There was little doubt of the news, but also no formal acknowledgement until now. American Airlines finally confirmed that its newest 787-8 aircraft will fly with the Viasat inflight connectivity solution.
This selection has been rumored for a year and builds on the strong relationship American and Viasat developed through the deployment of Ka-band wifi on the bulk of American’s narrow-body fleet. Getting that on to the twin-aisle aircraft presented additional challenges, however, as AA’s 787s tend to fly outside the coverage area of Viasat’s Ka-band satellites. Thanks to an updated version of a hybrid Ku/Ka-band offering, however, American’s 787s will have coverage wherever they fly.
When the selection was made the American 787-8 fleet operated mostly within the Americas or across the North Atlantic. Those routes are perfect for the Ka-band solution, with coverage available from the northern edge of South America across the continental US and over the Atlantic to Europe. Deeper into South America or across the Pacific the system will switch to Ku-band coverage, where Viasat contracts with other satellite providers for capacity. Obviously the future route plans are likely to shift from a year ago, but the coverage and capacity options remain the same.
Viasat’ President and COO Rick Baldridge informed PaxEx.Aero earlier this year that the company was “actually installing” the Ku/Ka product. He declined to name the airline but did note it is “mainly a stop gap” until ViaSat-3 delivers global coverage.
[P]eople are really starting to make some bets in that area as they choose Ku/Ka for long haul, which allows for them to be on the ViaSat-3 network when it comes online.-Viasat President and COO Rick Baldridge
But even without that online the American 787-8 fleet will have the global coverage it needs and the higher capacity it wants when under the Ka-band satellites.
Both the entertainment and connectivity platforms switching away from Panasonic Avionics is a significant move for the airline and not great news for PAC as a supplier.