APEX 2011: Virgin America chooses Lufthansa Systems for Red IFE upgrade

Virgin America has selected Lufthansa Systems as its technology partner for the next iteration of its Red inflight entertainment system, with the IT provider’s main input being based on its BoardConnect platform.

The two companies have declared that the new platform will be “the first of its kind in the domestic skies”. The launch of the upgraded Red is due in late 2012. Already under development, Virgin America says the new platform will offer a new approach to inflight entertainment, with hybrid technology that will give passengers 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.

BoardConnect, according to Lufthansa Systems, is a cost-efficient, easy-to-install system which replaces complex legacy inflight entertainment systems via an onboard WiFi network. It will allow Virgin America to build the next iteration of Red so that it offers the best of both worlds – a larger, high-definition touchscreen seatback monitor with full WiFi connectivity and broad curated content, along with the ability for customers to use their own personal electronic devices to connect to the system pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight.

During September, Virgin America will launch 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,” explained David Cush, president and CEO of Virgin America. “Even though we believe that Red has raised the bar and is still head and shoulders above anything else in the US skies, we’re not the kind of company that rests on our laurels. 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.”

“We’re pleased that an airline known for its unique design, inventiveness and the quality of its entertainment experience will be the launch partner for BoardConnect,” commented Stefan Hansen, CEO and chairman of Lufthansa Systems. “BoardConnect opens a new world of opportunities for airlines and their passengers. It gives airlines an unprecedented degree of flexibility to develop new entertainment applications as well as to create new sources of ancillary revenue.”
Most current IFE solutions are complex and hard-wired, making them expensive to purchase and install, difficult to maintain and often inflexible in use, says Lufthansa Systems. Instead of connecting every single seat to the content server through several miles of cables, BoardConnect requires just a few access points.

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