United Airlines’ 737 MAX fleet has an inflight wifi connectivity provider. Viasat secured a deal to fit more than 70 aircraft with the company’s Ka-band solution, including at least 58 of the 737 MAX aircraft. This move puts Viasat in the position of prime contractor on the delivery, displacing Thales from the partnership that is enjoyed on the 737NG fleet fitting.
“We’re pleased to expand our relationship with United, now providing direct internet and entertainment services to them and their customers,” said Don Buchman, vice president and general manager, Commercial Aviation, Viasat. “We’re focused on optimizing customer satisfaction through great connectivity and entertainment. Our goal is to ensure United’s customers are fully connected and enjoying their onboard connectivity and entertainment experiences.”
With this win Viasat continues its impressive win streak for new 737 MAX contracts. The provider previously won an order from American Airlines for that carrier’s 737 MAX, the first tranche of what would become a much larger order from AA, hundreds of which are conversions from Gogo‘s ATG4 network. Viasat is also unconfirmed but widely understood to be the provider for the new Aeromexico 737 MAX fleet, with deliveries due to begin imminently. And JetBlue recently confirmed that it would upgrade its on-board hardware to support the recently launched ViaSat-2 satellite. That upgrade will also see Viasat as prime for the A320 family on the JetBlue fleet, also displacing Thales from that role.
The long-running contention between Thales and Viasat is no secret; the split is no surprise in that context. Thales is also working to deliver a Ka-band solution directly to customers without using the Viasat satellites. Air Canada appears to be testing that system, though that also remains publicly unconfirmed by the parties involved.
The onboard system will provide high speed internet service to the United aircraft as well as United’s Private Screening entertainment option, the streaming entertainment service for passengers using their own devices. That streaming media is important as United is not expected to offer in-seat screens on these new aircraft.