Virgin America defers launch of updated Red IFE system

Washington DC
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Virgin America will defer the launch of its updated Red inflight entertainment (IFE) system until after the new year, citing its updated fleet plan as one of the contributing reasons for the delay.

The airline said it planned to start rolling out the updated system in late 2012 when it announced the next-generation system in September 2011. It will now plan new implementation dates for the roll-out in the coming months.

Virgin America has been internally testing the system on one Airbus A320 since 2011 and underscores that it is "still 100% committed to BoardConnect", Lufthansa Systems' inflight entertainment technology that serves as the backbone for the inflight entertainment unit. The carrier says it has been "very pleased" with the testing so far.

In November, Virgin America announced that it would be deferring delivery of 30 Airbus A320neos by four years and slashing its orders of A320s with current engines by two-thirds. It will take one additional aircraft before the end of 2013.

Lufthansa Systems says it is in the process of developing the prototype seat that contains the wireless screen for Virgin America. The new iteration of Red will be a "hybrid" entertainment system, consisting of both the individual screens as well as wi-fi throughout the cabin.

The wi-fi upgrades have already started to come together. Virgin America was the launch customer for Gogo's ATG-4 inflight internet system, which increases speeds of its standard offering by three times. ATG-4 increases the standard air-to-ground speed off 3.1 Mbps to peak speeds of up to 9.8 Mbps. On 12 November, Gogo said it had outfitted 25 aircraft from Virgin America, US Airways and Delta with the new technology.