APEX: Viasat and SAS partner up for new Airbus arrivals

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Scandinavian Airlines Systems (SAS) has deepened its relationship with Viasat, signing up for inflight connectivity to be provided to its forthcoming new Airbus aircraft. Announced at APEX EXPO this week, the deal will see the airline’s transatlantic fleet kitted out with the Viasat solution.

SAS A321
The forthcoming A321s will be equipped by Viasat. Photo: SAS

The aircraft in question are SAS’s forthcoming A321LR and its existing A330-330s. All the aircraft will be fitted with Viasat’s Ka-band IFC solution, allowing gate to gate connectivity to long haul passengers. Viasat has been rolled out on the SAS short haul fleet since 2018.

Don Buchman, vice president and general manager, Commercial Aviation at Viasat, commented in a press release,

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the level of service we bring to each airline engagement. Extending the use of our in-flight Wi-Fi service beyond SAS short-haul flights—to now include long-haul and transatlantic routes—will help SAS meet the growing broadband demands of their passengers.”

A split fleet decision

SAS is expecting delivery of three A321LRs in the first half of 2020, all coming from Air Lease Corporation (ALC). At the time of the order for the three A321s, Rickard Gustafson, President and CEO of SAS commented that,

“This is an entirely new aircraft type for SAS that is incredibly well suited to the Scandinavian market and our travel patterns. We are looking forward to launching new routes and to evaluate the A321LR in production.”

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The A321LR has the capability to reach Canada and the northeast US, with much speculation that SAS will use this aircraft transatlantic.

SAS A330
Only one A330 will be equipped. Photo: SAS

However, the airline already has its A330-300s in operation, with nine in the fleet used on various mid- to long-range missions. Only the newest A330, delivered in July under registration SE-REH, will be fitted with the Viasat solution, splitting the fleet capabilities.

This will create some mixed customer expectations on board, as eight out of nine A330s will not be connected. Presumably, this one A330 is destined for transatlantic ops, which was what influenced the decision. However, SAS is going to have to work hard to manage customer expectations in case of last minute equipment swaps.

Inmarsat for the Asian routes

The decision by SAS comes just weeks after it decided to go with Inmarsat for its forthcoming A350 widebodies. The A350-900, expected for delivery before the end of the year and scheduled to operate from January 2020, will use Inmarsat GX Aviation inflight WiFi.

SAS new business cabin
Inflight connectivity will be welcomed in the new SAS business class cabin. Photo: SAS

Although the first routes will be between Copenhagen and Chicago, many of the aircraft due for delivery will head over to key Asian markets. SAS previously said that its eight A350s will mainly be used on routes to Chicago, Beijing, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and San Francisco.

As such, Inmarsat’s global footprint was clearly a winner for the airline, whereas Viasat’s comprehensive service in the Americas pulled through for the smaller sub fleet.

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