Airbus sees growing demand for light IFE with connectivity

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As airlines increasingly adopt slim seats for their economy-class cabins, the drive to pull weight out of in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems is also picking up, a top Airbus official says.

"I would say that all the IFE manufacturers are looking at reducing the form factor and taking volume and weight out of the equipment going into the seat", says Airbus head of aircraft interiors marketing Bob Lange.

An area in which Airbus is seeing "strong demand" is the category of IFE that offers some audio/video on demand (AVOD) with connectivity functionality as opposed to content-heavy "pure entertainment", says Lange. "These light systems are coming along with the weight and price points that are attractive to the marketplace."

"We do see a growing demand in that area," adds Lange.

Panasonic Avionics has been one of the most vocal players in the IFE space to discuss its plans for lightweight IFE with connectivity, known as IFEC.

The company last year announced plans to bring to market a new product that seamlessly integrates touch-screen IFEC with an ultra-slim economy seat. The so-called Integrated Smart Monitor - previously known as Fusion - is targeted to be about 50% lighter than current monitors, and will provide passengers with email and social networking functionality for services such as Twitter and Facebook.

Another firm, Lumexis, has been touting a fiber optics-based IFEC system that is approximately half the weight of older, legacy systems from other suppliers.

While declining to discuss specific offerings or suppliers, Lange says Airbus currently sees three or four potential suppliers of lightweight IFEC. "At the end of the day, one of two will probably make a hit in that area and the market will decide," he says, noting that such systems will initially be adopted by airlines through retrofit.