Virgin America wants new IFEC system linefit to Airbus twinjets

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A seat integration project that will see Virgin America's new Red in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system embedded into Recaro economy class seats has begun, and Airbus is reviewing whether to offer the solution linefit on the carrier's new Airbus A320 family aircraft.

Last month Virgin America announced it has selected Lufthansa Systems' 'BoardConnect' IFEC solution for its next generation Red platform. The carrier's current award-winning IFEC hardware is provided by Panasonic Avionics.

With BoardConnect, entertainment will be streamed wirelessly to passengers own devices as well as to seat-back 'seat-centric' monitors that can store content. This pairing allows Virgin America to offer early window movie content over the seat-back monitors, and post-DVD release content to passengers' own devices. Studios are not yet permitting early window content to be streamed to personal electronic devices.

"This has the ability to really stream, which is key, because what is also key for Virgin [America] is having live TV content," Lufthansa Systems chief information officer Joerg Liebe told ATI at the recent Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) conference and exhibition in Seattle.

The system will originally be retrofitted to Virgin America A320s beginning in the latter part of 2012, but Lufthansa Systems is "working together with Airbus to get linefit offerabiilty. We are not there yet. That is pretty clear. And we are blessed to work together with Virgin America [as] you need to have a customer who wants that," said Liebe.

Flightglobal's ACAS database shows that Virgin America has orders for over 60 A320 family aircraft, including for 30 A320neos.

Virgin America director of engineering Ken Bieler said: "We've certainly had those conversations with Airbus about putting in, at very least, provisions for this new system on the aircraft as they come down the line. It is certainly my hope that Airbus will embrace the system as we have and make it a standard option."

Bieler noted that the carrier is working with its current economy class seat supplier, Recaro, "to do a new integration of the seat that is just pretty sexy. It's really beautiful."

Meanwhile, Virgin America is still considering whether to retrofit its current A320s with the new IFEC system or leave the Panasonic-provided platform in place.