OnAir pushes ahead after severing Ryanair deal

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In-flight mobile connectivity service provider OnAir says business is robust despite the company's decision to terminate its contract with Irish low-cost giant Ryanair.

Unlike the early days, when OnAir's founding fathers largely focused on the short-range European market that serves as Ryanair's turf, OnAir has "evolved" to include 10 business units, among them the long-range market, the Airbus A380 (unique because of its size), VIP and maritime, says OnAir CEO Benoit Debains.

"As I speak, I am highly confident that we have secured deals in every one of the business segments."

Earlier this week the Airbus/SITA joint venture revealed it has severed ties with Ryanair after failing to reach mutual agreement on the proceeds and timing of fleet-wide deployment. Ryanair had operated OnAir's mobile service on 50 aircraft for about a year.

While Debains declines to discuss specifics about the Ryanair deal, he stresses that OnAir "is much more than just Ryanair" and well-positioned in the market with multiple deals for equipage.

Oman Air recently launched OnAir's mobile and Wi-fi connectivity, for example, and OnAir has secured several deals in the Middle East.

OnAir has "six airlines flying today, and by the end of the year we'll have 12 flying", says Debains, adding that OnAir also yesterday signed another VIP deal.

Business with short-haul carriers in Europe has admittedly slowed, however. "In Europe, the airlines all tell us that they know [connectivity equipage] will happen, but they have other issues to deal with, other priorities and investments. So there is a standstill in Europe," says Debains.

However, he believes Lufthansa's decision to equip its entire long-haul fleet with in-flight Internet from Panasonic and mobile connectivity courtesy of OnAir rival AeroMobile "will create some pressure" for European carriers to act.

Lufthansa has said it will launch the service mid-year.