Image: Safran

Safran Passenger Innovations has accomplished an industry first: enabling all passengers on an aircraft to connect their personal Bluetooth headsets to an in-flight entertainment system – simultaneously. The announcement was made at APEX EXPO in Los Angeles today.

Along with this news, the aerospace manufacturer, formerly known as Zodiac Inflight Innovations, has revealed two customers for the feature on its RAVE Ultra IFE system: Lufthansa, which has selected to linefit 34 Boeing 777-9 aircraft with the system in four different configurations (with display sizes running up to 27 inches). And All Nippon Airways (ANA), which has chosen to retrofit 11 Boeing 787-8s that will operate domestic flights in Japan.

“Our team vigorously seeks ways to improve the passenger experience in the seat,” says Matt Smith, CEO of Safran Passenger Innovations, adding that RAVE Ultra, with integrated Bluetooth audio, creates an enhanced home entertainment experience in flight.

Previously, Bluetooth audio was only available to 20 passengers on board at a time – and using airline-provided headsets only. Having solved the problem of frequency interference when too many devices are paired inside the cabin by reducing the radio signal, Safran is the first to market with a solution for the entire cabin.

In addition to Bluetooth integration, RAVE Ultra packs a 4K screen and a close-to-edge display into a thin profile, 30 percent lighter than previous-generation hardware. Display sizes are available in 13.3, 15.6, 17.3, 24, 27 and 32 inches, however the Bluetooth audio is currently only integrated into the 13.3-inch displays. The larger displays, which are more likely to be found at premium-class seats, require the sensor to be installed closer to the passenger, and so uses a Bluetooth audio jack to provide passengers with a connection, a Safran spokesperson explained.

On the software side, RAVE Ultra offers airlines the ability to run third-party apps for an adaptable graphical user interface, and the platform employs the latest video compression and digital rights management technologies.

Safran says it is unclear which of the “several” customers it confirms it has won for RAVE Ultra will be first to fly with the system. Lufthansa’s website says its first 777-9 is expected to fly in the summer of 2020. And Safran says the first ANA aircraft equipped with RAVE Ultra is scheduled to enter service in the beginning of the first quarter of 2021. Additional deliveries are expected to continue into early 2022 for ANA with ongoing discussions about fitting the airline’s Airbus A320neo, A321neo and A380 fleets, which currently fly with the previous-generation RAVE IFE system.

RAVE Ultra will be on display at APEX EXPO at Booth #2142.