Delta Air Lines has emerged as the first publicised customer for an award-winning new product from Panasonic Avionics and Weber Aircraft that integrates lightweight, touchscreen in-flight entertainment and communications (IFEC) with a slim economy seat.
The US major plans to fit Panasonic's Integrated Smart Monitor and Weber's lightweight, carbon fibre economy seat to its 16 former Northwest Airlines Boeing 747-400s. CBS news reported this week that Delta has selected a 9in IFEC monitor for the new seat.
"We announced earlier this year that we are investing more than $1 billion in improved products and services throughout our system, including new economy class seats onboard our Boeing 747-400 aircraft. These seats will be part of that investment. Installation of new economy seats on the 747-400s will begin in mid-2011. More information will be released as product details and installation timelines are finalised," says a Delta spokesman.
However, ATI and Flightglobal also understand that some of Delta's 767s and Boeing McDonnell Douglas MD-90s have also been earmarked for retrofit with the new integrated seats.
Delta notes that the "full scope and fleet application of this product" will be announced as the carrier's plans are finalised.
A Panasonic spokeswoman says: "We actually are working with our launch customer for the integrated seat and until they are ready to make the formal announcement, we can't actually comment about the programme yet."
Weber declined to comment.
Representing a collaborative effort between Panasonic, product development firm Teague and Weber, the Integrated Smart Monitor was unveiled last year at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Palm Springs, California. At that time, the product was called Fusion. It later won a Crystal Cabin Award at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.
The IFEC platform is intended to occupy a market space between the company's high-performing eX2 and eFX platforms. On-screen navigation, flight attendant call, reading light control, audio jack, and USB port are incorporated into the monitor, eliminating the complexity of in-seat harnesses, and additional seat components, according to Panasonic.
The system features a capacitive touch interface like that of Apple's iPhone. Illuminated jacks and a credit card slot on the monitor are easy to find in all cabin lighting, says Panasonic.