Air France gets third WiFi provider with Inmarsat’s GX for A350s

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All of the Air France A350 fleet will be powered for inflight WiFI by Inmarsat. The fleet, which will eventually number 28 aircraft, will arrive with GX Aviation installed, a top solution for the long haul routes that Air France will operate these new aircraft on. This will make Inmarsat the third provide for IFEC on Air France aircraft, along with Gogo and Global Eagle.

Air France A350
The Air France A350s will feature GX Aviation WiFi. Photo: Airbus

Air France A350s will arrive with GX on board

The shiny new A350s which began arriving at Air France in September are arriving complete with an additional benefit for travelers. As announced by Inmarsat in a press release last week, each A350 will be delivered with Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) Aviation WiFi connectivity already installed.

Air France took delivery of its first A350 in September, and has received one more since then. It has a total of 26 more on order, all of the smaller -900 variety. These will be used to phase out the inefficient behemoth that is the A380, and to take care of all Air France’s flagship long haul routes.

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

“Air France is one of the world’s most established and respected airlines and we are delighted to be playing a key role in enhancing their passenger experience with high-speed inflight broadband. This contract is testament to how well the ongoing successful development of GX has been received and strengthens our leading role in the European airline connectivity market.”

Air France will offer a free messaging pass on all A350 flights through Air France CONNECT. For better connectivity, passengers can upgrade to a ‘surf’ pass, starting at €3 up to €8, depending on the length of the flight. A full streaming service is available on all long haul flights for €30 for the duration.

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Taking supplier diversification to the max

What we’re seeing here is yet another example of supplier diversification. More and more, airlines are picking the solution that’s right for particular routes, rather than going with the one they already use on other aircraft. For Air France, 124 of their aircraft are running Gogo 2Ku technology, including the Boeing 777 and Airbus A330.

To further complicate the melting pot, Air France’s medium-haul fleet, including the Airbus A320 family of planes, are equipped with Global Eagle technology. And then there’s that LiFi technology that’s being tested on an A321 right now…


Air france WiFi
A good deal of the AF fleet is getting WiFi equipped, but by many different suppliers. Photo: Air France

Diversification of suppliers is, generally, a fairly good move by airlines. It will put them in a strong position to negotiate a better deal, and allow them to pick the most cost effective and high performance system for the routes those aircraft operate. The selection of GX Aviation for the A350 is telling; a flagship product for the airline’s flagship new aircraft.

Air France Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, Catherina Villar, commented on the decision to go with Inmarsat for the A350, saying,

“Wi-Fi is a service that is in high demand by our customers to stay in touch with their loved ones or work during their flight. Our Air France Connect pass offer, which includes a free messaging service, will be available throughout our fleet by 2020, perfectly meets their expectations by delivering much-anticipated seamless, reliable and high-speed broadband in the sky.”

Air France joins a slew of new A350 operators who have picked the Inmarsat offering for their long haul WiFi solutions, including Virgin Atlantic and SAS, as well as startup Starlux. With the much anticipated GX5 satellite heading to its geostationary position as we speak, passengers on board the Air France A350 are likely to enjoy some pretty awesome connectivity.

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