Carriers move to fit regional jets with in-flight connectivity

Libyan CRJ900.JPG

Cabin innovation in the commercial sector is not only occurring at mainline operators. In fact, regional carriers from around the globe – as well as airframers Bombardier and Embraer – are looking at ways to jazz up the interiors and technology on board their hard-working regional birds.

Case in point – Libyan Airlines is looking at in-flight connectivity for its Bombardier CRJ900 regional jets. My friend Bernie Baldwin, editor of Low-Fare & Regional Airlines, got the scoop about Libyan’s request for information to OnAir for RJ connectivity last week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.

While in Hamburg, Libyan formally signed an agreement with OnAir for the installation of mobile connectivity and Wi-Fi Internet services aboard its fleet of new Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Libyan already had a deal in place with the Airbus/SITA joint venture for A320 connectivity (good gracious, isn’t OnAir cooking with gas these days, what with the huge Emirates A380 connectivity deal and the huge Qatar 787 connectivity deal? Be sure to check out OnAir’s brand new web site. Sweet!).

For regionals, offering in-flight connectivity is all about keeping precious cargo, i.e. lucrative road warriors, connected until they reach mainline hubs.

Key quote from Baldwin:

“I think connectivity will see more use on the RJs because though the flights are not too long, they often connect important city pairs for business people who would like to stay connected and not try to make quick calls while trying to embark or disembark. They’ll also be able to do e-mails in flight with their smartphones (whatever make).”

Libyan’s interest in fitting its RJs with in-flight connectivity is just the tip of the iceberg, however. We know that American Airlines has issued an RFI for connectivity, including for sister American Eagle Airlines’ RJs.

American Eagle first class.JPGThis comes as America Eagle readies to launch a new first class cabin on its Bombardier CRJ700s, which are being transitioned from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago O’Hare, where they are better suited for the carrier’s thinner business markets.

Delta Air Lines has also shown interest in fitting its RJs with connectivity, and service provider Aircell is all-too-willing (and able) to make that happen. And Frontier Airlines has already inked a deal with Aircell to bring connectivity to its Embraer E-Jets.

I’m heading to Milwaukee this week for the annual Regional Airline Association (RAA) conference and exhibition, where I’ll join Benet Wilson, an editor with Aviation Week, and journa-blogger extraordinaire Cranky Flier, on stage for a discussion entitled “Flying Above the Social Media Fray”. For all the latest info on what’s happening in the regional sector of this great industry, follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #RAA10 (you can also follow this tweeting maniac at @RunwayGirl ). To Milwaukee I go for regional news, and some more German food and beer! :)

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