BAHRAIN’S national carrier Gulf Air has become the first airline in the world to offer live in-flight TV service besides high-speed broadband and mobile phone services onboard.
At the official launch Gulf Air CEO Samer Majali said the airline has partnered with Panasonic Avionics Corporation to unveil the world’s first Sky Hub on board its fleet, offering full in-flight high speed broadband connectivity, mobile phone service and live television programming.
The Panasonic’s global communications suite will be initially installed in the Gulf Air’s long-haul flights mainly on the Europe, Middle East and Asia sectors, he added.
The airline, last month took delivery of its first A330-200 aircraft retrofitted with Panasonic’s Global Communications Suite.
Unveiling the comprehensive communications and entertainment solution, ‘Sky Hub’ onboard, Majali said, “It is another important milestone in our customer service journey as we unveil our latest in-flight entertainment system.”
“We are bringing to you, for the first time in the world, fully integrated broadband connectivity offering high speed internet with high speed Wi-Fi and data services, voice over the internet (VoIP), streaming videos and the world’s first in-flight live TV satellite stream across continents.”
Majali said the first ‘sky-hub’ flight will be ready for operation by November and in the next six months or so the airline plans to have all long-haul flights installed with the new system.
“The service is presently being offered aboard a few selected flights on trial basis and we are receiving good feedbacks,” he remarked.
On the in-flight rates, Majali said, “For the Internet, it will be pay-on-board with charges starting from as little as BD6 ($16) for one hour and BD11 for 24 hours. The charges can be paid through credit card or Gulf Air vouchers.”
“For mobiles, the roaming charges will be billed by the telecom operator,” he added.
With regard to the TV service, Majali said initially there will be four live channels - BBC World News, BBC Arabic, Euronews and IMG Media’s Barclays Premier League and later more channels including Bloomberg, France 24 and NHK will be added.
“This avant-garde, cutting-edge technology will fundamentally change our passengers’ communications and entertainment experience onboard setting a new standard for in-flight entertainment,” Majali remarked.
“In tune with the fast-paced economy, Gulf Air is providing the fastest, affordable and unlimited internet and mobile access onboard for our customers to stay fully connected in the air and, we are pleased to be the first in the industry to offer our customers a connected airline,” he added.
Paul Margis, CEO of Panasonic Avionics Corporation said, “Gulf Air will offer two-way broadband connectivity at speeds of up to 50 Mbps enabling faster browsing, chatting and other internet based services using the Panasonic suite.”
Passengers, he said, will also be able to browse the web at broadband speeds, and access social media services such as Facebook and Twitter.
“In addition, business travellers can access their virtual private network (VPN) to send and receive emails while watching live-news and stock market updates at 35,000 feet,” said Margis.
Olivier Baujard, chief technology officer of Deutsche Telekom said, “We are excited about our future collaboration with Gulf Air. Together, we can now offer a new and bigger international group of customers the use of high-speed Internet access also in the sky.”
Panasonic’s mobile voice and data service, offered in collaboration with AeroMobile’s in-flight mobile phone technology, will enable passengers to use mobile phones, Smartphones or BlackBerry devices to call, text, email, browse the internet and use other applications throughout the flight.
They will also be able to use GSM-enabled tablets and laptops to go online in flight, said Pal Bjordal, CEO of AeroMobile.
“We are delighted to be supporting this world first from Gulf Air - our 10th customer. With many roaming partners throughout the Middle East, we’re perfectly positioned to help their passengers stay in touch whilst in the air,” he added.
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