El Al and Viasat are working to get internet back on board the carrier’s Boeing 737 fleet “as soon as possible,” Tal Kalderon, head of inflight entertainment and connectivity, told Runway Girl Network.
In the meantime, the Israeli carrier has contracted Bluebox Aviation Systems to provide Bluebox Wow portable wireless entertainment units to ensure its 737 passengers can stream movies, TV, games and a mobile map to their own devices. A total of 26 El Al 737s will be equipped with the Wow system.
“The current forecast,” says Kalderon, “is that in October 2022 the first aircraft will be back in service” with Viasat connectivity. Thereafter, other 737 will follow.
Last year, the United States FAA published an Airworthiness Directive for certain 737-800 and -900ER series aircraft equipped with Viasat’s satellite in-flight connectivity system, after reports from the field that several of the fittings that secure the radome to the fuselage “were cracked to the point of failure” on aircraft modified under a very specific to Astronics-Armstrong.
In addition to the plane’s inspections, the AD required demobilization of the STC installation on the plane “prior to further flight”, leaving El Al without connectivity for its passengers. Together with Viasat, the carrier has worked to remedy the situation.
“We are in the process of upgrading the Internet systems of our 737 fleet. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi and Internet packages are not yet available on these aircraft,” El Al informs on its website. However, Viasat high-speed Internet is available on flights to and from Europe and North America. on all El Al 787 Dreamliners.
Since the modernized Viasat connectivity system includes the option to offer wireless IFE, El Al is also preparing to use Viasat’s W-IFE on board and is “already working on its design”, reveals Kalderon. The original connector and streaming entertainment deployed on the 737 includes the BoardConnect W-IFE solution from Lufthansa Systems.
The El Al executive explains:
As this is a long and complex process and in order not to leave our passengers without an IFE solution, El Al has decided to temporarily use the Bluebox portable streaming system solution.
Once the installation of the Viasat system is complete across the entire 737 fleet, we will discontinue use of the Wow system and transition to full use of the Viasat system.
The carrier’s agreement with Bluebox underscores the versatility of the portable, battery-powered wireless IFE boxes – they can be used as a long-term entertainment solution for passengers or even as a temporary measure.
“The pandemic has accelerated a change in behavior and expectations among passengers – they will expect a digital level of service on board, and yet the practical constraints of engineering certain types of technology on board aircraft may mean a gap between that expectation and delivery,” says Kevin, CEO of Bluebox. Clark in a statement.
He says the company is delighted that Kalderon and his team have decided to leverage “the cost and speed benefits of deploying the Bluebox Wow portable wireless IFE as an additional phase in their path to connectivity.” .
Bluebox’s software platform delivers digital services and content such as movies, TV, audio and games, streamed to passenger devices.
“With a remarkably low cost of ownership, Bluebox Wow is an unobtrusive, lunchbox-sized unit, typically stowed safely in overhead bins, that creates the captive on-board Wi-Fi network needed to provide digital services directly to passengers’ phones, tablets and laptops,” notes Bluebox, which has secured numerous customers from other airlines for this popular portable W-IFE solution.
Featured image credited to El Al