The newest inflight entertainment platform from Panasonic Avionics scored two key wins at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2023 as long-time customers United Airlines and Saudia both selected the system for upcoming installations.
For United the deal covers aircraft deliveries beginning in 2025, with the 787 and A321XLR types indicated for the Astrova kit. United previously committed to installation of in-seat entertainment across its fleet as part of the United NEXT program.
Our customers tell us that they want to be engaged, entertained and productive in the air. Our new partnership with Panasonic Avionics will make that possible and enable us to set a new standard of in-flight excellence as a key part of United Next. Together United and Panasonic will drive new standards of engagement when customers come onboard a United aircraft. – Mark Muren, Managing Director – Identity, Product, and Loyalty at United Airlines
For Saudia, the deal covers retrofit of 30 aircraft, 12 Airbus A330s and 18 Boeing 777s. It also includes plans for PAC to boost investment in the region. Panasonic Avionics will work with Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries (SAEI) to boost repair capabilities in country, training its technicians and introducing state-of-the art technology.
Modular and Flexible
Both United and Saudia will be able to take advantage of up to 100 Watt USB-C power ports at each seat (200W per trio, with intelligent distribution), bright screens powered by OLED technology, and other benefits of the Astrova platform. Perhaps more notable, however, is that the commitment to Astrova opens opportunities for the airlines to take advantage of future innovations without a wholesale systems replacement.
The peripheral bar below the screen provides flexibility for different USB ports, Bluetooth radios, and headphone jacks. Panasonic, like several other vendors, now offers that in a modular style where upgrades or replacement of damaged components can be managed without replacing the entire screen.
But PAC also removed nearly all of the compute and processing features from the screen. The memory and CPU for the IFE at each seat now sits in the control box beneath the seat. That box is smaller than ever – now able to fly without impeding legroom – and more flexible. Upgrading memory or processor means swapping out the control box rather than each screen. The system takes advantage of processors designed for mobile computing, similar to modern phones, and can now maintain the upgrade cycle of that hardware much more easily.
Whether airlines are willing to make that investment regularly is less clear, but having the option means at least there’s a chance.
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