Gabonese carrier Afrijet has become the first ATR operator to employ the airframer’s Cabinstream IFE system.

The equipment – supplied by New Zealand-based IFE specialist Phitek in partnership with ATR – streams pre-loaded content via wi-fi to passenger’s digital devices, including movies, browser-based games, electronic publications and flight information.

It does not provide internet access, however.

The portable equipment is designed to be installed inside the cabin’s overhead storage compartment, and does not need to be wired into the aircraft’s electrical system.

A replaceable, nickel-metal hydride battery powers the system for a 12-hour period. Content storage and wi-fi antennae are part of a single, standalone unit that weighs “less than 6kg (13lb)” and is “very easy” to install for both line- and retrofit, ATR marketing vice-president Zuzana Hrnkova tells FlightGlobal.

With no requirement to make structural changes, the airframer only needed to prove, via a service bulletin, that the IFE equipment does not interfere with the aircraft’s systems, she says.

Asked to what extent IFE systems would appeal to regional airlines that operate small fleets on comparatively short routes – and which might have a particular interest to reduce costs – Hrnkova suggests that “many” of ATR’s customers operate Airbus A320-family jets or Boeing 737s, and want to offer a coherent passenger experience across their networks.

She says the system was developed in response to airline demand, rather than on the manufacturer’s initiative, and that several ATR operators fly routes up to four hours long.

Investment required to introduce the equipment is “not at all comparable” to that for IFE installations with satellite-based internet access on larger aircraft, says Hrnkova.

Operators can hire the Cabinstream system from Phitek for a two-year period instead of purchasing the equipment, and Hrnkova believes that introduction of IFE represents opportunities for airlines to share costs with content providers and generate ancillary revenue.

In addition to Afrijet, ATR is in talks with other operators to introduce the system, the manufacturer says.

Afrijet’s website indicates the Libreville-based carrier operates four ATR turboprops for scheduled services and four Dassault Falcon business jets for VIP flights.

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Source: Flight Daily News