Continental Airlines’ recent announcement that it intends to offer live television to every passenger on much of its domestic fleet may have given some airline and IFE industry veterans a serious case of déjà vu. That’s because the carrier’s plan was revealed well over 12 years ago!
It was 18 September 1996 when USA Today’s Money section reported that Continental would offer up to 24 channels of live television on many flights. The service was to be provided by In-Flight Phone – a firm headed by former Continental president Phil Bakes – and Harris Corp.
Check out the newspaper clipping from USA Today. And then read on.
A bit of convoluted merger history ensued after that announcement. Ultimately, however, a then-struggling joint venture between Thales Avionics In-Flight Systems and Harris called LiveTV was acquired in 2002 by JetBlue Airways. At that time, JetBlue executives championed the service as a key driver to the carrier’s success, but admitted that LiveTV was cash-poor.
And the Continental deal? Well, that didn’t happen….until now. The deal confirmed by Continental last week is bigger and better (as it should be, 12 years on). As reported, the carrier will offer 80 channels of live satellite television across most of its Boeing narrowbody fleet.
And yes, Continental is back on the Money (in the upper left corner). But the carrier ain’t paying for the system. No longer the struggling JV of the past, LiveTV is now a hot ticket firm - and valuable asset to JetBlue – with the capital to cover Continental’s installations under a deal that will see it keep most of the revenue generated from card-swiping passengers.
Many of the original Harris guys are still working at that JetBlue subsidiary today. You can imagine just how pleased they are right now.