Eastern Airlines is approaching completion of the installation programme of AirFi’s FASE (fully autonomous semi-embedded) wireless IFE (W-IFE) system on its Boeing 767 fleet. The US airline, which launched operations in 2020, is now working on outfitting the 10th and final B767 in its fleet with the systems, which will not only provide entertainment for the passenger experience, but also enable potential improvements in operational efficiencies and revenue generation.
Passengers with Eastern Airlines are onboard for an average flight length of five to six hours, which makes entertainment an important part of the experience, with W-IFE being a lower-cost option than embedded seatback systems. Passengers can connect their own personal devices to FASE and view IFE content (supplied by West Entertainment), including the latest Hollywood releases, a classic movie selection and a catalogue of TV programmes, with 90% of the content available in Spanish as well as English.
Of course using the system will run down device batteries, so the airline is also working with MEKCO Group to retrofit its aircraft with in-seat USB power outlets for charging electronic devices.
The FASE onboard streaming system is based on four compact and ruggedised AirFi Venus boxes (weighing less than 2kg/4.5 lbs each), which are simply placed in overhead storage bins. These boxes create a closed wi-fi (‘near-fi) network which passengers can connect to, using any wi-fi enabled personal device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Once connected, they can begin streaming entertainment directly through the browser, without the need to download an app.
The FASE option for installation adds a layer of security because the boxes are physically “attached” to the plane, though still classed as carry-on equipment, meaning that no STC is required for their use. FASE also connects the boxes to the aircraft power supply, removing the need to charge the boxes, and the power on/off function is automated. A system can be installed in an aircraft within a day.
Eastern also plans to install FASE systems to its first two B777 aircraft and will soon use it to launch a new buy-on-board catalogue that passengers can access from their devices to browse, order and pay for food, beverage and comfort items right from their seats.
“Ancillary revenue is an important part of our strategy and allowing our team members to collect these fees and charges more effectively using AirFi will continue to be vital to our growth. Digitising online sales significantly streamlines ancillary revenue,” said Steve Harfst, CEO of Eastern Airlines.