An Air France A320 landing at London Heathrow Air France

Air France Orders Inflight Connectivity for A320-Family Airliners

Air France's narrowbody Wi-Fi service will complement its widebody offering but come from different providers.

Air France awarded a contract to Global Eagle Entertainment and Orange Business Services to equip its Airbus A320-family single-aisle airliners with inflight connectivity systems, an agreement that complements the new service being rolled out on its widebody airliners.

In an Oct. 1 announcement, Global Eagle said installations have started on the first of 113 Air France A318, A319, A320 and A321 airliners that fly short- and medium-haul flights in Europe, Russia, North Africa and the Middle East. The contract includes subsidiary carriers Hop! and Joon.

Air France has said it will equip its entire fleet with inflight Wi-Fi service—branded as Air France Connect—by the end of 2020. The airline is fitting its Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 long-haul, widebody airliners with the Gogo 2Ku equipment set, including antenna and modem. Commercial service started on the first two widebody aircraft in late September; plans call for equipping 22 long-haul and eight short- and medium-haul aircraft by the end of the year.

According to Air France, equipping the 777-200 requires two weeks and 1,500 working hours, 18 Wi-Fi antennas, one modem, 2 km of cable and Gogo’s 2Ku dual-antenna system, which is contained in a low-profile, aerodynamic radome.

The collaboration of Global Eagle and Orange Business Services will equip Air France single-aisle airliners for high-speed Internet service, passenger portal interfaces and services, integrated billing and passenger data analytics. They did not disclose the contract value.

Orange Business Services will provide the ground and satellite network backbone of the offering. Aircraft will connect to the network using Global Eagle’s new three-axis Ku-band antenna and Jupiter HT modem infrastructure, which is capable of 500 Mbps data throughput per aircraft, the Los Angeles-based company says. The contract includes onboard system management and spares support.

System installations will be performed at MROs in France and elsewhere, with the first aircraft being fitted in Toulouse, Global Eagle said. Many of the installations will be performed during regular maintenance check cycles, and aircraft time out of service will vary based on the amount of concurrent, non-related work being done, the company said. 

“Inflight connectivity gives Air France the opportunity to enhance the customer experience and to take a major step toward digital transformation,” said Pierre-Louis Biaggi, Orange Business Services VP for connectivity. “Together with our partner Global Eagle, we will enable Air France to be the first airline in Europe to take full advantage of the Ku-band High-Throughput Satellite network and thus drastically increase the onboard passenger connectivity experience.”

In a separate release in late September, Global Eagle announced that Canadian North, of Calgary, Canada, is the first customer for its new Airconnect Go, portable wireless inflight entertainment system. Canada North will introduce the system on four Boeing 737s in December.

Airconnect fits into the overhead bin of most commercial aircraft and requires no additional certification, Global Eagle says. The system, “not much bigger than a loaf of bread,” can stream data concurrently to 50 users. Passenger analytics can be tracked using Global Eagle’s Airview reporting system.

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