While the airplane has historically been a break from the rat race, a place where you sit, drink complimentary drinks, and stare out the window, at some point we must bow to progress. Airlines around the US are racing to equip their fleets with WiFi (though few flyers are availing themselves of the service), but Cathay Pacific seems to be outdoing them all at a stroke. In-flight GSM calling and 50 megabit broadband. How d’you like them apples?
It’s a partnership with Panasonic Avionics — presumably the arm of Panasonic that deals with avionics — and they’re aiming to launch in early… 2012. Yeah, sorry to let you down there. I guess people like Virgin America will have caught up by then. Well, at least Cathay is stating their purpose.
Here’s the press release with more details:
LAKE FOREST, Calif., July 6 /PRNewswire/ — Cathay Pacific Airways and Panasonic Avionics Corporation today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the provision of full broadband connectivity on all Cathay Pacific and Dragonair passenger aircraft.
While final terms are still being negotiated, the MOU allows the parties to immediately begin developing the plan to provide connectivity for passengers together with promotional, sponsorship and e-commerce opportunities for Cathay Pacific partner brands.
Cathay Pacific is the first airline in Asia to announce its intention to deploy Panasonic Avionics’ Global Communications Suite broadband connectivity solution. It is also the first airline globally to announce an intention to provide the solution across its full fleet. Services will launch from early 2012, subject to regulatory approval.
The Panasonic Avionics connectivity solution for Cathay Pacific will comprise the eXConnect broadband service, eXPhone GSM phone service, and a CX-branded free-of-charge entertainment portal – accessible through all passenger devices and seatback screens – that will include a range of content updated during the flight, access to airline and partner sites, e-commerce, airline-specific advertising, and live television with a unique pay-per-view capability for special events.
* eXConnect provides two-way broadband connectivity supporting a wide range of passenger and crew applications, including Internet access, voice, data, and the ability to monitor and transmit airline operational data in real time at speeds of up to 50 Mbps to the aircraft.
* eXPhone, offered in collaboration with AeroMobile’s GSM mobile phone technology, allows passengers to use their mobile phones, smart phones and BlackBerry® devices onboard to make voice calls, send SMS text messages or utilise data services and stream content wirelessly to their iPod®, iPhone® and iPad®. eXPhone gives the airline flexibility and full control over the services offered including restricting certain services when appropriate.
Alex McGowan, Head of Product for Cathay Pacific, said: “Connectivity will form an important part of our overall customer proposition. Having that connectivity integrated closely with our video on demand entertainment system is especially valuable as it means that all passengers will be able to use the service. We believe that being connected is now an expected part of everyday life – not just for business purposes but also to stay in touch with family and friends. This system will allow passengers to be as ‘in touch’ as they wish to be while enjoying the great Cathay Pacific and Dragonair service.”
Charles Ogilvie, Executive Director of China for Panasonic Avionics Corporation, said: “We are very proud and thrilled to be working with Cathay Pacific. We are committed to serving the needs of the ever-growing markets in China and Asia. With Panasonic Avionics’ Global Communications Services, Cathay Pacific will be the first airline in Asia to offer passengers the most innovative inflight entertainment and communication options onboard commercial aircraft.”
Cathay Pacific Airways and Panasonic Avionics Corporation have enjoyed a close relationship since 1994.