– Travelers flying on Alaska Airlines starting this fall will enjoy new aircraft seats that feature a personal space-enhancing design and are equipped with power outlets.

Seattle, WA | April 23, 2013/PRNewswire/– Travelers flying on Alaska Airlines starting this fall will enjoy new aircraft seats that feature a personal space-enhancing design and are equipped with power outlets. The airline is also nearing a decision on an enhanced inflight entertainment system that will allow customers to watch movies, television shows and other programming streamed to any Wi-Fi-enabled device.

The $100 million project to upgrade the cabins on all of Alaska’s Boeing 737-800, -900 and -900ER aircraft is expected to be finished by the end of 2014.

“Passengers have responded very favorably to the innovative and comfortable Recaro seats on our 737-900ERs. Two other features we know they want the most are power for their electronic devices and enhanced inflight entertainment,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing. “Upgrading our other Next Generation 737 aircraft with Recaro seats, along with adding seat power and an improved inflight entertainment system, will complement our award-winning personal service and make flying more enjoyable for our customers.”

Alaska Airlines became the North America launch customer for the main cabin Recaro seat when the carrier took delivery of its first Boeing 737-900ER in November 2012. The seat’s slimmer design and location of the literature pocket at the top of the seatback enables Alaska to reconfigure its cabins while maintaining the same passenger comfort standards and personal space that are on its aircraft today. Six seats will be added to the airline’s 737-800s and nine seats to its 737-900s.

Alaska will be the only U.S. airline to provide power outlets at every seat on its equipped aircraft, which will include nearly three-quarters of the fleet. The outlets, supplying both 110-volt and USB power for tablets and smart phones, will be conveniently located on the seatback in front of each passenger.

The inflight entertainment solution under consideration will allow programming to be streamed wirelessly from a server onboard the aircraft to any Wi-Fi-enabled device, including passengers’ own laptops, tablets and smart phones as well as tablets provided by Alaska.

After reconfiguring its aircraft, Alaska Airlines’ 737-800s will accommodate 163 passengers (16 in first class and 147 in the main cabin). The carrier’s 737-900s will accommodate 181 passengers (16 in first class and 165 in the main cabin). Its 737-900ERs, which are not being reconfigured with more seats, also accommodate 16 passengers in first class and 165 in the main cabin. Alaska Airlines’ aircraft will provide passengers with the current fleet standard seat pitch of 31 to 32 inches and 3 inches of recline.

Leave it to the German early adopters, Lufthansa and Condor, to roll-out a new Wi-Fi-based inflight entertainment system in Europe. Dependent on your own personal entertainment device (iPad, Tablet, iPhone, Android phone, etc,) if it has Wi-Fi, your entertainment system is in your pocket. The BoardConnect System from Lufthansa Systems is being installed on 2 in-service aircraft as a litmus test of the demand for this offering. IFExpress contacted Condor’s Rainer Kroepke, Head of Product Management and Marketing at Condor Flugdienst GmbH. “In-flight entertainment is an important part of the travel experience and a way to stand out from the competition, particularly in the tourism industry,” said Mr. Kröpke. “BoardConnect opens up entirely new possibilities for us. In addition, the system costs much less to install and operate than other solutions.”

We asked a few questions about BoardConnect and here is what Kroepke told us:

Q: How many (Condor) aircraft will eventually have the new entertainment System?

A: “We will implement the system in the two wide body airplanes that we are about to integrate into our fleet. According to the customer feedback, crew experience, and that of our crew and technical support, there is a high probability that we will eventually have the system on our whole fleet. We are planning to fly with the new IFE system beginning of summer 2011 so it is a little early for passenger reviews and therefore we cannot provide any comments on performance yet. However, everybody is excited about the world premiere of this system.”

Q: Can you describe a little bit about the on-demand delivery to any Wi-Fi enabled device?

A: “We plan to offer our Comfort Class passengers tablet type devices during flight. Premium Economy and Economy class passengers can access the system by using their own devices (PC, phones, laptops…) and will be able to watch movies on overhead screens. In the first phase, Condor will not have a data link into the Internet.”

Q: Does Condor plan to offer seat-based displays?

A: “Condor does not plan to install in-seat displays. However, BoardConnect from Lufthansa Systems offers those as well. All content is streamed directly to the devices in DRM (Digital Rights Management) encrypted form. At any given time only 20 seconds of a movie will reside in the devices memory, be decrypted and displayed.”

Q: How many seats/mobile units/streams does the system support?

A: “As many as we have seats on our airplane and more. For the long haul aircraft, that would be 270 seats.”

Q: We assume Lufthansa Technik will perform the installation. Where is this done?

A: “We are in the final stage in discussions about the question where we will be installing the hardware. Due to the simplicity of the system this can easily be installed.”

Q: Do you have any idea how long the IFE part of the installation takes?

A: “The installation does not take a lot of time. As Condor does not plan to install in-seat screens, the system can be up and running within 6-8 hours.”

Q: Will this system be announced/displayed at AIX in Hamburg ?

A: “Lufthansa Systems does not plan to showcase the system at AIX in Hamburg. But we can arrange a demonstration of the system at the Lufthansa Systems’ facilities in Frankfurt.”

Q: Do you have a picture of the screen GUI and does Condor charge passengers for any part of this service?

A: “I will gladly send a picture of a possible GUI. We are still working on the question what content will be delivered. In any case, the largest part will be free in our Comfort Class and Premium Economy. All movies shown in our overhead screens will be free to all passengers with the added comfort of watching them on demand via their own devices.”

Q: How many Network Wireless Access Points (NWAP’s) per airplane type are planned?

A: “Each access point covers around 100 devices. For our B767 aircraft we plan to install four to five access points.”

Q: Are any seats, equipped with external in-seat power?

A: “All seats in Comfort Class already feature in-seat power.

IFExpress greatly appreciates the help in bring our readers this story and would like to thank Johannes Winter and Rainer Kroepke for their assistance in bringing it to you. Further, they provided a graphic of their system for better understanding.

Contact information:
Condor Product Marketing: rainer.kroepke@condor.com
Condor Communication: Johannes.winter@condor.com
Lufthansa Systems Communication: sandra.hammer@LHsystems.com