Lufthansa is looking closely at bringing in-flight communications to its short-haul fleet to address what it believes is a growing need for passengers to be connected all the time, including in the air.
Company vice-president product management and innovation Christian Körfgen tells ATI and Flightglobal that the German flag carrier envisages offering broadband on everything from intra-European flights of four to fives hours in duration to even "half-hour flights".
A former customer of defunct Connexion by Boeing (CBB), Lufthansa is poised to re-launch its FlyNet-branded in-flight Internet service on overseas flights. The carrier is working in partnership with Panasonic Avionics, which has also been tasked to fit its high-speed Ku-band satellite-based eXConnect service to the long-haul aircraft that are not presently fitted with CBB antennas in Lufthansa's fleet. Lufthansa will also offer mobile connectivity to passengers via Panasonic partner AeroMobile.
Körfgen says Lufthansa expects to offer the same type of services on its narrowbody aircraft as it will offer on its long-haul fleet, although the carrier has not picked a provider as yet. "There are different possibilities, such as satellite or possibly terrestrial. We are looking at it quite sharply," he says.
The carrier is open to partnering with a company other than Panasonic, but also sings the praises of the in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) manufacturer as well as its work on reigniting CBB for Lufthansa.
"Up until now, it has been an impressive job that Panasonic did in that area, regarding the complexity of the whole system. We are quite confident of being out there quite soon," says Körfgen.
The carrier is currently testing in-flight Internet on four aircraft - two Airbus A340s and two A330s.
"We hope as soon as we finish our testing we hope that [the re-launch] is going to be still this year, but we want to be sure that it's working correctly, that we have the right upstream and downstream volumes, and that the satellite connection is working properly without any interruptions at all," says the Lufthansa executive.
He adds: "We are focused on business travellers and as you know all around the world, business travellers need to be connected all the time. To stay connected, one of the major issues is to have connectivity on board. With the new media, that is one of the most important things for travellers, and especially business travellers during long-haul trips, but we think on short-haul it's getting more and more important."