JetBlue Airways will launch Sextant In-Flight Systems/Harris' LiveTV service on its first two Airbus A320s this month. The New York Kennedy-based airline will be the first carrier to introduce the joint venture's live broadcast satellite service and the first to offer live broadcast television service across its fleet.

The airline plans to equip all of its fleet with LiveTV service. The carrier has ordered 25 A320s, with options on 50 more.

JetBlue, which started operations in mid-February, will offer passengers 22 channels of DirecTV programming, including sports, news, general entertainment and children's programming, plus two channels for events such as sports and concerts. JetBlue passengers will be charged $5 to view the programming on seatback-installed flat-screen monitors, with armrest-installed individual controls.

US start-up Legend Airlines plans to offer its passengers the LiveTV service, although that carrier's launch, originally scheduled for February, has been delayed by legal objections from other carriers and certification issues.

Legend, which will also have 22 channels of programming, plus two for special events, will not charge passengers for LiveTV on its all-business class McDonnell Douglas DC-9 services. Alaska Airlines also plans to equip a Boeing 737-400 to test the service.

Carriers and IFE suppliers will be watching JetBlue's experience with interest. Live broadcast satellite services have failed to take off with airlines, despite Hughes-Avicom International (now Rockwell Collins Passenger Systems) first testing the service with Delta Air Lines in 1996. Issues over programme copyright, the business case and content control have hampered airline take-up.

The World Airline Entertainment Association has established two working groups in an attempt to resolve problems associated with airline introduction of live broadcast satellite service. One group is investigating hardware specifications, while the second is looking at content.

Source: Flight International