AirAsia Group hits another milestone with GX Aviation

In September 2017, just six months after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Inmarsat and AirAsia, through its subsidiary ROKKI, agreed a landmark deal. The deal was to install Inmarsat’s revolutionary high-speed broadband service, GX Aviation, on more than 120 of AirAsia’s Airbus aircraft.

The innovative Malaysian airline group flies to 165 destinations across 25 countries. This forms the most extensive network across Asia and Australia and comprises nine affiliate airlines: AirAsia Berhad (Malaysia), AirAsia Indonesia, Thai AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsia India, AirAsia Japan, AirAsia X, Thai AirAsia X and Indonesia AirAsia X. Last year AirAsia was named as “World’s Best Low-Cost Airline” for the 10th successive year in the row by Skytrax.

AirAsia Group’s visionary founder and Group CEO, Tony Fernandes, bought the then-ailing airline for the token sum of RM1 (approx. USD 0.25 cents) in 2001, and within two years had paid off the carrier’s RM40 million debt (approximately $9m). Since then, the airline has gone from strength to strength, a fact underlined when it was announced that it was to become the first Asian low-cost carrier to fly to American airports.

The deal with Inmarsat, covering all existing and future Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft across AirAsia Group, also includes long-haul operator AirAsia X. Additionally, it has the scope to include any further aircraft types due for delivery in years to come, like the Airbus A330NEO.

To put the potential future scale of this deal into context, according to CAPA Centre for Aviation, low-cost carriers now account for 29% of total seat capacity within the Asia Pacific region, up from 14% a decade ago. That translates to 600 million seats in 2018 alone, with further rapid expansion predicted in the next few years. AirAsia is also Asia’s foremost low-cost airline and Airbus’ biggest customer with over 400 A320NEO and A330NEO aircraft on order.

Inmarsat Aviation President Philip Balaam, was particularly effusive about the deal, not least because of AirAsia’s large order book. He said: “The scale of this contract, covering more than 120 existing aircraft and one of the industry’s largest order books for additional aircraft, showcases our status as a global market leader in advanced inflight broadband. Inmarsat has the fastest growing service uptake in our market, with more than 1,500 aircraft under signed contracts for our GX and EAN IFC services, with a further 450 aircraft for committing to GX hardware via third party suppliers.”

Balaam continued: “AirAsia Group is one of the aviation industry’s leading innovators and we are delighted that GX Aviation will play a key role in their future service offering.”

Tony Fernandes also pointed out the benefits of this milestone deal, commenting: “GX Aviation will form the backbone of AirAsia’s digital cabin offering. By delivering inflight connectivity that’s indistinguishable from what you get on-ground, our guests will be able to stay connected in ways that matter to them, whether it’s streaming movies or music, checking social media, messaging friends or catching up with work emails”.

“Coupled with our ROKKI entertainment and e-commerce platform featuring free movies, music, articles and games as well as shopping, AirAsia guests will soon be able to enjoy one of the richest digital inflight experiences in Asia, while also enhancing our knowledge of our guests with very rich data.”

GX Aviation's market-leading capabilities means that Inmarsat can provide airlines with tailored, scalable capacity by designing, owning and operating a global network of High-Throughput Satellites (HTS). GX Aviation is the world’s first in-flight connectivity solution with seamless, reliable high-speed global coverage provided through a single operator and offering guaranteed minimum data rates.

The connectivity revolution just took another huge leap forward for APAC passengers and it won’t be long before AirAsia officially launches commercial service, promoting the fact that “Now that Everyone Can Fly”, connected.