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The first Inmarsat GX-equipped Boeing 787-9 was delivered on December 18. Image: Norwegian

Norwegian and Collins Aerospace, a United Technologies subsidiary, today announced the rollout of high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi for passengers traveling between Europe, the US, South America and Asia. The first Inmarsat GX-equipped Boeing 787-9 was delivered on December 18. Mid-January will see the first connected 737 MAX enter service, and a tiered payment model means free basic connectivity for all on board.

Gate to gate, Europe to America, and free. That’s the plan for Norwegian’s new in-flight connectivity offering, powered by Inmarsat’s GX network using Collins Aerospace’s CabinConnect platform. The carrier officially activated the solution on its first 787-9 today, with more than 50 percent of the Dreamliner fleet slated to offer connectivity by 2020. The system will also be installed on the company’s 737 MAX aircraft starting later this month.

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Norwegian passengers can choose between Basic and Premium Wi-Fi packages. Image: Norwegian

“We’re an innovative airline that’s introducing brand new long-haul aircraft to our fleet as well as enhancing our global network to meet customer demand,” said Boris Bubresko, vice-president, Business Development for Norwegian. “Providing our passengers with the most reliable and robust in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity is very important to us. We’re delighted to work with Collins which will support our long-haul connectivity needs as we continue to enhance the Norwegian passenger experience globally.”

The long-haul aircraft join Norwegian’s 737 NG fleet in offering free basic connectivity, and mean the airline has become the first low-cost carrier to offer free Wi-Fi on longer flights and will be the only airline offering free browsing across the Atlantic. Passengers wanting to stream movies, music and television shows on Netflix, YouTube and Hulu can purchase a premium high-speed Wi-Fi package.

Beyond elevating entertainment options for passengers, broadband connectivity will also deliver notable benefits to the flight deck. LeAnn Ridgeway, vice-president and general manager, Information Management Services, Collins Aerospace, highlighted the electronic flight bag and weather service applications as initial key foci, with the system growing from there. “We are collaborating with Norwegian to achieve their vision of optimizing its aircraft and enterprise operations as well as integrating new capabilities going forward.”

Developing and supporting these back-office services is expected to significantly reduce costs for the airline while improving passenger comfort on board (e.g. avoiding clear air turbulence with real-time updates). These forecasts require significant data movement between aircraft and the ground, a volume best facilitated by broadband connectivity systems. Inmarsat’s GX for Aviation promises to meet that need.