New York, NY | May 1, 2014/Marketwired/– JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU) today announced that LiveTV received a supplemental type certificate (STC) and Parts Manufacturing Authorization (PMA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), necessary steps in the process of having high-speed Wi-Fi and LiveTV’s next generation inflight entertainment system installed on its new fleet of Airbus 321 all-core aircraft. The new LiveTV system, LiveTV 4.0, and JetBlue’s inflight Wi-Fi product, Fly-FiTM, will provide customers with a significantly enriched experience.

The Live TV 4.0 system has a larger screen (10.1 inches for the core experience and 15.6 inches for the Mint experience), and additional content options. Through JetBlue’s partnership with DirecTV, customers will have access to more than 100 channels of live television with optional closed-captioning, a new TV guide that displays current and upcoming program information, and two additional JetBlue Features, totaling eight features each available with English and Spanish audio tracks. Additionally, JetBlue’s SiriusXM satellite radio offering will have an improved home screen where all programming information will be displayed on one screen.

JetBlue also launched Fly-Fi last December on its Airbus 320 fleet, and currently operates 37 Fly-Fi enabled aircraft. The airline is up to 10 A320 Fly-Fi installations per month and is targeting to have its entire Airbus320 fleet complete by the end of 2014.

“We are very excited that LiveTV has received approval from the FAA and we can now commence the next phase in this process — installing LiveTV 4.0 and Fly-Fi on the other three all-core A321 aircraft, which have been flying since last December,” said Jamie Perry, director product development, JetBlue Airways. “The next step is to receive the certification needed for the first A321 Mint aircraft.”

JetBlue is known for its free innovative and industry-leading inflight entertainment since the airline took flight in 2000, and with a refreshed core product, true broadband Wi-Fi in the sky and an upgraded entertainment system on larger screens, that innovation will continue. The airline now has one A321 aircraft with LiveTV 4.0 and Fly-Fi installed which re-entered service on April 28, 2014. The remaining three A321 aircraft will undergo LiveTV 4.0 and Fly-Fi installation throughout the spring, with all four A321 core only aircraft expected to be in service with LiveTV 4 and Fly-Fi installed by the end of June.

As you can well imagine, the IFExpress offices has been awash with discussions about the state of inflight telephony affairs in the US and yes, we have tested some thoughts on PR types in our industry… those who are connected to companies that stand to benefit financially from the calling possibilities and those who are not. Basically, the division about the applicability of inflight cell usage in the US is where you would expect it – those who benefit like the idea and those who don’t – don’t. If they don’t benefit they tend to take the stance: “Flying is bad enough today, why make it worse?” Or, they don’t care. The answer is probably somewhere in between.

In a recent discussion, Our IFExpress Editor came up with a few ideas you might like to think about. “For a liberal democracy, this seems like a no brainer – but it definitely is not! The referenced case studies in other countries seem to make it a slam-dunk. But in the US, there is seemingly an overt, nasty dislike of the cell phone (voice inflight), possibly by travelers who obviously have had enough of the harried flight experience and do not want one more negative issue. Perhaps we should consider some of the issues and work this problem out logically if there is to be any resolution; however, at present there seems to be no clear-cut answer.”

  1. Airlines should surely do a test to see if the perceived issue is real, and note, that if the test is public there will be a lot of press attention.
  2. Asking for constructive solutions such as, passenger cell phone seating, may have value. Feedback is the key to this no-win situation.
  3. If you add “one more issue” to an uncomfortable situation you will not win; however, what about adding a good one at the same time? Some ideas are:  paying all passengers on a flight that has cell telephony by reducing charges elsewhere (baggage, free drinks, etc.) after all this is the US and money talks; publishing any good experiences (if there are any) during a testing situation; how about seating cell talkers on one side or possibly in a ‘worse’ seating location on the aircraft (Yes, that is the price one must pay). If money is a US driver, how about making the usage price high enough to discourage long talking (this one won’t be popular with the service providers) or at least to minimize the “Guess where I am calls”.
  4. Has anyone proposed a plan to suggest the type of equipment passengers could use to minimize the impact of travelers using their cell phones inflight, such as noise canceling headphones and headset/earphone(s) with built in microphones? While this may be impractical now there may be an eventual hardware solution. We seem to remember international planes equipped with older IFE handsets that had the satellite phone hardware at the seat built into a game controller – those devices and their attendant social issues never seem to have surfaced.
  5. While upper classes (Business & First) may be a good place to start cell voice implementation because of the passenger interspatial distance; the class/price perception may not permit it. At the same time, a cell phone usage permission only in coach may be considered a penalty for a lower priced ticket, which leads us to believe the following: A.) The airlines have to give up something to accommodate cell phone usage on flights like baggage fees or ticket price (Then why have it, you might correctly ask?), B.) There needs to be a way to accommodate the need to talk on the phone in the air BUT there also needs to be a way to prevent the mis-users from further degrading the flying experience, C.) If cell usage is permitted in the United States an aggressive public relations campaign will be mandatory, emphasizing positive scenarios where cell phone usage has benefited those onboard (think life saving advice from the ground) or a positive feedback has been received from travelers who have needed the service en route and communicated that message to the airline (in writing). One thing is for certain; if voice calls are allowed the service will most assuredly experience some extreme growing pains on this continent.

Lastly, since there is legislation afoot in the US to prohibit in-flight calling, we will all have to see if cooler heads prevail but until then, keep texting because you can!

If you are going to CES in Las Vegas (Jan. 7 – 10, 2014) you don’t want to miss the panel discussion on January 9, 2014, 10-11 a.m. LVCC, North Hall N254 entitled “Change is in the Air: New Policies for Using Consumer Electronics on Airplanes” an APEX/CES partnership event. Here is the description: Following an advisory committee’s report, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that airlines can safely expand the use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight. How has this decision been implemented and what should passengers expect when they travel this year? Does this new policy create new market opportunities for CE companies? How are various stakeholder groups, including policymakers, responding? Is this a catch-up policy for the United States or a new example for other regions to follow? Fasten your seatbelts and join this session to hear the latest on this popular topic.” Panelists include: Bill de Groh, Chairman, Aircraft Design and Operations Group, Air Line Pilots Association, International Kirk Thornburg, Managing Director, Engineering, Quality, Technology & Training, Delta Air Lines, Julius Knapp, Chief of Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC, Ian Dawkins, CEO, OnAir, Timothy Shaver, Branch Manager, Avionics Maintenance Branch, Federal Aviation Administration, Chuck Cook, Manager, Fleet Programs and Technology, JetBlue Airways. And you can bet there will be a push for in-flight telephony but we suspect if they open the floor for comments/questions there will be some very divided opinions on the topic!

According to MSNBC, the TSA is going to increase your US trip by $5.60 next year. Meaningless travel caresses now have a price!

In case you were wondering about historic IFE, you might want to bet your drinking partners when the first in-flight movie was shown – It was in 1925 during a London/Paris flight on Imperial Airways. The Guinness record book claims that it starred Wallace Beery (apropos last name) and was silent… the movie, not the flight!

You probably have the Google Search app on your iPad or iPhone or Android device because it just works… very well. The search now contains Google Now and if you opt in (It’s on the opening page of Google Search – just swipe up) your will find that the Google folks have integrated the search capability into your life with notifications, flight information and reminders, arrival notifications, location oriented restaurants, theaters (and whatever), not to mention event items that you searched for but might have forgotten. It’s like the smart friend you never had in school because they weren’t cool!

Lastly, if you forgot to get some Christmas cards, this one is interactive. Send if you choose, but if you are not a fan of “cute” you might want to skip this one!

Geneva, Switzerland | December 12, 2013–

Ahead of today’s FCC meeting, OnAir  supports the FCC’s proposal  to revise outdated rules by allowing airlines to permit passenger use of cell phones services during flights. It paves the way for U.S. passengers to have the same inflight connectivity choices as passengers everywhere else in the world.

“Over four and a half million passengers use OnAir inflight connectivity each year and what is very striking is that there has not been one single complaint about disruption caused by phone calls,” said Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir. “Mobile OnAir is available on every continent apart from North America. People from all over the world, including Americans, use it every day.”

Passengers typically use Mobile OnAir, OnAir’s inflight cell phone service, for data – largely email – to update Facebook and Twitter, and for text messaging. Voice calls, which cost around $3-$4 per minute, account for slightly over 10% of total inflight usage and the average call length is under two minutes.

“Based on the factual evidence of six years of inflight cell phone usage around the world, I can be absolutely clear that there is nothing to fear from the use of cell phones during flights,” said Dawkins.

Mobile OnAir has flown with more than 25 airlines on hundreds of thousands of flights across the world since 2007, with the full backing of over 100 national authorities.

OnAir’s airline customers include world-leading global airlines such as Aeroflot, British Airways, Emirates, Philippine Airlines, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines. Mobile OnAir is currently on around 16,000 flights a month and 380,000 passengers connect to OnAir each month.

“Since the FCC first announced its plan to change the rules, lots of people in the US have made it clear they think voice calls shouldn’t be allowed on aircraft, including some politicians seeking to impose a draconian ban on inflight calls. We will of course oppose such legislation, based on the facts of six years’ experience,” continued Dawkins. “However, we do understand the concerns: we had exactly the same thoughts when we began developing the service ten years ago. That is why we included a feature that allows the cabin crew and pilots to turn off the voice element, for example during quiet times such as the plane’s night or during safety announcements.”

Positive action by the FCC would clear the technical telecoms hurdles to give airlines the option of installing cellular inflight connectivity systems. Airlines would decide whether to offer voice services, along with email, data, and text; they are in control of what services they offer their passengers. For the first time, U.S. airlines would be able to offer cellular services, as their international competitors have been doing for six years.

 

The Closed Caption Working Group (CCWG) of the APEX Technology Committee will have until 25 August 2014 to issue its final comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on that agency’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) requiring the use of closed captions on inflight video, according to announcements made at the APEX Technology Conference held in Newport Beach, California, on 19-20 November by CCWG chair Jonathan Norris and APEX TC chair Michael Childers.

This was one of a wide range of topics covered by the Technology Committee at its annual fall conference. Additional topics included a keynote address by Doug Johnson, VP technology of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA); a final report from the APEX representatives to the Federal Aviation Administration’s  (FAA’s) Portable Electronic Device (PED) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC); a Seat and IFE Integration Workshop; a DO-307 Tutorial on Front Door and Back Door PED Emission Testing; a report on the Entertainment Identifier Registry Association (EIDR) by the Metadata Working Group; an update by the HD Working Group on APEX 0403 1080p standardization; a report on off-aircraft and inflight connectivity; an update from the ARINC Cabin Systems Subcommittee; and a report on how social media is helping to shape Southwest’s inflight Wi-Fi strategy.

The APEX Closed Caption Working Group (CCWG) is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to represent the IFE industry’s issues as the DOT decides on the scope of the requirements, and the technologies that might be codified by the agency, CCWG chair Jonathan Norris, and APEX TC chair and APEX board member Michael Childers told IFExpress.

The DOT’s original NPRM requiring closed captions on all videos on aircraft flying in and out of the U.S. was issued in 2006, but was tabled in early 2009 after the DOT and APEX (then WAEA) reviewed the state of closed caption technology as of that time. Referring to the reports of APEX, IATA, and the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), DOT concluded that closed caption technology circa 2006-2009 could not be implemented practically in IFE.

However, citing a timeline provided to the agency by APEX in 2006, DOT followed up for the maturation of these technologies with the result that the NPRM has been re-issued and APEX has once again engaged with DOT. The biggest difference between the state of closed captioning in 2006 versus today, according to Norris and Childers, is that new IFE installations today are based on MPEG-4 platforms that support Timed Text captions versus the MPEG-1/2 platforms of a decade ago that began supporting bitmap (“rendered image”) captions around 2007.

Among the issues, according to the CCWG report, is that while most of today’s IFE installations are MPEG-4, there are still more MPEG-1/2 files delivered today in IFE because of the preponderance of legacy systems. Therefore the CCWG will seek to ensure that the current APEX 0403 bitmap closed captioning standard is at least grandfathered, while Timed Text may also be included.

Other closed captioning issues include:

  • Since closed captions are more plentiful in North America than in certain other regions, the CCWG is considering a proposal that allows for closed captions to be required on an agreed percentage of content—particularly on non-US carriers—rather than on all content.
  • Certain kinds of short content—like ads and movie trailers—are generally not closed captioned in other markets, so the CCWG will seek a category of content to be excluded from the rule.
  • The definition of captioning is the conversion of audio dialogue into text dialogue in the same language, plus descriptions of certain non-dialogue sounds. The CCWG will seek clarification that there is not an expectation that non-English languages be converted to English.

Just prior to the TC Conference, the DOT confirmed to the TC that it has changed its NPRM Publication Date to 26 June 2014 and the end of the comment period to 25 August 2014. This will allow the WG more time to prepare its recommendations and to further engage with DOT.

High Definition Working Group

In a report from the High Definition Working Group (HDWG), Bryan Rusenko, formerly of Technicolor, announced that additional work was needed to reach consensus on a security solution for 1080p, with the result that this modification to APEX 0403 was not voted on during the TC Conference. Rusenko, and HDWG co-chair Pierre Schuberth of Thales, will attempt to find consensus by the May TC Conference.

Consumer Electronics

In his keynote address to the TC Conference, CEA VP Technology, Doug Johnson, said that CEA predicts that the percentage of adults buying technology gifts during the 2013 holiday season will be 64 percent, the highest ever and up from 62 percent in 2012. As recently as 2010 his number was just 49 percent. He also said that the number of mobile devices purchased in this category will continue to grow, and that 50 percent of consumers will use a mobile device to help them shop for tech this year.

Johnson also said that the hottest trends at the 2014 CES in January will be wireless & wireless devices, integrated home/connected home technologies, and lifestyle electronics.

DO-307 Tutorial

One of the best-received presentations at the TC Conference was an RTCA D0-307 Tutorial by Billy Martin, Principal Engineer, at Cessna Aircraft Company, a member of the FAA PED ARC along with Rich Salter and Michael Childers of APEX. Martin explained that all electronic devices have spurious RF emissions and that interference with aircraft receivers is possible if:

  • The RF emissions have high enough amplitude
  • The RF emissions occur at the aircraft radio tuned frequency
  • The path loss between the PED and the antenna is low

He also explained that any electronic device can have RF emissions (these are not due to intentional transmitters), and that they can affect sensitive aircraft radio receivers through their antennas. This is called “front-door coupling.” DO-307 defines minimum (or Target) Interference Path loss between PEDs and the aircraft antenna connector at the radio receiver. Aircraft that demonstrate Target Interference Path Loss (Target IPL) have tolerance to PED front-door interference.

As for “back door interference,” Martin explained that a tabulation of all equipment and qualification D0-160 Categories or HIRF Certification can be reviewed and maintained. This listing can be used to compare with other installations and be used to approve the equipment to backdoor tolerance.

Southwest reports on entertainment portal, social media

Angelo Vargo, Manager Product Development, at Southwest Airlines, used the occasion to announce that Southwest has begun permitting the use of PEDs from gate-to-gate. Southwest currently has 440 Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft via Row 44, consisting of 75 percent of its fleet. Over 2 million passengers visit the Southwest portal each month to use Wi-Fi, live TV, VOD and messaging.
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Thats the Spirit! “I’ve made friends at airports because I carry with me a cheap $4 extension cord with multiple outlets (5). I can plug it into one of those charging stations and power up my own laptop and then share the rest of the outlets with other travelers. Makes for interesting conversations at times. Best $4 Home Depot investment I have made to date.” – Ken Lew, Thales.

  • Southwest is first and only carrier in the U.S. to offer the service to passengers

Los Angeles, CA | November 21, 2013– Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq: ENT) announced today the availability of its Wi-Fi service to passengers gate to gate on Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV). Southwest is the first and only airline to offer its passengers a gate-to-gate Wi-Fi service because the airline uses Global Eagle’s satellite-based connectivity platform, which was optimized from the beginning to work in all phases of flight, including on the ground.

On October 31st, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruled that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight. The inflight Wi-Fi service provided to Southwest by Global Eagle harnesses the power of Ku-band satellite connectivity, which was designed for continuous operation at all phases of flight.

Now available on more than 435 Wi-Fi-equipped Southwest aircraft, the design of the system supported an immediate roll-out, making it available for use by more than 100 million passengers each year.

“Southwest has always been exceptional in terms of providing the services that both differentiate them within the market and truly provide a better experience for the millions of loyal Customers they serve,” said John LaValle, Chief Executive Officer of Global Eagle Entertainment. “As the only domestic carrier with active satellite-based Wi-Fi, they have yet again raised the bar. We are proud to provide the service that allows their passengers to stay connected to the web, and use their portable electronic devices to access the entertainment they love through all phases of flight.”

“Our ability to provide the best Customer Experience possible is now even more enhanced with our ability to offer onboard Wi-Fi from gate-to-gate,” said Kevin Krone, Southwest Airlines Chief Marketing Officer. “Global Eagle has been an outstanding partner, and their ability to offer the service in such an expedited and efficient manner has been a tremendous asset. Our inflight entertainment service is truly unmatched in the business.”

  • Certification is for broadband and streaming entertainment system

Melbourne, FL | September 26, 2013– 

LiveTV, the leading innovator of inflight entertainment and connectivity solutions, has received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for Boeing 737-900 aircraft from the Federal Aviation Administration to install satellite-based next generation Ka-band inflight airline internet and streaming entertainment systems. LiveTV has the ability to use this certification for all airlines operating 737-900 fleets.  This STC comes less than one month after receiving similar FAA STC approval for Airbus A320 installations that will be first used aboard JetBlue Airways aircraft.

“We are leading the industry by bringing the fastest inflight connectivity to our customers,” said Glenn Latta, President of LiveTV.  “Our connectivity experience will revolutionize the inflight internet use for flights across North America and Europe.”

“Our Ka-band satellite-based technology pioneered by ViaSat is finding new applications with more airlines,” said ViaSat Chairman and CEO Mark Dankberg. “Working with LiveTV, we believe this next-generation capability will grow in popularity the more travelers use it.”   The new ViaSat-1 Ka-band satellite is substantially faster and more economical than traditional Ku and Air-To-Ground technologies.

– Passenger Choice Awards provide airlines with valuable passenger opinions about the entire flight experience

New York, NY | May 20, 2013– If only airlines could read their passengers’ minds. They can come close with the Passenger Choice Awards! As the FAA contemplates rules related to portable electronic devices, the traveling public can weigh in on every aspect of the trip any time they would like by participating in this airline-focused awards program. In addition to getting recognition for doing what works, airlines have the benefit of seeing exactly what moves passengers one way or the other.

The Passenger Choice Awards were created to recognize airline achievements in the passenger experience and to give airlines useful data on how flyers view specific services. The program gives passengers a virtual hotline to airlines to keep them in the know on what’s working and what needs improving – meaning the passenger voice can be heard with each and every flight.

“This is valuable information that is specific to our airline, coming from the people who travel with us,” said Alfy Veretto, Manager of IFE and Partnerships for Virgin America. Virgin America took home the 2012 award for Best Overall Passenger Experience (Up to 50 IFE Equipped in Fleet) and several other Passenger Choice Awards. “In this industry, finding ways to improve the passenger experience is always evolving. The more information we have, the better the experience becomes.”

The survey, available year-round at www.passengerchoiceawards.com, is customizable and asks passengers to rate aspects of the travel experience that are applicable to them. Questions cover ticketing, ground experience, comfort, inflight entertainment and more. Results are tabulated by ratings and research specialists at The Nielsen Company, and results are sent to participating airlines.

Travelers can fill out the survey multiple times and are encouraged to do so every time they fly. Awards categories include inflight publications, connectivity and communications, food and beverage, informational videos and entertainment, cabin ambiance and pre-departure experience. Past winners include Southwest Airlines (Best Inflight Publication), Norwegian (Best Inflight Connectivity & Communications) and Singapore Airlines (Best Food & Beverage).

Join the conversation! Become a fan of the Passenger Choice Awards on Facebook and follow the awards on Twitter for air travel tips and information, and updates about the Passenger Choice Awards!

Washington | January 18, 2013/PRNewswire/– Did heads of the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) put their credibility at risk, and perhaps air safety, too, when they reiterated their support of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner program prior to FAA’s grounding of the US fleet?

In an editorial analysis entitled, “Too Close for Comfort?” to be published in the February issue of Air Transport World, Editor-in-Chief Karen Walker observes as reports of onboard lithium-ion battery fires flared this week, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta seemed unnaturally quick to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner and defend the aircraft, even as they were announcing a review of its design and production.

“It was not without personal risk that LaHood and Huerta made public statements of their confidence in the aircraft’s safety before the reviews are concluded,” writes Walker.

Regardless of the cause of the fires or outcome of any investigation, she says, “the value of FAA’s safety review would be all the more credible had it begun from the position of clear and unequivocal independence.”

Click here to request an advance copy of Walker’s editorial analysis. Please attribute any citations to “Air Transport World, February 2013.”

>- Industry Experts to Tackle Issue of Government Regulations and Inflight Safety with APEX-moderated Panel Discussion

New York | January 7, 2013– The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) – in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Association – will lead an in-depth panel discussion on how legislative developments in the United States could significantly change the inflight experience for the traveling public. As the leading global organization devoted to the inflight experience, APEX has teamed up with CEA to present “Taking Flight: New Approaches to the Use of Consumer Electronics on Airplanes” at the 2013 international CES in Las Vegas, Nev. USA.

The 2013 International CES will be 7 through 10 January, and the APEX/CEA panel discussion will be 14:30 – 15:30 10 January as part of the CES Innovation Policy Summit.

“The APEX panel session this year will be especially interesting, considering the U.S. government’s current review of policies related to personal electronic devices and air travel,” said Lauren Beneri, APEX director for programs and services. “Our panelists will offer a range of unique perspectives as they compare restrictions in the United States with regulations elsewhere.”

In response to consumer interest, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last year formed a group of government and industry professionals to study existing laws pertaining to use of portable electronic devices onboard aircraft. For years, the United States has limited, and in some cases prohibited, use of certain devices inflight for fear of possible electronic interference and other safety concerns. The U.S. Congress, however, ordered the FAA to re-examine that policy to determine when electronic devices can safely be used during flight.

As an association, APEX is devoted to enhancing the passenger experience.

The APEX/CEA panel discussion will break down how restrictive policies have impacted the airline industry. Moderated by Jonathan Norris, executive director, APEX Media Platforms, the panel will cover such topics as innovation, passenger convenience and potential regional disadvantages resulting from current law. The panel will include the following speakers:

Pal Bjordal – President & CEO, AeroMobile
Patrick Brannelly – Vice President, Corporate Communications, Product, Publishing, Digital & Events, Emirates Airlines
Kate Hanni – Founder, FlyersRights.org
Paul Misener – Vice President, Global Public Policy, Amazon.com
Captain Derek Spicer – Senior Training Captain