Cathay, Dragonair tap Panasonic for fleet-wide connectivity

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Cathay Pacific Airways has become the first carrier in Asia to reveal its intention to deploy Panasonic Avionics' Ku-band satellite-based global communications suite (GCS) - including in-flight high-speed Internet - on board its aircraft.

The Hong Kong-based carrier has 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.

Flightglobal's ACAS database shows that Cathay Pacific's fleet comprises Airbus A330s, A340s, Boeing 747s, and 777s, while Dragonair operates A330s in addition to Airbus A320 family aircraft.

"While final terms are still being negotiated, the MOU allows the parties to immediately begin developing the plan to provide connectivity for passengers together with promotional, sponsorship and e-commerce opportunities for Cathay Pacific partner brands," says Panasonic, noting that Cathay Pacific is also the first airline globally to announce plans to provide the solution across its full fleet.

The GCS solution for Cathay Pacific will comprise Panasonic's eXConnect broadband connectivity service and eXPhone GSM mobile phone service, which is offered through a partnership with AeroMobile.

Additionally, a Cathay Pacific-branded free entertainment portal that will be "accessible through all passenger devices and seatback screens" and will include "a range of content updated during the flight, access to airline and partner sites, e-commerce, airline-specific advertising, and live television with a pay-per-view capability for special events", will be offered, says Panasonic.

Services will launch from early 2012, subject to regulatory approval.

"Connectivity will form an important part of our overall customer proposition. Having that connectivity integrated closely with our video on demand entertainment system is especially valuable as it means that all passengers will be able to use the service," says Cathay Pacific head of product Alex McGowan.

"We believe that being connected is now an expected part of everyday life - not just for business purposes but also to stay in touch with family and friends. This system will allow passengers to be as 'in touch' as they wish to be while enjoying the great Cathay Pacific and Dragonair service."

Panasonic Avionics executive director of China Charles Ogilvie adds that the in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) manufacturer is "committed to serving the needs of the ever-growing markets in China and Asia".

Cathay Pacific joins a growing list of customers for Panasonic's GCS solution. Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines have announced deals with the manufacturer.

Additionally, Virgin Atlantic recently inked a $70 million deal with Panasonic that initially covers the installation of the manufacturer's eX2 in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system, plus eXPhone connectivity. However, the carrier says it aims to duplicate in its aircraft cabins the type of entertainment and communication services that passengers enjoy on the ground, including ultimately supporting Panasonic's in-flight high-speed internet.