American Airlines will outfit its new Boeing 737 MAX jet fleet with satellite WiFi Internet services from ViaSat, which the companies say will provide users with in-flight WiFi experiences that are comparable to their in-home services.
The deal, which was announced by the companies on June 3, will allow American Airlines passengers to use their smartphones, tablets and portable computers to access the Internet and stream movies, videos, television and music, as well as upload pictures to social media, email large files and more, according to American and ViaSat.
“The new American planes will tap into the power of ViaSat’s advanced high capacity Ka-band satellite system, which will include ViaSat-1, ViaSat-2 and ViaSat-3 satellite platforms, and has more capacity in orbit than any other in-flight WiFi provider,” according to ViaSat. “American will leverage ViaSat’s first two generation satellite platforms” for now, and then will gain the capacity of the upcoming ViaSat-3 class satellite platform, which is expected to launch in 2019. Using the ViaSat systems, the company says it will “be able to deliver the fastest, highest quality in-flight internet service to each connected device on a plane.”
The upcoming Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with the ViaSat in-flight internet system are scheduled to begin to go into service in September 2017. ViaSat today provides Internet services to nearly 700,000 residential and business users via high-speed satellite connections, according to the company. The ViaSat network also today provides connections to thousands of simultaneously connected aircraft, each with dozens to hundreds of connected devices.
“Our satellite bandwidth enables an ‘at home’ Internet experience that can serve everyone on the plane and empowers innovative business models for airlines and their passengers,” Mark Dankberg, the chairman and CEO of ViaSat, said in a statement. “We are delighted and honored to have the opportunity to work with American Airlines and help fulfill their goal of delivering the best in-flight WiFi experience throughout their fleet. We believe we are now approaching the end of an era where passengers have paid very high prices for very slow connections. Our agreement highlights a significant initial step for American to deliver an onboard WiFi experience every passenger will want to use.”
The American Airlines deal with ViaSat will include about 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, according to a June 3 story by The Chicago Tribune. American Airlines has about 150 other planes that use in-flight WiFi services from ViaSat competitor Gogo.
Another 134 planes owned by the airline will be upgraded to Gogo’s latest and faster 2Ku WiFi services, the Tribune reported. An American Airlines spokesman, Casey Norton, told the Tribune that “the airline has about 150 other aircraft using Gogo’s older service, which are scheduled for retirement and won’t be upgraded.” Another 400 aircraft owned by American are also slated to get upgrades to satellite service in the future, but those deals have not yet been announced, the story reported.
“It’s all about delivering a better product for our customers as fast as possible,” Norton told the paper. “Having two suppliers allows us to get more bandwidth to our customers faster than using one supplier alone.”
American had sued Gogo in February, asking for court approval to end its existing WiFi agreement because it was not satisfied with the in-flight Internet speeds offered by Gogo, the Tribune reported. “At the time, American said it could receive faster Internet service from ViaSat, and asked the court to confirm a provision in its contract with Gogo allowing the airline to renegotiate or terminate its deal if it could find better service. American dropped the suit later that month after Gogo said it would submit a bid to install its faster satellite service on American’s fleet.”