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Airborne again

Ravi Teja Sharma  |  New Delhi 

AVIATION: will soon keep fliers glued to their seats.
The buzz in the skies today is the low-cost carriers. But at the other end of the market, are going all out to woo the traveller with state-of-the-art (IFE) systems.
Internationally, the IFE marketing is growing at about 10 per cent a year. Kingfisher Airlines, Indian, have all ordered the latest options for their new aircraft. In fact, Air India has asked Thales to retrofit six of its Boeing 747s for about $30 million, which will be delivered early 2007.
The latest, says Francois Dupont, country director for Thales in India, is audio and video on demand (AVOD), inflight television, and, in a while, Internet connectivity.
Thales and Panasonic Avionics Corporation are the two main players present in India. Thales has about 129 confirmed orders from airlines such as Indian, Air India and Panasonic, on the other hand, has orders for IFE systems from Jet Airways.
"The most exciting new orders for Panasonic are from Jet Airways, selecting our most advanced systems for the new deliveries of A330, Boeing 777 and Boeing 737," says David Bruner, director of strategic product marketing, Panasonic Avionics Corporation.
Thales has orders worth $200 million from India. has ordered the latest Thales I-5000 with movies-on-demand for its brand new fleet of 42 A320 family aircraft, while Air India, apart from the six retrofitted Boeing 747s has ordered IFE systems for 23 Boeing 777s (which are yet to be delivered and the systems will be fitted at the Boeing assembly line).
Thales' USP is its flexibility, open architecture and cost, says Dupont. "With our open architecture, airlines can add on any new technology that gets developed in the future," he explains.
Jet Airways, meanwhile, has unveiled its new Sky Screen inflight entertainment system which will offer on-demand audio and video entertainment in both the Club Premiere and economy classes on its first new generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
According to the airline, passengers on board these aircraft will have access to over 100 hours of shows from Bollywood and Hollywood, eight audio channels and over 70 audio CDs, games and iXplor "" a moving map that gives locational insights into the flight plan.
The aircraft, with the Panasonic eFX system, has 9-inch video monitors mounted with touch screens in Club Premiere, and a 7-inch touch screen monitors at the back of every seat in economy class.
ordered its Thales IFE systems right when the airline was launched. Kingfisher's economy class has the Thales I-4000 with individual screens, five video channels and 10 channels of Kingfisher Radio, while the Kingfisher First class is equipped with the I-5000 with movie on demand and 16-inch screens.
The growth of the IFE market in India could have been even faster, but low cost carriers will never opt for IFE, says Dupont, cost being their biggest consideration.
What is coming soon, probably early next year, is live TV onboard, followed by onboard broadband connectivity. And yes, IFE onboard will soon go wireless as well.

First Published: Thu, October 05 2006. 00:00 IST
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