AirAsia vows innovative IFE as Samsung teams with Tune Box

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AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes is vowing to offer passengers a "modern and innovative in-flight entertainment experience" now that Samsung has teamed with Tune Box to turn Android-powered Galaxy tablets into portable IFE for passengers in addition to electronic flight bags (EFBs) for pilots.

The partnership between Tune Box - the new digital media arm of Tune Group, of which Fernandes is chair - and Samsung comes as the latter firm is making its mark in the IFE space. For instance, the company recently announced an agreement to supply 6,000 units of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to American Airlines.

"Samsung is delighted to work with Tune Box. This enables us to achieve our goal to spearhead new innovations to revolutionize the aviation industry. The aviation industry is a tough proving ground for any technology but we are confident that by partnering [with] Tune, we will be able to demonstrate the robustness of our products and solutions," said Samsung Malaysia Electronics managing director Kwon Jae Hoon.

Tune Box recently formed a joint venture with EFB specialist Flight Focus. The firms are working to leverage the Flight Focus 'Platform' Class III EFB architecture already installed on the fleet of Malaysia-based AirAsia's long-haul affiliate AirAsia X to support the streaming of videos, television programming and audio selections provided by Tune Box.

Passengers will be able to access the wireless IFE solution through their own devices by the end of the first quarter or rent a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 from the carrier. Additional battery packs will be offered on board, said Tune Box co-founder Sami El Hadery, "so there should be sufficient battery within those devices to last the flight".

For EFB solutions, the Samsung Galaxy tablet technology "will be used to bring innovation into the cockpit to help flight crews perform flight management tasks more easily and efficiently", said Samsung and Tune Box.

However, AirAsia is also clearly eyeing the offerings for its own shorter-haul fleet, as indicated by Fernandes' stated commitment to "boost customer satisfaction, remain at the forefront of technology, and grow our ancillary business", from the partnership between Tune Box and Samsung.

Also, during a press briefing in Paris, AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani said: "I think what you'll see is we're probably the guinea pigs and once they [AirAsia] see how successful this is and the auxiliary income that will come, we were the first at least within the group to launch pre-selected seats at a time when free for all was the de rigueur amongst low cost carriers and we showed that you can do that and maintain turnaround times. They adopted it a year later. We introduced pre-booked meals. They adopted it a year later. It is a matter of time, you know. We get to try all the new stuff and I'm sure there is money to be made on a three hour, four hour flight as well."

He also revealed that AirAsia X has a separate initiative "to come up with power solutions at the seat because manufacturers always say there is enough power but we know it doesn't happen so we are developing some solutions to have power on board our seats. We already have them for flatbed seats and we're looking have some power sockets at least our hot seats for example."

Flight Focus and Tune Box, meanwhile, recently announced they have selected the Iridium OpenPort-Aero service as their global connectivity solution for their EFB and IFE products. "With the addition of Iridium OpenPort-Aero to its products, it has found the perfect match between EFB, IFE and global connectivity," say the companies.