Thales says passengers want a ‘fully-connected experience’

Thales' Glenn Latta
Thales’ Glenn Latta.

Thales InFlyt Experience CEO Glenn Latta says it will be focusing on how it can integrate the entire passenger experience when it exhibits at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) at Hamburg in two weeks.

“We’ll be showing how that experience can be modified in real time and tailored to an airline’s brand” said Latta.

“We’ll also show how we can monitor the aircraft from our network operating centre and provide real-time reporting of what is actually happening on the aircraft and how well everything is working.”

Latta said that it is important to be able to augment any passenger connectivity with either stored or live content, either to a seat-back screen or a personal electronic device (PED).

“But that experience needs to continue to evolve,” said Latta. “It can’t be just a snapshot, but must change over time.”

Thales says its value-added services platform is both flexible and one the airlines can modify the “look and and feel of” in real time, even on the aircraft.

Thales inflight connectivity

“We are seeing a change. In the beginning the initial wave of market share was for a revenue-based business model. Passengers are now more demanding and want a fully-connected inflight connectivity experience.

“What we are seeing now is that airlines want to better manage their relationship with the passenger. There is less business risk and airlines want to invest in that experience and make it an integral part of their brand,” Latta said.

Honeywell's JetWave MCS-8200 fuselage-mounted antenna for Inmarsat GX
Honeywell’s JetWave MCS-8200 fuselage-mounted antenna for Inmarsat GX

Latta added that the company is working on Inmarsat GX inflight connectivity contracts on the Airbus A350 for both Singapore and Qatar.

He told “Get Connected” that it expects the first deliveries of Qatar’s line-fit GX-equipped A350s later this year.

“We are the only GX line-fit solution on A350 platform,” he said. “This was a huge win for us and an exceptional opportunity for us to work with a top brand in the aviation space.

“If an airline picks GX on the A350, they have to pick Thales,” Latta said.

Latta said that it is still waiting for Spanish authority approval for its regional Ka trial with carrier Vueling.

Thales Ka-band connectivity

Thales has equipped two of Vueling’s Airbus A320 aircraft with its Ka-band equipment and has plans to equip more. Telefonica has been responsible for integrating the Thales’ (formerly LiveTV) onboard systems, and high-speed satellite terminals from ViaSat, with the Eutelsat AIR ACCESS mobile service.

When the trial gets going, typical speeds are likely to be around 20Mbps to each passenger, but could be even higher – even into the low to mid 30s.

“We have been waiting for some time, but once we get approval we can activate the aircraft and move forward on testing,” said Latta.

Thales was recently selected by Inmarsat to develop and manufacture a complementary ground component (CGC) terminal for its European Aviation Network (EAN) high-speed inflight connectivity solution.

Aircraft will switch automatically between satellite and terrestrial connectivity using an onboard network communicator for optimal service delivery.

Latta said: “We are developing and testing the terminal to ensure we can meet the requirements, and it is going well. I think it is a really good augmentation for the GX platform to also have an air-to-ground capability.”

Latta hinted that Thales may be making some new customer announcements at AIX, but wouldn’t give any details.

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