Bombardier interested in offering in-flight Wi-Fi as option on RJs

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Bombardier is "very interested" in offering in-flight Wi-Fi as on option on its regional jets and has entered discussions to work with Delta Air Lines, a top executive with the Canadian airframer reveals.

In November Delta confirmed plans to extend its Aircell Gogo in-flight Internet service to 223 regional jets operated by Delta Connection partners. Installations are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Asked if Bombardier foresees offering in-flight Wi-Fi in light of Delta's decision to offer Gogo on its RJs, Bombardier CRJ programmes director Jean-Guy Blondin reveals: "This is something we're very interested in. Absolutely. In fact we've already started talking to Delta about that future need. Now, for some reason, being able to access Internet from your own device, in our view, seems to be much more on demand than just watching TV or reruns.

"I think that's where the future [is at]. Because people can stay connected to the office using their computer or they can actually surf the [Internet] and do what they want. They can play games. They can watch videos. So the Internet approach, I think, offers a lot more value for the public. I personally see that Delta is going in the right direction and we'll want to follow suit."

Thales-manufactured in-flight entertainment is on offer as an optional feature for Bombardier's newest RJ, the 100-seat CRJ1000. "The only one I have been able to do [certify] so far is Thales. That's the only one we certified. It's an individually mounted seat-back TV screen with audio/video on demand (AVOD)," says Blondin.

He notes, however, that AVOD is not very popular with regional operators. "It's a fairly expensive system. It's heavy as well. So it cuts into your payload and, on a short flight anyway, you wouldn't be able to watch a movie on an hour-and-five-minutes or an hour-and-10-minutes flight. So you could have short segments and so on. So I don't know if the regional airlines really recognize the value on the shorter flights."