KLM is moving forward with plans to equip its single-aisle aircraft with in-flight WiFi service. The company will install Viasat‘s Ka-band satellite connectivity solution on the “majority of its European fleet.”
While not disclosing the specific fleet breakdown, Viasat confirms that the deal covers both Boeing and Embraer aircraft, leaving a potential target of roughly 100 planes to equip. There is also the future E2 fleet to consider; the carrier holds a firm order for 21 of the type and 14 options.
Not all of the planes will carry the system, however. And the overall number assumes the entire fleet returns to service. That could shift as the carrier responds to uncertain future demand.
Installation timing is also unclear owing to the pandemic. The companies do expect to have the first aircraft active in calendar year 2021.
The carrier previously split its long-haul connectivity portfolio, with the 787s carrying the Panasonic Avionics eXConnect gear while the 777s and the Airbus A330 fleet flies with Gogo‘s 2Ku product on board. Adding a third type raises some potential complications around the passenger experience via the portal portal experience. Fortunately KLM already has a common portal front-end for its passengers.
Part of a broader IFC recovery
New CEO Rick Baldridge (he replaced Mark Dankberg in that role as of Monday) also notes that the overall IFC business continues to improve, albeit slowly. Usage is still below half of what it was a year ago and more than 300 aircraft with the Viasat hardware on board remain grounded around the world. But the company is seeing improvement on both those fronts.
Baldridge also notes that the bulk of the Viasat installation backlog remains intact and on newer build frames. With older, less efficient planes retiring he expects that Viasat’s share of the overall market will improve.
The company also sees significant continued activity in the RFP side of the aero segment and expects to continue the success it had winning the KLM contract to other deals in the near future.
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