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ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT IFE REVIEW


New wifi trial for Virgin Atlantic W


Sally Gethin reports from her seat in Premium Economy


ifi trials are taking place on Virgin Atlantic’s routes


to New York, Washington DC and Barbados. Three A330-300s have been fitted with ARINC’s Cabin Connect system, which provides a wireless internet hotspot in the cabin using a server and four wireless access points. The service gives internet access to all passengers with personal devices – tablets, laptops, smart phones or gaming devices. It is high speed using the latest Inmarsat SwiftBroadBand spectrum and users log on through the hotspot portal. On completion of the 12-month trials, Virgin Atlantic will make a decision on fleet rollout in the spring of 2014. ARINC also provides Virgin Atlantic with live news and sport and is evaluating wireless content streaming using the wi-fi system. Says Virgin Atlantic customer


experience manager, Alan Penlington: “The trials have been extremely positive and we have received numerous tweets and Facebook postings from 30,000ft regarding wifi availability and the onboard product and services.” Virgin Atlantic IFE customer


experience manager, Shiada Drysdale explains: “We understand that staying connected to family and colleagues is important to our


customers, however we wanted to ensure it was the most affordable and efficient solution. We also want to offer an experience similar to the service they receive in their every day lives. We try to make the system as easy to navigate as possible and ensure it has a similar look and feel across the fleet." The purpose of the trials is


to evaluate a potential return on investment, as Penlington explains: “We are still learning about how different prices affect different take-up rates on different routes.” A separate connectivity service is provided by Aeromobile.


"We want to offer our passengers an experience similar to the service they receive at home"


Since Virgin Atlantic became the first British airline to provide calls, SMS and mobile data in the air in December 2011, more than 100,000 passengers have used the AeroMobile network, generating 19,000 calls and 500,000 texts. In addition, over 60 per cent


of connected passengers are using mobile data for social networking, email, apps and browsing. Usage is increasing by at least 15 per cent every month. AeroMobile internet browsing is also very popular, although as a GPRS service it is more limited in its speed and delivery of data than ARINC CabinConnect. However, it is still growing at an average monthly rate of nearly 30 per cent.


In a single week in September more than 74 WWW.ONBOARDHOSPITALITY.COM


32,200 text messages were sent onboard the 17 aircraft fitted with AeroMobile technology. There were more than 8,300 devices attached to the system. The top usage routes during


August were Mexico and Cuba. More than 220 network


operators are signed up as roaming partners including 02, Vodafone and EE. Virgin Atlantic operates a mixed fleet of Panasonic IFE technology, including a highly-customised and advanced eX2 series. eX2, branded Vera Touch by


Virgin Atlantic, is on all ten Virgin Atlantic A340-300s, the A330 fleet and B747s operating from Manchester and Gatwick. Seats have a widescreen smart touchscreen with sizes ranging from nine to 12.1 inches.


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