Passengers on Saudia’s A321neo and A321XLR fleet will find 4K screens and Bluetooth headphones integration at every seat on board. These features will be enabled by the Panasonic Avionics NEXT in-flight entertainment system.
Implementing the Panasonic Avionics 4K and Bluetooth technology onboard our new fleets will ensure we deliver the best passenger experience in the skies. – Captain Ibrahim Koshy, Chief Executive Officer at Saudi Arabian Airlines
The carrier announced it will offer the full complement of in-seat entertainment on its upcoming A321neo and A321XLR deliveries during this week’s Dubai Air Show.
Business Class passengers will experience the full 4K experience on 16-inch screens. Seats will also offer wireless charging. In Economy Class, Saudia selected 12-inch, 4K screens. High power USB charging will be offered at every seat.
Saudia’s NEXT implementation will also support Panasonic Avionics’ Companion App, allowing passengers to interact with and fully control the in-seat IFE system from their personal device rather than via the touch screen or handset. The Saudia plan is similar to that of Cathay Pacific, which also launched the NEXT screens on its A321neo deliveries beginning earlier this year.
Essam Akhonbay, Saudia’s VP Marketing and Project Management oversees the IFE product implementation. He is focused on not installing the new hardware just for the sake of it being new, but on delivering an upgraded overall experience for passengers. “Beyond the hardware itself, what we’re looking for is a more targeted, personalized customer experience,” Akhonbay explained. “This is the kind of collaboration that we’re developing with the Panasonic NEXT system, to deliver that personalized experience for our loyal members.”
The in-flight entertainment offerings will integrate with the on-board connectivity delivered from Inmarsat. That deal was announced just an hour earlier at the show.
As with many airlines operating a divers fleet, Saudi Arabian Airlines presents an inconsistent passenger experience in terms of the in-flight entertainment available on board.
The company’s A320neo fleet previously committed to Panasonic Avionics’ eXO overhead screen offering, as did some of the A321neo. Shifting to the in-seat screens on the A321neo represents a solid upgrade for passengers on those planes. Other A320ceos fly with the eX1 in-seat screen offering.
Acknowledging the diversity of IFE systems on board and the potential passenger frustrations as a result, Saudia CEO Captain Ibrahim Koshy noted that a fleet simplification program is underway. This news comes despite the airline’s overall fleet being relatively young, though enough are near the 10-year mark that they could be ready for an on-board refresh.
While it will not deliver immediate results, the next few years should see the carrier harmonize some of the offerings. Given this news regarding the on-board product, assume that Panasonic Avionics sits in the lead for any upgrades that might be on the way.
IFE & onboard product cabin interior manager Ayman Abuljadayl notes that the efforts to unify the experience already started. And also emphasizes that the company will be using this as an opportunity to upgrade, not shift to the lowest common denominator. “We believe in narrow-body aircraft we have to maintain the in-flight experience, giving our passengers a better experience and an edge when flying with us.”
Aircraft deliveries are expected beginning in late 2022; the XLR deliveries will follow in 2024.
More news from the 2021 Dubai Air Show
- Iraqi Airways chooses Panasonic Avionics for IFE/C future
- Saudia selects Inmarsat GX for A321neo connectivity
- Airbus snags another massive A321neo/A321XLR deal from Indigo Partners
- Panasonic Avionics picked for Saudia IFE play
- Airbus scores a LiFi win for a trio of corporate jets
- Scratch another IFC player from the commercial market
- Emirates (re)commits big to Premium Economy
- Vaayu secures A320 P2F deal, expects early 2022 EIS
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