APEX: Spirit Airlines progressing work on Thales FlytLIVE

A Spirit Airlines Airbus A319. Image: Spirit Airlines.
A Spirit Airlines Airbus A319. Image: Spirit Airlines.

Spirit Airlines says it is gearing up for the certification and testing phase of its new wireless inflight connectivity being provided by Thales FlytLIVE.

Spirit was the first U.S. based airline to select Thales’ next-generation Ka-band connectivity solution.

Speaking at the conference on the eve of the APEX EXPO, Robert Fornaro, CEO Spirit Airlines, said with FlytLIVE Spirit’s guests will enjoy full internet services including video streaming, games and social media.

He said Spirit and Thales are partnering every step of the way to bring the most advanced Ka-band high-throughput connectivity solution, “providing unmatched performance and ultra-high speeds to their aircraft”.

Fornaro added that upon entry to service 97% of Spirit’s flight routes will be covered. Additional coverage will be added as new satellites come along.

“The price will be $6 for browsing and $10 for high-speed streaming, said Fornaro.

Robert Fornaro, CEO Spirit Airlines
Robert Fornaro, CEO Spirit Airlines

“Our average flight length is 1,000 miles, say two and half hours, so the demand for wireless inflight connectivity is right there.

“The prices may change and we may looking at dynamic pricing, but above all we want people to use it. Volume creates opportunity and we want it to be affordable and the quality will be there,” he said.

Apex’s Joe Leader joked that Spirit’s inflight entertainment used to consist of a maze or crossword printed on your boarding pass!

Fornaro said that it had been looking at wireless IFE for some time. “We wanted the flexibility to optimise what we were offering and wanted to partner with a market leader,” he said.

Fred Schreiner, Thales InFlyt Experience Chief Technology Officer, said what we are providing is state of the art. From day one they will have the ability to stream. We partnered with Hughes on the modem, an incredibly fast-switching device.

“We have invested heavily in Thales FlytLIVE hardware and the antenna is state of the art too. The SES satellite assets are available from day one and a new satellite due to be launched in 2021 will give us greater capability,” said Schreiner.

Fred Schreiner, Thales InFlyt Experience Chief Technology Officer.
Fred Schreiner, Thales InFlyt Experience Chief Technology Officer.

That satellite will be SES-17, a new platform operated by SES and built by Thales Alenia Space.

Thales is currently going through the certification process for FlyLIVE in Orlando with a planned launch in late 2019.

“The equipment has been extensively tested, both on the ground and in the air. What we want to make sure is that once the installations are complete Spirit will get the service we have promised,” said Schreiner.

Spirit said that certification and installation of FlytLIVE will start later this year and continue into 2019. It says it should have a “pretty good critical mass” of aircraft equipped by the summer or fall of 2019.

The airline has another 57 aircraft coming along in four years.

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