Lufthansa eager to bring in-flight Internet to A380s

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Star Alliance member Lufthansa is eager to bring in-flight high-speed Internet to its growing fleet of Airbus A380s, but is remaining quiet on a timeline for equipage.

Working in partnership with Panasonic Avionics, Lufthansa late last year re-launched its FlyNet-branded Internet service on an Airbus A330 as part of a large-scale project that will see the former Connexion by Boeing (CBB) customer reignite FlyNet on the lion's share of widebodies already fitted with CBB equipment, and retrofit the rest of its long-haul fleet with Panasonic's eXConnect system.

The carrier this spring will also expand the offering to include GSM mobile connectivity for text messaging and GPRS - services that, like eXConnect, are operated via Ku-band satellites.

Speaking yesterday to ATI and Flightglobal at New York JFK, where Lufthansa celebrated its new A380 service to the airport from Frankfurt, company VP Americas Jens Bischof assured that FlyNet "will finally come to the A380".

"It was very important to us now to get the aircraft up in the air and really get all the three classes (including new first class) running so for that reason we've decided to defer the launch of the in-flight Internet on board the A380 a little bit but it will come at a later point in time. It's going to be not too late," says Bischof.

Lufthansa would like to see eXConnect offered as a linefit option by Airbus on the A380. However, Panasonic vice-president global communications services David Bruner has previously said a Service Bulletin for installs is likely to be issued in the nearer-term.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa is touting a new service called Cloudstream that allows passengers to pack a virtual carry-on of reading and viewing material in advance of a flight, and access the service via FlyNet or another in-flight broadband link.

Cloudstream basically becomes "a suitcase" for in-flight entertainment (IFE) content "which you virtually pack for your flight", notes Bischof. "And while having in-flight Internet on board on a broadband basis, you can unpack your suitcase while you're in-flight very comfortably and with all the perks you want to have."

To date, Airbus has taken delivery of four A380s but expects to operate a fleet of eight this year. The airliners' in-flight amenities include Panasonic IFE systems in all three classes, urinals in the two new large first-class bathrooms, and a new humidification system to reduce jetlag.