Inflight communications giant OnAir has launched Plug, its latest innovation, which is designed to provide inflight Internet access over a secure and dedicated wireless network. This is not just another passenger service though, as the network can be used by airlines to exchange real-time data between cabin crews and the ground, in order to optimize their inflight and ground operations. OnAir Plug is agnostic, so the wireless network can be accessed by any wi-fi enabled device and can support all crew member applications.
Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir explained at the launch: “OnAir is providing the innovation to allow airlines to exploit connectivity beyond passenger communications. OnAir Plug provides operational real-time data for the cabin crew. This is the first major step in unleashing the full potential of the e-Aircraft. Our strong presence in the inflight connectivity market has given us a very solid platform to be the first mover for connected crews.”
Anyone keen to trial the technology in the real world can see it in action with launch customer, Philippine Airlines (PAL). With this deal, PAL is the first airline in the world to provide mobile phone, wi-fi and wireless inflight entertainment for passengers, as well as crew access to a range of services previously unavailable to them. For example, OnAir Plug can connect the airline’s point-of-sale devices to enable real-time credit card transactions during onboard retail sales.
Dawkins added, “A secure connectivity channel is the first significant step towards enabling a “nose-to-tail” communications channel for airline operational needs. When fully realized, the e-Aircraft will provide airlines increased operational control by providing real-time data to improve airlines’ decision-making. Among other e-Aircraft benefits, airlines will have enriched applications that enhance flight, ground and business operations, superior aircraft health monitoring, access to live Electronic Flight Bag data, improved maintenance reporting, and secured data storage. And this is only the beginning.”
In other PAL and OnAir news, four months after entering service on a trial fleet of A330s, the airline will install wireless IFE on a further five A330s, as well as six A340s, meaning that all of PAL’s long-range aircraft will be equipped with OnAir’s full IFEC package of Mobile OnAir mobile phone, Internet OnAir wi-fi services and OnAir Play wireless IFE (PAL’s B777-300ER aircraft are also equipped with Mobile OnAir and Internet OnAir).
PAL COO Ramon S. Ang said, “Passengers’ responses to being able to use their own phones, tablets and laptops for both IFE and connectivity has been overwhelmingly positive. Adding OnAir Play to more aircraft was an easy decision. While we are very much aware that we are breaking new ground by not having traditional embedded IFE on the brand new A330s, there is no question that wireless IFE is working for our passengers.”