later point in time. The company did not give a timeline for expectation of the installs finishing.
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