Garuda joins the Asia Pacific connectivity revolution

GX Aviation selected for Indonesia’s national carrier

With news that Inmarsat’s GX Aviation has officially been selected by Indonesia’s national carrier, Garuda, the inflight connectivity market has started 2019 with a bang in Asia Pacific (APAC).

The announcement follows hot on the heels of 2018’s rapid uptick in inflight connectivity in the region.

That year saw an agreement finalised for GX Aviation on AirAsia's fleet of Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft; Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines continued their rollouts; the service was chosen for AirCalin's new fleet and Indonesian low-cost carrier Citilink (also part of the Garuda Indonesia Group) went from signing a contract to launching the service in record time.

As Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Asia Pacific has become one of our biggest markets for GX Aviation. The fact that Indonesia’s national airline and low-cost carrier have both selected the service within months of each other is testament to GX Aviation’s status as the global benchmark for inflight broadband.”

The announcement by Garuda marks the extension of an existing 10-year contract for wireless technology provider Mahata Aero Teknologi to provide the airline’s low-cost subsidiary Citilink with a GX enabled fleet, bringing the total commitment within the group to more than 175 aircraft.

As a Skytrax 5-star airline, it was important that we offered the best solution in the market...

Garuda Indonesia President Director, I Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra, said: “As a Skytrax 5-star airline, it was important that we offered the best solution in the market and we look forward to working with Inmarsat, MAT, Lufthansa Technik and Lufthansa Systems on the rollout.”

The innovative collaboration of partners that enabled GX Aviation to go live on Citilink’s first aircraft within six months of contract signing will be in operation again – to equip Garuda’s Airbus A320s, Airbus A330s, Boeing 737s and Boeing 777s with GX Aviation.

With Mahata driving the project, Lufthansa Technik will manage hardware, engineering, installation design and certification. Meanwhile Lufthansa Systems will be responsible for software platform and integration, based on its BoardConnect open architecture.

Last year saw some exciting developments for Inmarsat on the partnership front, with announcements of collaborations with Panasonic and Honeywell hitting the headlines. Chris Rogerson, Inmarsat Regional Director for APAC, believes that the innovative collaboration with Mahata, Lufthansa Technik and Lufthansa Systems is a prime example of the huge potential of effective partnerships.

“What was really impressive about Citilink’s installation was that the new guys on the block, Mahata, chose experts in each area to execute the installation. Partnering with Inmarsat, Lufthansa Technik and Lufthansa Systems – who are all experts in their fields and have done this hundreds of times before – meant the installation could be completed lightning fast,” said Rogerson.

“And Citilink played their part. They saw the importance of connectivity and over their busy Christmas period they made the aircraft available for us to install on.”

Inmarsat has huge confidence in the team, who will now take on the new installations for the wider Garuda Group.

“With the industry faced with the costs of installing inflight connectivity in a region with fast growing demand, it is important that airlines are able to start making a return on investment as quickly as possible,” Rogerson explains. “Innovative collaborations, such as the one we formed through MAT, enable not only high-speed installations but start to give a view of the wider digital ecosystem available to airlines, as the potential of inflight connectivity is explored.”

Mahata’s recent announcement of a partnership with online travel agent Ticket.com is a recent example of the kind of exploration of potential that Rogerson refers to. The technology provider hasn’t revealed further plans about where the partnership may lead at this stage, but has shown a continued focus on helping Citilink to monetise inflight broadband through advertising revenues.

Signing ceremony of Mahata Group and Tiket.com’s Strategic Partnership to support Citilink’s free inflight Wi-Fi service
Signing ceremony of Mahata Group and Tiket.com’s Strategic Partnership to support Citilink’s free inflight Wi-Fi service

“There are so many unconnected aircraft out there. So there are plenty for everyone in the connectivity marketplace to share,” Rogerson says. “But I think we are going to have to look outside the box a little bit to service airlines, in terms of what the partner ecosystem might look like. How to help airlines make the most of inflight broadband is something we are constantly exploring.”

Expectations for the future of inflight connectivity in the region have been set high – with passenger demand rising, creative collaborations being formed and growth showing no sign of abating. It’s shaping up to be a great year for innovation and expansion in APAC.