Brazil is quickly becoming a hot market for inflight connectivity. LATAM is the latest to make a move, announcing today that it will fit 100 of its Brazil-based A320 aircraft with Gogo‘s 2Ku solution. Installations will begin in the first half of 2018 and complete in early 2019.
We have selected the most modern and innovative in-flight internet technology available in order to offer an unrivalled and diverse onboard experience to our passengers in Brazil. The new service will complement LATAM Entertainment, our wireless entertainment system, and will provide our passengers with the freedom to choose how they want to enjoy their journeys.” – Jerome Cadier, CEO of LATAM
LATAM’s decision to fit only the Brazilian A320 fleet right now is an interesting one in that the rest of the LATAM group has another 100+ A320-family aircraft scattered around South America. Brazil and Chile are the largest operations, of course, and within Brazil LATAM faces significant competition in the IFEC space, likely helping to drive this decision. GOL is just over halfway through fitting its single-aisle fleet with the 2Ku product while Avianca Brazil is in the process of deploying Global Eagle‘s Ku-band solution. Azul offers live television inflight across its short-haul fleet but not connectivity.
LATAM offers a streaming entertainment option on its Brazilian fleet today, a deployment that just recently completed. But, now faced with the live content competition, the company is moving forward with internet connectivity as well. This move is described as a “complement” to the existing service, raising some questions about which hardware will remain on board and if the Gogo Vision streaming platform is included under the LATAM Entertainment brand. Either way, travelers get more which is good news.
The 100 aircraft order is a nice round number, which does raise a few questions. Like why that many and why stop there? LATAM Brazil has 117 active A320-family aircraft flying, plus the long-haul fleet. Chile adds 80ish A320s and 40ish twin-aisle aircraft to the mix, plus the other, smaller national carriers. Presumably the carrier will choose to eventually fit the rest of the ~150 aircraft it owns with connectivity, though which product will be used appears undecided at this point. Leaving its options open for the rest of those planes means LATAM can see how the system performs before committing to the rest of the planes.
At the same time, an order for 100 aircraft is pretty big. It is enough aircraft for the company to get a real feel for what is involved in operating a connected fleet. It helps the carrier learn what operational benefits it can realize from its planes being “nodes on the network” rather than a disconnected device. And it should be big enough to help score decent pricing from Gogo overall.