EBACE: Onair makes show debut

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Onair may be headquartered in Geneva, but 2009 marks the first year that the in-flight communications provider has chosen to exhibit at EBACE.

Stephan Egli, Onair chief commercial officer, says the move reflects business aviation's growing importance to the company.

"The VIP sector is becoming a key part of our business," he says. "It's early days, but one thing's for sure -it's a big part of our business. This makes sense for us and we're convinced we'll have a high level of interest."

Most of the company's sales to date have been to business jet operators wanting to retrofit in-flight communications services such as GSM, GPRS and wi-fi internet access, although it is also talking to aircraft manufacturers about fitting the system to new-build aircraft.

Onair is 30% owned by Airbus and its mobile telephony systems are offered as a standard option on the European manufacturer's Corporate Jetliner range.

Egli reports a "high level of activity" in the market, particularly for larger applications such as ACJs and Boeing Business Jets, as well as purpose-built large-cabin, long-range business jets.

Referring to Aircell's announcement of a major deal to install its Swiftbroadband solution on Jet Republic's planned fleet of 110 Learjet 60XRs, Egli says "we see this as confirmation of our strategy that Swiftbroadband is the way to go".

Onair says it leads its rivals in already having gained approval to provide voice calls in the airspace above more than 200 countries, although the USA's Federal Communications Commission continues to hold out in blocking in-flight voice calls.

"We see that changing fairly soon because the competitive pressure is really increasing," says Egli.