WestJet picks Panasonic for new IFE system

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WestJet has chosen Panasonic Avionics to provide satellite internet as well as streaming live television and on-demand movies for passengers' portable devices.

The Calgary-based carrier will outfit its fleet of Boeing 737s with an on-board server to store the streaming content, as well as the addition of power outlets in “new, slimmer” seats that it plans to install. Passengers will also be able to rent tablets to watch the streaming content.

WestJet will be the first Canadian airline to offer fleet-wide wi-fi. The selection also marks a move away from the live television system offered by LiveTV that the carrier introduced in 2004 and has since offered on all but a handful of its 737s.

“The addition of wi-fi is a strategic step forward to enable guests, especially business travellers, to make their time in the air as productive as possible,” says Marshall Wilmot, WestJet's vice-president product and distribution. "We know that roughly 75% of our guests are bringing their own devices on board today."

Panasonic will install the system on WestJet's next-generation 737s before the end of the year, the airline says. It will roll out the system on its remaining jets in the “next several years”.

WestJet ended 2013 with 105 Boeing 737s in its fleet, regulatory filings show.