As we wait in breathless anticipation for the news to flow from the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg (that's Interiors without an apostrophe for the sharp-eyed editors amongst you) there is a mountain of in-flight entertainment and connectivity - and interiors - news piling up in advance of the event. And when that occurs, there is only one solution - an IFE&C and interiors news and rumour roundup.
Continental Airlines is indeed poised to launch LiveTV's newest, 80-channel offering. "I would keep your eyes to the skies for passengers loving watching Live television on a Continental aircraft very, very soon," says LiveTV.
Air Canada is reporting that it is on track to begin offering Aircell's Gogo in-flight Internet service to passengers on transborder, US-bound flights in the next three months. But, as Canada's CBC news points out, "a number of regulatory, business and practical hurdles remain before Air Canada or any other airline can offer a similar service in Canadian airspace". Boooo. Get your motor running, Canada. I know you're not the quickest country to respond to new technology, but come on!
Speaking of Aircell, the Chicago-based firm says it has now equipped 108 aircraft with Gogo. CEO Jack Blumenstein recently revealed to me that Aircell, while popping out Gogo-equipped aircraft like "popcorn", likely won't meet its previously predicted goal of equipping 2,000 aircraft by year-end. It will be more like 1,200 to 1,500, he says."That 2,000 number will probably be in the first quarter of next year instead of year-end of this year." Still a bloody good job.
And there is good news for passengers lucky enough to fly a Gogo-equipped aircraft. Aircell is introducing a new low price for mobile devices. Passengers can now connect using their handheld devices for $7.95 on any Gogo-equipped flight of any length. Lovely stuff. (See rumour section below for more on Aircell and cash)
Now how about TriaGnoSys' latest announcement? The German firm has partnered with Israel's Skuku to jointly market a system allowing passengers to use their own mobile phone SIM card to make voice calls and send text messages, using communications infrastructure already fitted in aircraft cabins.
As my colleague David Kaminski-Morrow writes: "The technology requires only a software upgrade, rather than installation of new hardware, because it operates through in-seat phones and in-flight entertainment screens. The concept is similar to one previously proposed by Irish firm Altobridge. Passengers remove the SIM card from their mobile phone and insert it into a small reader which is fitted to a USB port. The reader plugs into the in-flight entertainment equipment and enables the passenger effectively to use their own mobile phone service to make calls or send messages."
Skuku sales vice-president Colin Blou says that, from the passengers' perspective, using the service is very similar to curren tin-flight mobile phone services. "They can continue to use their mobile number and contacts list, and they are billed through their normal bills." But he says that the passenger does not need to pay high roaming charges because the calls are billed at national rates.
Tis a fine day to be covering IFE&C!
On the interiors side of things, Airbus at Hamburg will be focusing on the importance of efficiency in future cabins with a stand containing displays relating to Airbus's main product families - the A320 family, the A330/A340 family, the A350 and the A380, as well as initiatives to drive greater efficiency from current and future cabins.
Airbus says its A320 Family Enhanced Cabin offers better luggage stowage and a quieter cabin packaged with a more modern look and feel and is available as a weight-reducing retrofit.
Among a number of new products, B/E Aerospace will be unveiling its latest in Super First Class (SFC) seating at the Aircraft Interiors Expo. The company will be hosting an exclusive VIP viewing of the OasisT modular Super First Class Suite as well as two versions of its High-Density SFC Suite designs.
Significantly, as famed Fleetbuzz blogger points out in an excellent posting, Auckland-based Altitude Aerospace Industries has secured an order from a "major Northern Hemisphere carrier" (Lufthansa) for 20 new 747-8 Intercontinentals. This "dispels any notion that Boeing or Lufthansa plan to terminate either the program or indeed the outstanding order", he writes. It also falls in line with what Boeing executives said last week at the ISTAT conference in Phoenix - that we can count on the 747-8 moving ahead.
But will Lufthansa consider a stacked sleeper solution, the likes of which it mulled in 2007?
Or maybe carriers should just drug their passengers to ensure a good night's rest. It's a radical future concept highlighted by Flight's newest blogger, Aimee Turner.
I've heard from more than one source that Aircell is rather diligently seeking substantial investment ($200 million to $300 million). It does, after all, have equipage of about 1,500 aircraft with Gogo in its sights by year-end. I put the question to Aircell and a spokesman with the firm says the following: "To your point, we can't say too much about our financing (current or future), but nothing has changed materially from your last conversation with Jack. I'll let you know about our progress as soon as I can share more."