A passenger using IFC on an Airbus. Photo courtesy of Airbus
Half of the total in-service Airbus commercial airplanes are projected to feature in-flight connectivity by 2020, according to Xavier Bertran, vice president of upgrade solutions for the manufacturer's Services by Airbus business unit. Bertran discussed aftermarket upgrade trends for the in-service Airbus during the 2017 Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) expo last week in Long Beach, California.
Services by Airbus was originally launched in 2015 as a consolidation of existing services. Since then, several new airlines have become new clients — including Cathay Pacific’s fleet of A350s and Qantas Airways' and Singapore Airlines' A380s.
Earlier this year, the services division of Airbus also launched its new aircraft data platform, Skywise, designed to improve how its in-service fleet is maintained.
The Airbus services division also wants to increase its support for aftermarket connectivity upgrades. The Services by Airbus team notes that its research on passenger use of devices on airplanes includes the following findings:
- 97% of passengers bring a phone on board.
- 81% of passengers bring a smartphone on board.
- 43% of passengers bring a tablet on board.
- 20% of passengers carry three or more devices on board.
“We all know that passengers wish to stay connected on the aircraft, and we predict 50% of the worldwide fleet will be connected by 2020,” said Bertran, adding that Airbus wants to become the “integrator” for new connectivity upgrades.
Under this role, Airbus acts as a design architect and system integrator, giving airlines the ability to mix and match various connectivity technologies. The most recent example that Bertran pointed to was a project in collaboration with Gogo, offering 2Ku as an upgrade on the A350 after delivery.
Bertran said new connectivity technologies must meet Airbus standards, such as ARINC 791, which defines the form, fit and function of Ku and Ka band satellite data airborne terminal equipment installed on transport category aircraft.
Furthermore, SkyWise will enable Airbus A320 operators to gain access to 60 times the amount of data they were able to access on A320s prior to SkyWise, said Bertran.