United-Continental reveals details of Wi-Fi plan; includes 787 equipage

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United-Continental could become the first US carrier to offer in-flight connectivity on overseas routes after confirming its selection of Panasonic Avionics' Internet system for installation on 300 aircraft, including its forthcoming 787s.

Last week FlightglobalPro revealed that United-Continental had opted to offer connectivity across its mainline fleet, and that Panasonic had won a big chunk of the business.

In a statement today the Star Alliance member said Panasonic's Ku-band satellite-supported system, known as eXConnect, will be installed on some 300 United and Continental mainline aircraft beginning in mid-2012. United-Continental "expects to install the Panasonic system on Airbus A319 and A320, and Boeing 747, 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft", it said, noting that the system will also enable the wireless streaming of video content.

"Our customers tell us they value Wi-Fi. As a global carrier, we selected satellite-based Ku-band technology to enable customers to stay connected on long-haul overseas flights, something no other US-based international carrier currently offers, said United executive vice-president and chief revenue officer Jim Compton.

Panasonic Avionics CEO Paul Margis added: "United-Continental Holdings has an exciting vision about how to leverage Ku technology within its fleets, and we are thrilled to be working with them on a connectivity experience that sets a new standard in in-flight entertainment and communications."

United-Continental expects the entire mainline fleet will be equipped with Wi-Fi by 2015. Continental Airlines previously announced plans to next year begin installing Ka-band satellite-based Wi-Fi on more than 200 aircraft equipped with JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV's live television system. This strategy remains in place.

United-Continental does not mention whether it will continue to offer Gogo's air-to-ground (ATG)-based connectivity system on the United p.s. Boeing 757 fleet.

In mid-2001, United became one of three US majors, including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, to agree a partnership with Boeing to equip their aircraft with the airframer's now defunct high-speed connectivity service Connexion. The carriers backed away from that decision in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

But in-flight connectivity has seen resurgence in recent years, with multiple US operators adopting Gogo's ATG service in the United States, and myriad international carriers rolling out in-flight Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity systems on their aircraft.