Virgin’s first A350 takes off with Inmarsat GX Aviation

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Virgin Atlantic’s first A350-1000 joined the fleet around a month ago, but only took its first revenue flight yesterday. Operating from London Heathrow to New York JFK, passengers on board not only got to enjoy that new plane smell, but also had the chance to experience gate to gate WiFi provided by Inmarsat.

Virgin Atlantic A350 Inmarsat
Virgin’s A350 has undertaken its first revenue flights with Inmarsat GX connectivity on board. Photo: Virgin

According to a press release from Inmarsat, a current promotion to celebrate the launch of Virgin’s A350 will see passenger able to use GX Aviation for free. Running for the next month, the free WiFI will allow browsing, messaging and more.

Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said,

“As one of the aviation industry’s greatest innovators, Virgin Atlantic is focused on providing a world-class experience onboard its aircraft. And that’s exactly what passengers can expect when flying on the airline’s brand new Airbus A350s from today. In addition to exciting new suites and social spaces, they will have access to a broadband service with fast, reliable and consistent coverage powered by GX Aviation.”

The fully connected A350

Virgin’s first A350, registered G-VLUX and carrying the name Red Velvet, is the first of 12 destined for the UK carrier’s fleet. Another three are due to arrive by the end of this year, with the remaining eight coming in 2020 and 2021.

For the first four aircraft, the service routes will all be the same – LHR to JFK. As a key business route for Virgin, and one of the most profitable routes in the world. It is essential the carrier is able to provide full connectivity from gate to gate.

Virgin Atlantic A350 Inmarsat
The A350 offers gate to gate connectivity. Photo: Virgin

Selecting Inmarsat has given Virgin’s A350s access to the world’s first and only global high speed network, promising a fast, reliable connection right across the Atlantic. The service will be delivered by Inmarsat partner Deutcsche Telekom, who already provide internet services to Virgin’s fleet of Airbus A330s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

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Gail Yates, Head of Inflight Services at Virgin Atlantic, said,

“We are always looking to raise the bar and provide our passengers with a world-class experience. An industry-leading inflight connectivity solution is a fundamental part of this offering and we are delighted to have Inmarsat’s GX Aviation onboard to offer high-speed inflight broadband to our customers.”

With the stunning new Upper Class premium cabin on board the A350 and this solid choice of ISP and network provider, Virgin Atlantic is clearly making a strong play for their share of the lucrative London to New York market.

Virgin Atlantic A350 Inmarsat
The new Upper Class suite on board the A350. Photo: Virgin

The rise of GX

According to Inmarsat, approximately 1,700 aircraft are under signed contracts for its next-generation solution for inflight broadband. Further, they say that the pipeline of expected business is approximately 3,000 aircraft worldwide.

To meet the growth in demand for its services, Inmarsat has a complete roadmap of expansion. More importantly, all steps in this roadmap have already secured funding, including eight network satellites.

The fifth satellite in the GX constellation will be launched later this year, and numbers six and seven are planned for launch in 2020 and 2021. Looking further ahead, Inmarsat plans to launch a further five GX payloads to make the GX network the most agile constellation yet, include two HEO satellites for Arctic GX coverage.

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