APEX2011: Virgin America opts for BoardConnect technology on new Red IFE system

Virgin America has chosen Lufthansa Systems’s BoardConnect platform, as the technology partner for the next generation of the airline’s Red in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.The news of the cooperation was unveiled at APEX 2011 in Seattle where both the airline and IFE solution providerclaimed this latest IFE system will be the first of its kind in the domestic skies. Under development and due for launch in late 2012, the latest Red platform will offer a new approach to in-flight entertainment, with hybrid technology that will give travellers a variety of ways to play, interact, connect and be entertained at 35,000 feet – similar to the multi-faceted consumer technologies they have access to in their lives on the ground. Virgin America is the first U.S. carrier to use the innovative technology foundation developed by Lufthansa Systems.Lufthansa Systems state that BoardConnect is a cost-efficient, easy-to-install system which replaces complex legacy in-flight entertainment solutions via an onboard WiFi network. It will allow Virgin America to build a next iteration of Red that offers a larger, high-definition touch-screen seatback monitor with full WiFi connectivity and a breadth of content, along with the ability for passengers to use their own personal electronic devices to connect to the system pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight. This month, Virgin America launches back-end testing of the new platform on its first aircraft, a new Airbus A320 aptly named: #nerdbird.“The idea behind Red has always been to reinvent the flight experience, by offering travellers more options, more control, more content and more interactivity,” commented David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America. “Our focus on innovation is a core part of our business model and guest offering, and BoardConnect will allow us to not only leap even further ahead of the airline pack, but also pace the larger consumer trends in mobile technology. We now have the architecture we need to design a dynamic entertainment experience that is the next logical iteration of Red.”Although back-end testing of the new system by the technical experts at Virgin America and Lufthansa Systems is already underway on one aircraft, the airline plans to roll out the new Red platform for guests starting in late 2012. Even with further design details and functionality for the new system still under development, the new Red platform will be entirely interactive, connective and entertaining – with content and services offered both via the seatback system and passengers’ personal electronic devices.“We’re pleased to announce that an airline known for its unique design, inventiveness and the quality of its entertainment experience will be the launch partner for BoardConnect,” declared CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa Systems, Stefan Hansen. “BoardConnect opens a new world of opportunities for airlines and their passengers. BoardConnect gives airlines an unprecedented degree of flexibility to develop new entertainment applications as well as to create new sources of ancillary revenue.”Instead of connecting every single seat to the content server through several miles of cables, BoardConnect requires just a few access points, offering travellers and airlines multiple hybrid options that make better use of off-aircraft bandwidth.“Our travellers want connectivity yes, but they also want access to more media content and services that will improve their trip. We were the first airline to offer WiFi fleetwide as of May 2009, yet we’ve seen use of Red only grow since then. We want to give our travellers more options instead of fewer, including the ability to multi-task across platforms – just as they do in their lives on the ground,” added Cush.In the 2011 APEX awards, Virgin America’s current Red entertainment platform won the “Best In-flight Entertainment in the Americas,” “Best In-Flight Video” and “Best Overall Passenger Experience.”

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