BA rocks it with Thales pick…plus the TopSeries widebody list

British Airways (BA) yesterday revealed a mammoth deal with Thales to outfit its Airbus A380s, Boeing 787s and new Boeing 777-300ERs with the firm’s TopSeries in-flight entertainment (FE) system.

BA has traditionally flown Rockwell Collins IFE on its long-haul fleet, even upgrading from Rockwell’s TES to digital dTES on its Boeing 747s, 767s and 777s. But Rockwell’s decision not to develop IFE systems for the A380 and later the 787 took the manufacturer out of the twin-aisle market, and effectively reduced competition for new aircraft models to a Panasonic Avionics and Thales duopoly.

Thales IFE.JPG

In this rather important contest, Thales is the winner.

No doubt BA is counting on the company to stay firmly planted in the widebody IFE space. At this juncture, it appears that shouldn’t be a worry. I asked Thales to forward me a list of its widebody customers for the TopSeries platform. Below are Thales IFE airline customers “that are flying or have committed to fly with the Thales TopSeries system”, says Thales.

The full list should be available by week’s end.

  • Air AsiaX
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • Air India
  • Arik Air
  • Etihad Airways
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Kingfisher
  • Korean Airlines
  • LAN
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Oman Air
  • Phillippine Airlines
  • Royal Brunei

Separately, Thales today announced that it now offers an all digital TopSeries system that can be configured by class of service as an interactive audio only system, interactive overhead video system or full functioning in-seat AVOD system. It is being targeted at operators of single-aisle aircraft and regional jets.

Earlier this year India’s Star Aviation – which is being established by Dubai-based ETA Star Group – said it would equip its Embraer 170s with a TopSeries system that dispenses with the seat box.

However, Thales in a statement says the all digital system announced today will be formally rolled out on “a leading Middle East carrier”. The first installation is scheduled for 2009 on an Airbus A320 aircraft. Hmmmm. Let the speculation begin.

Details from the press release:

As an interactive audio only system passengers can select up to 280 channels of high fidelity audio programming using a newly designed Ethernet Passenger Control Unit (ePCU). What is unique about the ePCU is its direct connection to the system network, which eliminates the seat electronics box providing more leg-room, lower system weight, and reduced power consumption.

By adding digital overhead video capability, passengers will enjoy watching entertainment programs through high-resolution widescreen smart displays. In combination with the interactive audio system, the overhead video system supports new onboard capabilities such as interactive electronic surveys, multi-player games and route-specific programming.

At the high-end of the system’s capability is AVOD functionality with a wide range of content choices, high-speed broadband network and personal widescreen displays.

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