Panasonic and American work to improve 777-300ER wi-fi

Washington DC
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Panasonic Avionics is working with American Airlines to improve Ku-band connectivity on its Boeing 777-300ER after passengers faced trouble connecting to the inflight wi-fi during the inaugural flight from Dallas to Sao Paulo on 31 January, says the connectivity provider.

"Given that this was the first time that a broadband service had operated on a route from the US to South America, it's not unusual that there would be a need to optimise the service," Panasonic Avionics told Flightglobal. "While there were service interruptions in the first part of the flight, our eXConnect system and dual-panel antenna functioned as predicted as we crossed the equator and entered South America."

Panasonic says that on subsequent flights it has been "pleased" by the number of users able to access the system at once without interruption, but did not disclose that specific number. American's Boeing 777-300ER is configured with 310 seats.

Panasonic and American will continue to work on improving the offering as the airline continues to install the system on further Boeing 777-300ER deliveries through real-time monitoring.

"We will continue to work with American Airlines to continue to optimise the service," Panasonic Avionics tells Flightglobal. "Already, we have taken steps since and have seen dramatic improvements onboard other aircraft flying this same mission."

American is offering the new wi-fi service for free through 27 March, 2013. It says it plans to install the Panasonic Ku-band wi-fi system on its future Boeing 777-300ER deliveries.

The carrier plans to boost its order for the type to 20 aircraft, American chief Tom Horton told Flightglobal during the inaugural event. The carrier's backlog now reflects 13 firm orders and two options for the 777-300ERs, and it is not clear whether the additional five aircraft would be orders or options.

American is also installing Ku-band internet on its narrowbody fleet, but Gogo is providing that service. The carrier plans to receive the first Airbus A319 equipped with both Ku-band and ATG-4 in July. It plans to outfit new domestic aircraft deliveries after this time with the two technologies, which includes the Airbus A319, A321 and remaining Boeing 737-800 deliveries.

American has more than 400 aircraft installed with wi-fi today and plans to connect 95% of the domestic fleet by the end of 2013.