AirFi nears rollout completion on Eastern Airlines

Eastern Airlines has almost completed outfitting all 10 of its B767 aircraft with AirFi’s FASE (Fully Autonomous Semi-Embedded) wireless IFE solution. The airline sees this deployment as an important key to unlocking improved passenger experience, operational efficiency and revenue generation potential. The successful installation effort, completed in Miami by AirFi America (MEKCO Group), marks the second North American deployment for AirFi.

Commenting on the news, Eastern Airlines CEO Steve Harfst said “Eastern was looking for an onboard solution to both improve passenger experience and generate new cross-platform opportunities. AirFi allows us to achieve both while also giving our customers a touch-less entertainment experience. We strive to do everything possible to make travelling a safe and enjoyable experience.”

Eastern Airlines (which has an average flight length of between five and six hours) is now offering a broad selection of inflight entertainment through AirFi and boutique cloud solution provider partner, West Entertainment. On their own personal devices, passengers can watch the latest Hollywood releases, award-winning classics and must-watch TV programmes, including comedy, drama, kids, documentaries and lifestyle. Some 90 per cent of the content is also available in Spanish.

Closed wifi network

To create the onboard streaming solution, four compact and hard-wearing AirFi Venus boxes (weighing less than 2 kg each) are placed in the overhead storage bin of each twin-aisle aircraft. They create a closed wifi network (sometimes called Near-Fi in industry circles), which passengers can connect to using any wifi-enabled personal device such as a mobile phone, 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 no STC (supplemental type certificate) is required. FASE also connects the boxes to aircraft power supply (so battery life isn’t an issue) and automates the power on/off function.

“We’ve installed all our planes in as little as one day, while upgrading other aspects of the cabin,” added Harfst. “Quick deployment and the quality streaming entertainment were probably the main reasons we wanted to work with AirFi, but we’ve also become very excited about the other ways we can use the AirFi platform to improve our customer experience.”

Buying on board

Eastern plans to install the AirFi solution in its first two B777 aircraft and will soon use it to launch a new buy-on-board catalogue that passengers can use 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 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”, commented Harfst.

To ensure that passengers can enjoy all the features of the AirFi system and still have full a full battery charge when they arrive at their destination, Eastern is also working with MEKCO Group to retrofit its aircraft with in-seat USB power solutions for charging electronic devices.

Last December, Eastern selected Swiss Aviation Software’s (Swiss-AS) AMOS MRO software solution to support its fleet of 12 767 and 777 aircraft. The US airline has signed for the AMOS Airline/MRO Edition to manage its maintenance activities.

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