Lufthansa to stream IFE by wifi to passenger mobiles

10 Sep 2013 by Alex McWhirter

Lufthansa passengers flying medium sector routes will from next year be able to stream inflight entertainment by wifi direct to their mobile devices.

The new IFE system will provide passengers with a wide range of films, TV shows, music, games and information.

Typical destinations where the new service will be offered are those in North Africa, the Middle East and some areas of Russia.

Lufthansa says that passengers wishing to use the service will connect to the in-flight infotainment server via wifi using their own laptop, tablet or smartphone.

By next year, 20 Airbus A321s will be fitted with this IFE option, developed by Lufthansa systems and dubbed BoardConnect. The airline says that the system has proved popular with passengers during its trial run over several months earlier this year.

Dr Reinhold Huber, Lufthansa's head of product and marketing, said: "In addition to entertainment, it opens up exciting new prospects for completely new services and interaction with customers."

In contrast to conventional systems, says Lufthansa, BoardConnect does not require every seat to be fitted with complicated wiring. It works with a conventional wireless network using standard technology, meaning that Lufthansa Technik (the carrier's engineering department) only had to install a few access points in the cabin.

One hopes that the bandwidth will be strong enough to cope with a full plane load of passengers. But, if it is a success, will Lufthansa and other airlines adopt the concept for their longer routes?

Most passengers these days carry a mobile device of one sort or another and technology is changing so fast (every month a new system or device is launched) that traditional airline IFE systems, which have a lifespan of five or six years, are soon out of date.

Besides the cost of the system, traditional IFE adds a lot of weight to a plane. Cathay Pacific reckons that the IFE screens add between one and two tons of weight which in turn increases fuel burn leading to higher operating costs.

Last year, John Slosar, CEO of Cathay Pacific, intimated that his airline would look closely at whether or not to continue with conventional IFE because mobile technology was changing so rapidly (see news, June 2012).

The idea was that Cathay Pacific would provide every passenger with a powerpoint so that they could plug in the mobile device of their choice. Cathay Pacific's proposal elicited many comments from Business Traveller readers, both for and against.

It remains to be seen whether or not other carriers follow Lufthansa's move.

Alex McWhirter

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