Last Tuesday, Nov. 30, Lufthansa brought back its in-flight Internet offering, inaugurating the service on an Airbus A330-300.
The aircraft operated the LH 400 service from Frankfurt to New York. Initially, passengers will have access to broadband Internet on some of the airline’s North Atlantic routes. Availability will be expanded to cover the entire long-haul fleet and its network by the end of 2011. Lufthansa is also looking at including its short-haul fleet at a later stage.
In its new FlyNet service, Lufthansa cooperates with Panasonic and Deutsche Telekom, but it uses the old antennas that were installed on the aircraft in 2006. The airline hopes that it will be able to outfit its eight Airbus A380s with dual antennas that are also bigger and lighter than the existing equipment. The antennas are expected to provide better coverage for flights in the extreme North and close to the equator, where the single unit reaches its technical limits. As for the incoming Boeing 747-8 fleet, Lufthansa hopes that the second airplane will be equipped with the new antenna, too.
The use of mobile phones, smart phones or PDAs, but only for text messages, such as SMS or email will also be allowed by Lufthansa. The airline says its research has shown that customers value quietness in the cabin, so voice communications will be blocked during flight.
Passengers have to buy access to the service. One hour will cost €10.95 while 24 hours will be €19.95. The access will also be valid on connecting flights used within the 24-hour timeframe.
According to Christian Koerfgen, VP-product management and innovations, a total of five aircraft will be available initially. He claims that Internet access will be as fast as on the ground. Laptops have to be WLAN enabled and log on to the Telekom hotspots. Panasonic is in charge of the system technology. Lufthansa participates in the revenues generated.
CEO of Panasonic Avionics Corp. Paul Margis says that “new modems allow us to start with smaller bandwidths” and that “we can add satellite capacity when we need it.” The old Boeing system failed mainly because the provider rented too much unused satellite capacity, which made the system uneconomical. According to Margis, other applications could be added to the offering, specifically as far as electronic flight bag use or inflight entertainment options are concerned.