APEX Insight: Who says low-cost carriers can’t deliver entertainment for everyone on board? Sun Country, amid its shift to a new structure and operating profile, is retiring its limited deployment of rental tablets in favor of AirFi’s new wireless in-flight entertainment platform.
Sun Country Airlines will become the global launch customer for AirFi’s latest wireless in-flight entertainment variant. Starting in January 2019, the Minneapolis-St.Paul-based low-cost carrier will stream media aboard its 25 Boeing 737 aircraft using a new fully autonomous, semi-embedded (F.A.S.E.) solution from AirFi that requires zero interaction from the crew to operate and update.
The AirFi Boxes operate fully autonomously and use ADS-B and pressure sensors on board to control system operations, including when connected to public Wi-Fi networks and when performing other maintenance tasks.
A trio of AirFi’s Venus servers will be installed on each aircraft in Sun Country’s fleet and will remain fully autonomous from that point onward. The hardware is aircraft-powered, removing the battery challenges of earlier models. The systems will also be able to update content dynamically using cellular modems when on the ground. During the content update cycle, the Venus hardware offloads performance and payment data.
Brian Davis, Sun Country Airlines’ chief marketing officer, said the changing dynamics of passenger expectations, even on low cost carriers, influenced its decision to offer wireless IFE. “Passengers have come to expect a digital onboard entertainment offering as part of our in-flight experience and so a fully-managed wireless IFE service suited our future needs best.”
“Our challenge for this project was to elevate the onboard passenger experience without impacting our cost base, alongside our seat densification program to increase passenger load across the network.” – Brian Davis, Sun Country Airlines
While Sun Country Airlines will offer some free content for passengers, it will also charge a fee to access some premium content. “Our challenge for this project was to elevate the onboard passenger experience without impacting our cost base, alongside our seat densification program to increase passenger load across the network,” said Davis.
The deal with Sun Country comes in addition to a contract that AirFi secured with Bahamasair, the flag carrier of the Bahamas, to install Venus Box battery-powered systems on the airline’s four Boeing 737s. AirFi also announced it is opening a new office in Irvine, California, for its AirFi America division to support its airline customers in North America and drive further growth.
That growth will not only come from airlines, according to Eli Atiya, AirFi’s COO. Atiya believes that the new offices in Irvine, California, represent “[A] fantastic opportunity for AirFi America to really accelerate our footprint in this hugely significant market, both in aviation and other mass transit industries.” AirFi also opened a new headquarters in the Netherlands earlier this year.