Connexion by Boeing launch customer Lufthansa says it still hopes a "solution" can be found to continue the onboard broadband internat access service, as other airline customers express disappointment over the impending shutdown of services.
The German carrier began commercial trials of the Connexion service in 2003 and launched Boeing’s broadband connectivity product the following year.
Boeing announced recently, however, that it would be shutting down Connexion after failing to make a viable business case for it. Although it has not said when exactly the services will end, major customers say privately that they understand it will be sometime in the fourth quarter.
Lufthansa, which is Connexion’s biggest customer with 62 of its 80 long-haul aircraft now equipped with the service, says: “Boeing has assured us that the service will continue until the end of the year.”
Lufthansa remains interested in the service and still hopes to find a solution to enable it to continue, although the airline concedes it does not have an answer at the moment.
“Right now, we hope that it will continue,” he says. “We hope to be in a position to offer it after this year. But we don’t have [a solution] right now.”
He does not rule out looking at other possible partners for such services, but says for now it is continuing talks with Boeing: “First of all we shall talk to Boeing to see if there other possibilities.”
Lufthansa is one of 11 airlines flying with Connexion, with carriers from Asia among the most aggressive in having their aircraft fitted with the high-speed broadband service. Asian airlines offering Connexion include South Korea’s Asiana Airlines and Korean Air, Taiwan’s China Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines in Japan, and Singapore Airlines.
SkyTeam alliance member Korean Air, which has Connexion installed on 29 of its Boeing 747-400s and 777s,says it is “disappointed that they are shutting down the service”.
In addition to being a customer, KAL in January announced an agreement with Boeing under which its maintenance and engineering division would become an authorised modification centre. The three-year agreement made it the first authorised provider of Connexion installation services.
Korean Air’s own plans called for all of its mid- and long-range aircraft to be equipped with the Internet services by the middle of 2007. The airline is not able to comment on whether the airline will seek compensation.
Singapore Airlines, which has Connexion installed on 18 747-400s, says it remains in discussion with Boeing on an exact date for the termination of the services. The Star Alliance carrier says: “We are disappointed. We share the disappointment of customers who were starting to get to know the service better.”
On whether the airline may seek compensation, it says: “There are issues we will address with Boeing on this.”
Japan Airlines (JAL) is also expressing disappointment and says it is “looking at options” to potentially offer in-flight Internet access in future with another provider. JAL says: “Earlier this year we did a survey of passengers who had used the service and 90% said they were happy with it and would use it again.”
JAL, which plans to join Oneworld next year, has Connexion fitted on 10 of its 747-400s and 777s. Japanese Star Alliance carrier ANA has it on seven 747-400s and 777s.
South Korean Star Alliance carrier Asiana has the service on two of its 777s. Asiana may receive compensation from Boeing but it is subject to negotiations between the two sides. Taiwan’s China Airlines offers Connexion on four 747-400s that operate to the USA.