Cathay Pacific Airways has inked a letter of intent to purchase 30 Airbus A350-900 aircraft, and plans to exercise purchase rights for six Boeing 777-300ERs. In turn, the carrier has become what I believe is the first publicized A350 customer for Panasonic Avionics' global communications suite (GCS).
Hong Kong-based Cathay last month signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Panasonic for the provision of full broadband connectivity on all passenger aircraft operated by Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Dragonair.
So, logically, all passenger aircraft includes the carrier's A350s, which will be delivered between 2016 and 2019.
The timing is ripe too, since Panasonic recently received offerability on the A350 for the GCS communications suite comprising its Ku-band satellite-based high-speed internet offering eXConnect, Airborne Television Network and eXPhone mobile phone service, which is offered via a partnership with Telenor subsidiary AeroMobile.
Airbus last year took some heat for not giving line-fit offerability status to any mobile connectivity provider other than OnAir, its joint venture with SITA, despite a long-standing request from Panasonic. That all died down when Panasonic was cleared to offer GCS line-fit on the A350.
Panasonic is still working with the other non-A350 platforms for offerability with Airbus, including the A380. But, who knows, maybe there could be a breakthrough, since the A380 customers that want Panasonic's Ku-band offering are now starting to stack up.
Do you think GCS customer Lufthansa wants to retrofit the Ku-band system on the lion's share of its A380s (it has taken delivery of one A380, but awaits 14 more)? Okay, it may not want to hold up deliveries any further.
But how about Air France?
A source informed me today that Air France plans to bring Ku-band-based connectivity to passengers, and that it is partnering with France Telecom to do so.
This has not yet been confirmed by any of the parties, so stay tuned...(but wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall when those conversations are going on?)
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