Lufthansa Q&A: Honeywell’s JetWave System

August 31, 2017 | Author: Benet Wilson

Whether they’re on the ground or in the air, travelers have made it clear -- they expect and demand consistent, faster in-flight Wi-Fi. In its 2016 survey on passengers and their Wi-Fi needs, Honeywell Aerospace found that among the more than 1,000 American travelers polled, only 22 percent felt their in-flight Wi-Fi was extremely reliable over the past year, dropping from 27 percent in 2014. Furthermore, in Inmarsat’s 2017 global passenger survey, 60 percent of all responders agreed that in-flight Wi-Fi is not a luxury but a necessity.

Honeywell’s survey found that 21 percent of travelers have abandoned their preferred airline for an option with better in-flight Wi-Fi, which was up from 17 percent in 2014. It also noted that access to in-flight Wi-Fi is very important to passengers, impacting the way nearly 70 percent of them book their flights.

Lufthansa has been in the forefront of offering a robust Wi-Fi product to its passengers, going back to being the launch customer for Connexion by Boeing® in 2001. Since then, the airline has worked to ensure that its passengers have the best in connectivity and is a launch customer for Inmarsat Aviation’s Global Xpress (GX) Ka-band network, which is powered by Honeywell’s JetWave satellite communications terminals. Floris Reimbold, the director of In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity Technology for Lufthansa Group Hub Airlines, spoke with me about its commitment to have a robust Wi-Fi product for its passengers.

Benet J. Wilson: Lufthansa’s interest in in-flight Wi-Fi goes back to 2001, when it became the launch customer of Connexion by Boeing®. Why was the airline originally interested in offering in-flight Wi-Fi?

Floris Reimbold: Part of the company culture at Lufthansa is to be an innovative and customer-centric company, especially in the area of digitalization. Back in 2001, we saw the potential of in-flight connectivity and the high customer value, primarily for business passengers at the time. That’s why Lufthansa is seen as a pioneer in the field of in-flight connectivity.

BJW: After Boeing®pulled the plug on Connexion, what did Lufthansa do to introduce a new Wi-Fi product?

FR: Lufthansa worked to highlight the importance of in-flight connectivity and finally succeeded in finding a new connectivity provider -- Panasonic Avionics Corporation, together with Deutsche Telekom as our internet service provider, which launched in 2010. Panasonic is still our partner for long-haul aircraft. Inmarsat’s GX Aviation, powered by Honeywell’s JetWave hardware, was chosen as the partner for our A320 family fleet, serving short- and medium-haul flights, after a tendering process.

BJW: In 2015, you decided to partner with Honeywell and Inmarsat on high-speed, in-flight Wi-Fi via the JetWave system. Why was it important to do this?

FR: Lufthansa made the decision to roll out connectivity on its complete fleet of aircraft -- not only on long-haul but also on short- and medium-haul aircraft.

BJW: What are the speeds offered for Lufthansa’s in-flight Wi-Fi?

FR: Lufthansa offers broadband connectivity and an “almost like home” experience with our FlyNet product. Lufthansa offers several options. For short- and medium-haul flights, you can choose FlyNet Message, which costs €3 or 1,000 miles. This is best suited for messaging and email services with smartphones or tablets.

FlyNet Surf costs €7 or 2,300 miles and is best suited for web browsing, including VPN, messaging and email services. FlyNet Stream costs €12 or 4,000 miles and is best suited for audio and video streaming services, web browsing, VPN, messaging and email services. All prices are valid for the full length of the flight.

On long-haul flights, the cost is €9 or 3,000 miles for an hour of access; €14 or 4,500 miles for four hours; or €17 or 5,500 miles for up to 24 hours, in every case without a volume limit. On short, medium and long-haul flights, passengers can also use Deutsche Telekom, Boingo and iPass Roaming based on individual contract terms.



BJW: What other applications does FlyNet enable?

FR: Besides the broadband internet access, Lufthansa also offers passengers access to its FlyNet Portal. The portal includes a variety of free services like weather information, sightseeing tips for the flight destination, Lufthansa services like flight check-in and rebooking and partner services including TripAdvisor in the long-haul portal and LH Worldshop.

BJW: What drove Lufthansa's decision to choose JetWave?

FR: Lufthansa is currently equipping its A320 family fleet with Inmarsat’s GX Aviation in-flight connectivity system. In line with Austrian Airlines’ and Eurowings’ fleet, the aircraft connect to the GX network using JetWave hardware produced by Inmarsat’s partner Honeywell Aerospace. We decided to partner with the system provider, Inmarsat, to offer the latest broadband satellite technology to our passengers. The Ka-Band technology provides seamless and reliable coverage on our short- and medium-haul routes. By being connected to FlyNet, passengers are not only able to use simple email services, which are low data consumption, but also superior applications and even video streaming.

BJW: How many Lufthansa aircraft currently have the JetWave product installed and how many will eventually get it?

FR: We’re currently in the roll-out phase, with multiple aircraft having the product installed on lines at different Lufthansa Technik locations. We’re increasing the number of aircraft receiving JetWave every week. By 2018, we will complete the installation on Lufthansa’s 170 aircraft in the A320 family fleet. Austrian Airlines’ fleet of 31 Airbus®
A320s are completed, and we’re rolling out the product on the fleet of Eurowings jets as well.

BJW: Why was it important for Lufthansa to offer a robust in-flight Wi-Fi system and how have passengers reacted to it?

FR: The majority of our passengers like to use real-time communication and social media applications, as well as surfing the web while signed to our FlyNet service. Here is some customer feedback:

“It’s excellent and would massively encourage me to fly with you more in the future. I say this as a frequent traveler with very negative impressions of Wi-Fi on other airlines. Very impressed.”

“Awesome service. A reason to choose Lufthansa whenever I have a choice.”

“This was actually my best experience with in-flight Wi-Fi so far. Usually, connection time is very expensive and speed and latency is very bad.”

From a passenger view, reliable and fast in-flight connectivity will soon reach the must-have level on all flights, including short-haul ones. Our initial results show there’s been very positive feedback from both passengers and our cabin crews. The increasing demand of bandwidth requires continuous investment in new connectivity technologies, along with a continuous improvement process. Lufthansa is committed to engaging in the development of next-generation technology to further strengthen our innovative and leading role in this field.

Benet J Wilson

Benet J Wilson

An author and writer for Honeywell, Wilson is a veteran aviation journalist who has also managed communications for two airlines, an aircraft engine manufacturer and two aviation nonprofits. After growing up a proud U.S. Air Force brat, she’s now a student pilot.

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