Vueling becomes first low-cost carrier to connect to EAN

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Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling has become the third airline to get connected to Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network. The hybrid ground and satellite-based system promises broadband-like connectivity in the air, and stable, comprehensive inflight WiFi good enough for streaming and gaming.

Vueling has become the latest airline to offer inflight WiFi via the EAN. Photo: Vueling

From Monday, October 28th the EAN is accessible on five initial Vueling aircraft, with the rollout continuing at a pace. Inmarsat’s press release states that the system should be available fleet wide by early in the new year.

Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation commented in the press release,

“Vueling is one of the reference airlines in Europe and we’re delighted that its passengers now have access to our best-in-class inflight connectivity, unmatched by any other solution. We are particularly excited that EAN is now available in the low-cost carrier market for the first time as this represents a wider move towards inflight connectivity amongst innovators in that market.

“The fact that EAN is being offered by three of the continent’s most prominent airlines has strengthened our leadership in the European airline connectivity market. Combining the expertise of Europe’s most innovative companies, we are confident that EAN’s small, lightweight and low maintenance equipment provides a strong business case for other European carriers too.”

Installation for Vueling

The soft launch of the EAN on Vueling aircraft makes them the third airline to offer inflight connectivity through Inmarsat and Deutsche Telecom’s system. The rollout is expected to continue progressively, taking in some 110 A320 family aircraft.

Passengers will need to purchase a package from Vueling in order to use the inflight WiFi. The packages are described by the airline as ‘Fly and Chat’ for messaging, ‘Fly and Surf’ for browsing and ‘Fly and More’ for streaming content.

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Vueling EAN Soft Launch IMAGE
The EAN’s discreet antenna on Vueling’s aircraft. Photo: Inmarsat

Calum Laming, Chief Customer Officer of Vueling, said,

“Our studies have shown that inflight Wi-Fi connection is an important factor that is valued by customers. Vueling is a leading airline in innovation and now, the connectivity needs of our customers will also be covered during flights using the European Aviation Network, thus enriching their experience on board.”

As pointed out by PaxEx.Aero, this is not Vueling’s first flirtation with connectivity. Back in 2014, the carrier was partway through a deal with Telefonica and LiveTV to equip its fleet with Ka-band WiFi facilities. However, despite a small number of aircraft being installed, the project stalled and was subsequently abandoned.

An IAG rollout

Back in 2016, IAG was announced as the launch customer of the EAN. The first airline to use the service was British Airways, which soft-launched the product on several short-haul aircraft. By this summer, the EAN had reached a total of 30,000 passengers a day on over 100 routes across Europe.

At that point, Iberia was just testing the water. Now that their rollout is just about complete, it’s the turn of IAG’s low-cost carrier Vueling. To date, the EAN is estimated to have been used by approximately five million passengers on some 35,000 flights. It is reported to be in use on more than 250 routes across key destinations.

Connected in flight
Short haul European fliers can look forward to staying connected. Photo: Inmarsat

Previously, Inmarsat told Get Connected how relevant the EAN would be for low-cost airlines, particularly in view of its ability to be a source of ancillary revenue. For Vueling, selling inflight WiFi packages will be a welcome additional source of income to complement its low priced tickets.

That only leaves Aer Lingus to join the rest of the IAG airlines. There’s no news as yet regarding when this will take place, but given the speed of the rollout to date, we could be seeing connected Irish short-haul aircraft before the end of the first quarter next year.

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