Cathay Pacific has bought 10% of in-flight e-mail and internet services company Tenzing Communications after injecting $10 million into the Seattle-based company for which it is as yet the only customer. The investment came via Cathay's wholly owned Taikoo Aviation Technologies.

The move is unusual for an airline, but is in line with Cathay's plans to invest HK$2 billion ($256 million) in internet-based projects over the next three years. The Hong Kong-based carrier is the launch customer for Tenzing's services, which will be offered on all of its 62 widebodies, allowing passengers to send and receive e-mail in-flight and browse web pages stored on a server on the aircraft.

Access to in-flight e-mail and "internet-type" services is regarded as the latest must-have by many in the in-flight entertainment industry, with a rash of companies emerging to offer such services. Air Canada, Singapore Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines have signed to test Tenzing services, but only Cathay has placed a firm order.

Cathay director information management and e-business, Ian Riddell, says the investment "recognises that in-flight connectivity for air travellers will become an essential part of the service over the coming decade". The tranche represents Tenzing's second round of funding; shareholders include venture capital groups Deutsche Bank, Riverside Management Group, TH Lee and ITOCHU, a Japanese group with a number of aerospace interests.

Source: Flight International