Thales has followed Panasonic in signing up as an in-flight entertainment supplier for the Airbus A350 XWB in a deal that signals major changes to the French company's relationship with the airframer.
The deal - which took 10 months to negotiate - sees Thales come under contract as a supplier to Airbus on the A350 for its next-generation TopSeries IFE system, rather than supplying airlines directly as has been the arrangement on previous programmes.
Airbus executive vice-president for procurement Klaus Richter says: "The reason why negotiations took so long is because we were entering a new strategic partnership. Airbus is interested in working more intensively with fewer partners.
"The major difference is that the procurement contract is between Airbus and Thales, and not the airline and Thales."
Airlines will be able to tailor their IFE system specifications, but "only within the boundary conditions in the Airbus catalogue", says Richter.
The TopSeries solution for the A350 "completely embraces connectivity" for devices brought on board by passengers themselves, as well as offering "in the order of 20%" lower weight and less volume, while "increasing the passenger experience", says Thales' vice-president for IFE business Alan Pellegrini.