Japan Airlines has ordered Thales Avionics In-Flight Systems' (formerly Thomson-CSF Sextant In-Flight Systems) mSeries interactive in-flight entertainment hardware for an additional four Boeing 747-300s.

The deal is a significant win for Thales which has previously only won new aircraft business from the carrier - Rockwell-Collins has taken JAL's retrofit orders. "It removes the exclusivity formerly enjoyed by their current retrofit IFE vendor," says Hank Evers, Thales vice president sales and marketing. Installations will start in the next two months.

JAL already has mSeries (formerly the Multi-media Digital Distribution System) on nine 747-400s, with the tenth to be equipped this quarter. JAL originally ordered MDDS for three 747-400s in 1995, later adding seven more aircraft.

In 1999, JAL ordered Rockwell's competing Total Entertainment System (TES) for retrofit on 24 in-service 747-400s, while Thales retained new -400 business.

Reliability of the system - which was British Airways' original IFE system but was later dropped for TES after reliability problems - has steadily improved. Availability with JAL, which is the biggest mSeries customer, has risen from 85.2% in October 1998 to 99.6% last September, says Evers.

Source: Flight International