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Panasonic secures major IFEC deals

June 7, 2023

In-flight Entertainment and Communication Systems (IFEC) supplier Panasonic Avionics and Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA), the national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, have signed an agreement for the installation of the Astrova seat-end solution on up to 30 of its aircraft.

Astrova, Panasonic Avionics’ next generation IFE seat-end solution, redefines the role of seatback IFE and enhances the opportunity for airlines to engage with their passengers. The agreement will cover Astrova retrofit on 30 of SAUDIA’s widebody aircraft fleet – 12 Airbus A330s and 18 Boeing 777s.

Through this partnership, Astrova will help create a fully immersive experience for SAUDIA’s guests, with 4K OLED screens that have the best high-definition capability available, ensuring the best picture quality coupled with high quality audio delivered by Panasonic Avionics’ latest Bluetooth technology.

Every passenger will have up to 100 W of direct current power, via USB-C, at their seat – providing the ability to fast charge every current phone and tablet, and around 90 per cent of the world’s laptops. Panasonic Avionics’ newest IFE seat-end solution also features programmable LED lighting that will enhance the passenger experience and enable SAUDIA to optimize the cabin environment.

SAUDIA has reiterated its commitment to providing best-in-class services, and this new system is designed to stay at the forefront of consumer trends and in-flight entertainment products and services throughout its lifetime. Key hardware and software components have been designed to evolve over time to meet changing market requirements and satisfy ever-increasing guests’ expectations. This helps ensure that guests will always be able to seamlessly interface their personal devices to the IFE system to create the same omnichannel, multiscreen, multi-purpose environment which they are accustomed to at home.

This agreement feeds into SAUDIA’s passion for driving innovation and sustainability-focused initiatives, as Astrova offers significant weight savings compared to other seat-end architectures, which will help reduce fuel burn.

Ken Sain, Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation, said: “We are delighted to sign this agreement with our longstanding customer, SAUDIA. The installation of Astrova on their wide-body fleet indicates the airline’s commitment not only to sustainability, but also to its customers and the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision.

“Astrova provides SAUDIA with an innovative IFE solution that will enhance engagement with its passengers and is easy to upgrade without full or costly interior changes.”

Separately, Panasonic announced an agreement with United Airlines (United) as its first customer in the Americas for its Astrova solution. United plans to install Astrova on select new Boeing 787 and Airbus A321XLR aircraft beginning in 2025.

This agreement builds upon the airline’s previous commitment in 2021 to install Panasonic Avionics’ X Series and NEXT IFE systems on both widebody and narrowbody aircraft.

With this latest agreement around Astrova, United’s programme represents the largest ever investment in Panasonic Avionics’ IFE by any airline.

Collectively, these agreements cover both line-fit and retrofit installations across United’s fleet and are part of United Next, which is enhancing the passenger experience on narrowbody aircraft flown in domestic and short-haul international markets. The United Next program includes seatback entertainment screens at every seat — first class has 13-inch monitors, while economy has 10-inch monitors, larger overhead bins, high speed Wi-Fi, USB outlets at every seat, Bluetooth audio connections for in-flight entertainment, and LED lighting throughout the cabin.

Mark Muren, Managing Director – Identity, Product, and Loyalty at United Airlines, said: “Our customers tell us that they want to be engaged, entertained and productive in the air. Our new partnership with Panasonic Avionics will make that possible and enable us to set a new standard of in-flight excellence as a key part of United Next. Together United and Panasonic will drive new standards of engagement when customers come onboard a United aircraft.”

“Our partnership with United Airlines reflects our shared vision to take the passenger engagement to a whole new level,” commented Sain. “We are confident that Astrova will connect passengers to United more effectively than any other IFE solution, and we will continue to optimise passenger engagement with a cabin experience that keeps pace with innovation in the consumer technology space. Panasonic Avionics will perpetually update the passenger experience, introducing new products that bring enormous value and a major competitive advantage to United Airlines.”

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