The official unveiling is set for Monday in Nadi but Fiji Airways cannot wait to tease some details around its new 737 MAX aircraft. Among them, confirmation that the inflight entertainment and connectivity will be provided by Panasonic Avionics. The partnership was reported to PaxEx Premium subscribers last month.
Panasonic Avionics Corporation
It was supposed to be a massive shift of market share in the inflight connectivity world. Former Panasonic Avionics executive David Bruner claimed significant numbers of Southwest Airlines aircraft would see the Global Eagle kit uninstalled, replaced with PAC's solution, along with the ongoing line-fit deliveries. Instead Global Eagle is replacing PAC on the small number of 737s that were installed. And that might not even be the largest challenge Panasonic faces today.
In the couple months since PAC's partnership announcement with Inmarsat the company has pushed a two pronged approach to its future business. One one side sits the core competencies of its inflight entertainment business. On the other, driven by many of the new faces in the company's leadership, comes a shift towards a services operation. Both sides face challenges.
The add-on order for ten more Delta A330-900neo aircraft is not nearly as significant as a couple of the cabin amenity changes it includes.
Maybe it has never truly been cheap for passengers, but airlines historically took advantage of great deals from suppliers to secure inflight wifi connectivity solutions relatively inexpensively. As those vendors now seek financial stability more than market share a shift is underway. Is the era of cheap wifi over? (And did it ever really exist?!?)
Global Eagle posted strong revenue numbers in Q3, with its content and aviation connectivity segments showing particular strength. The company also announced a couple "take away" deals that see it grabbing business from competitors. Those moves come at a cost, however, especially on the connectivity side. The increased revenue from these deals over the long term is welcome but a short term cash crunch could be bad for business.
Inmarsat reported a jump in inflight connectivity revenue in Q3, continuing the activation and growth of its GX Aviation solution on aircraft around the world. The numbers suggest additional frames are finally generating revenue, a welcome advance for the company after the first such income was generated just last quarter. Inmarsat also disclosed that at least two recently announced customer wins remain as unsigned, lending credibility to claims that the deals are not yet final. The company also outlined additional details on how it expects the Panasonic partnership to grow.
Two stories should deliver a net boost for Global Eagle headed into Thursday's earnings release. They are not both good news (and one remains unconfirmed), but the positive outweighs the negative significantly.
Fiji Airways is just weeks away from delivery of the carrier's first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. With that delivery the airline joins the ranks of carriers delivering wifi connectivity in the sky. The aircraft carries the necessary hardware for inflight connectivity on board. Official details on the vendor remain unclear but we have a pretty good idea what's under the hump.
How does an airline go about comparing the inflight wifi connectivity options available on the 787 Dreamliner? Lots of contract details about pricing and delivery timeframes are certainly critical, but occasionally the data is summed up into two slides in a briefing deck. For Italian charter operator NEOS the contest settled between Viasat and Panasonic Avionics back in 2017. It appears the carrier chose neither vendor, but the summary of the positioning from the two finalists is intriguing.
Competition is generally good news for customers and bad news for the company that dominates a market. The recent strategic partnership announcement by Inmarsat and Panasonic Avionics will bring competition to the on-board terminal hardware for the Global Xpress (GX) inflight connectivity solution. Today's exclusive provider Honeywell appears unfazed – and even optimistic – at the developments.