AirAsia goes live with GX Aviation

AirAsia’s Group CEO Tony Fernandes says utilising the gold standard of inflight broadband will help the innovative LCC realise its digital goals

The first commercial AirAsia flight equipped with next-generation inflight broadband has taken place. GX Aviation, Inmarsat’s award-winning connectivity solution, is now live with AirAsia onboard a number of initial aircraft.  

This milestone is significant for both companies. Tony Fernandes, AirAsia’s Group CEO, has made no secret of his desire to transform his airline into a fully-fledged digital operation and this commercial rollout brings that dream one step closer. For Inmarsat it demonstrates that – in its 40th anniversary year – it remains the pioneering world leader in global mobile satellite communications.

A free trial for passengers

GX Aviation, the world’s first and only global, high-speed inflight connectivity service delivered through a wholly-owned and operated network of high-throughput satellites, is currently being installed across the entire AirAsia Group’s Airbus A320 and A330 fleet, via its subsidiary ROKKI. To mark the commercial launch, the Malaysian carrier is offering a free trial of the new service to passengers on GX Aviation-equipped aircraft until 30 September 2019.

With inflight connectivity (IFC) now overwhelmingly seen as a must-have by flyers (as highlighted by Inmarsat’s fourth Inflight Connectivity Survey), passengers across the AirAsia Group will see a notable upgrade to their inflight entertainment and connectivity experience. GX Aviation will seamlessly integrate with AirAsia’s entertainment and e-commerce platform, enabling customers to access a variety of free entertainment, music, games, news and shopping – all from the convenience of their personal mobile devices.

Pointing to the transformative potential of world class IFC, Fernandes said an enhanced customer experience was just one benefit of GX Aviation.

“The first stage is digitising the airline and using the digital world to make the customer experience better, to make working in AirAsia better, to be able to sell better and use the digital knowledge and data to cut cost,” he said.

“This second part of the revolution is about selling more than just AirAsia tickets. [It’s about]… using the data and using the ability to communicate with our guests. Not just on the ground… now with Inmarsat we are able to do it in the air and we’re able to use data to be able to transact better with our customers.”

Philip Balaam, Inmarsat’s Aviation’s President, praised the working relationship – a partnership that began in 2014 – between the two companies. He also paid tribute to what he called AirAsia’s “bold and innovative new digital offering for passengers.”

“We are confident that AirAsia’s upgrade from basic connectivity to the industry’s gold standard inflight broadband will be warmly embraced by passengers,” he said. “Our teams continue to work closely together to install GX Aviation on the rest of AirAsia’s fleet of Airbus A320 and A300 aircraft, making it available to millions of new passengers each month.”

Passengers taking a selfie on board aircraft

Redefining the inflight experience

Aireen Omar, AirAsia Group President (RedBeat Ventures), described the upgrade as the next step in AirAsia’s ambitious digital plan.

She commented: “As the pioneer of LCC inflight Wi-Fi in the region, we are always looking for ways to redefine the inflight digital experience for our guests. Introducing Ka-band, powered by ROKKI, is the next logical step in this process, with the enhanced inflight connectivity allowing our guests to stay connected throughout their journey and perform data-intensive activities such as live streaming. This also enables better real-time analytics, allowing us to offer more personalised services to AirAsia’s millions of passengers annually.”

As passenger numbers soar – and with predictions suggesting the number of flyers across the globe will double by 2037 – additional capacity to the GX network will come from the launch of three new GX payloads over the next three years.

Additionally, Inmarsat is developing a new generation of GX satellites. These will represent a transformative step-change in inflight broadband capabilities. These include the ground-breaking GX7, 8 & 9 satellites, which feature thousands of dynamically-formed beams that direct capacity over high-demand areas, and the innovative new GX10A & 10B Arctic payloads, which will be the only broadband satellite service dedicated to this region.

These developments will ensure the GX network is future-proofed for customers such as AirAsia.

AirAsia joins other Inmarsat customers already benefitting from GX Aviation’s advanced capabilities, including Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Norwegian, Avianca, Citilink and Philippine Airlines.