Dubai Airshow: Qatar first Middle East airline to pick Gogo

There was plenty of action at this year’s Dubai Airshow. The biannual event is frequently a hotbed for aircraft orders, product announcements and the forging of partnerships. However, it’s also a great forum for IFEC too, and a chance for the leading inflight connectivity providers to talk one to one with airlines and other stakeholders.

Qatar 787
Qatar has selected Gogo’s 2Ku solution for its A380s and 787s. Photo: Qatar

This year’s show was not without its IFEC action, the most notable of which, at least for the connectivity geeks, was Qatar’s surprise commitment to the Gogo 2Ku inflight connectivity solution. The airline has become the first in the Middle East to select Gogo’s high-speed WiFi solution, opting to install it on 70 of the airline’s fleet.

Details of the deal

Qatar has sealed a deal to install the Gogo 2ku solution on board 70 aircraft in its fleet. Included in the upgrade will be its Dreamliners, both the 787-8 and 787-9 variants, as well as its Airbus A380s.

The aircraft in question are already connected. Right now, they fly with the SwiftBroadband service on board, meaning the 2Ku will be a significant upgrade in terms of PaxEx. The upgrade to the 2Ku service will include replacing antennas on the aircraft, adding newer, more suitable modems, upgrading WAPs and more.

Qatar a380
The A380s will be powered by Gogo also. Photo: Qatar

Chief executive Akbar Al Baker commented in a press release,

“Having access to the internet, and being connected and available is critical for passengers, and the demand for bandwidth will only increase. We are proud to be able to provide our customers with an excellent connectivity experience with Gogo 2Ku.”

Service on the Qatar Airways aircraft is expected to go live sometime next year.

Another case of IFC diversification

It’s another example of airlines opting to diversity their WiFi suppliers. We recently noted that Turkish Airlines had gone with Global Eagle for a number of its narrowbody operations, while Panasonic is the supplier of choice for the rest of its fleet. Similarly, Qatar already has a partnership with Inmarsat for its GX Aviation product, which is in place on board around 130 of its 777s and A350s.

Qatar inflight wifi
Much of Qatar’s fleet is connected with Inmarsat’s GX system. Photo: Qatar

This idea of diversifying suppliers is an intelligent business move, as it will allow Qatar to leverage its spread of investments to negotiate better deals in future. Gogo’s president and CEO, Oakleigh Thorne, commented on the deal, saying,

“We are thrilled to partner with Qatar Airways to bring their guests a new inflight connectivity experience with 2Ku. Qatar Airways continues to set the industry benchmark for customer experience, winning the prestigious Skytrax award for World’s Best Airline in 2019 for a record fifth time. With 2Ku’s superior bandwidth and coverage, Gogo is proud to offer a premium connectivity service in keeping with Qatar Airways’ exacting standards.”

Despite opting to have a mixed service provider will likely be good for Qatar in the future, it could be seen as a bit of a blow for Inmarsat. The GX5 satellite, booked in to launch later today, is specifically designed to bolster capacity in Europe and the Middle East. Now, it seems, only some of Qatar’s fleet will be opting to use it.

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