Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines are starting their next phase of testing to provide Inmarsat GX inflight connectivity for passengers.
The product launch in the first quarter will initially be available on 10 Airbus aircraft from the A320 family.
Three service packages will be available in future, priced at EUR 3, EUR 7 and EUR 12.
Last summer, Lufthansa received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the Airbus A320 fleet from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and successfully concluded all the necessary preparation work.
The next stage of testing on Lufthansa and Austrian routes will now start, initially involving five aircraft in each case. Passengers who fly on these aircraft will be offered free internet use during the test phase.
The airlines say an analysis of user behaviour will provide the data necessary to further enhance the service ahead of its market launch.
Harry Hohmeister, a member of the Board of Directors of Deutsche Lufthansa AG and responsible for Hub Management, said: “I am pleased that we can soon offer broadband Internet to our passengers on inner-European flights, giving them the chance to have a seamless digital experience.
“Since the launch of Lufthansa Flynet, it has been our goal to offer added value on board to our customers through innovation – and that also includes our Internet provision.”
In the first quarter of 2017, the number of Lufthansa aircraft fitted out with Internet access will rise to around 20.
One by one, the entire Lufthansa A320 fleet will be equipped until the middle of 2018. The re-fitting of all 31 aircraft at Austrian Airlines is planned to be completed before the end of April 2017.
As well as Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines, Eurowings also has plans to bring inflight connectivity on board its aircraft – the estimated launch will be by the end of the first quarter of 2017. A total of 69 Eurowings aircraft are to be fitted with the systems by the summer of 2017.
Lufthansa passengers can gain Wi-Fi access to the Internet using their own mobile devices. As well as email services, applications such as video streaming will also be possible.
The market launch of the new service is scheduled to take place sometime during the first quarter of the year.
Customers will then be able to choose between three different service packages – FlyNet Message for EUR 3, FlyNet Surf for EUR 7 and FlyNet Stream for EUR 12 per flight.
FlyNet Message only allows the use of messaging services such as email, WhatsApp or iMessage, while FlyNet Surf also enables passengers to surf the Internet. With the FlyNet Stream service package, streaming is also possible. The packages can be paid for by credit card or via payment services such as Paypal.
The Internet service will use Ka-band broadband satellite technology via the Inmarsat Global Xpress (GX) network. Inmarsat partner Deutsche Telekom will be the Internet Service Provider for Lufthansa passengers.
Lufthansa Technik is responsible for the fitting of all the systems and components, as well as dealing with the required aviation regulations and other statutory authorisations.
The airline is fitting out the entire Airbus A320 family of the Lufthansa Group Airlines with the latest Ka-band satellite technology.
By spring, almost 100 aircraft are scheduled to have been equipped. The aircraft will be fitted with the required antennas and routers on a series of 10 production lines, working simultaneously, at the Lufthansa Technik sites.
This will generally involve just four days downtime per aircraft.
Since the end of 2010, Lufthansa has again been offering broadband Internet access on its intercontinental flights. Since June 2015, FlyNet has been available on all current 107 Lufthansa long-haul aircraft, With the addition of the Boeing 777 to the fleet, the group’s subsidiary Swiss also started offering Internet on its long-haul flights.
Its introduction for the short haul and mid-range fleets is currently under consideration.