Virgin Atlantic’s new fleet of Airbus A330-900neo aircraft will feature in-flight connectivity (IFC) services enabled by Viasat’s Ka-band satellite network, according to a July 12 announcement from the two companies.
Under a new agreement, the 16 new Virgin Atlantic A330-900s awaiting delivery at the Airbus Center of Excellence production site in Toulouse, France, will be line fit with Viasat antennas, modems, and wireless access points. The new IFC selection by Virgin Atlantic makes Viasat the third IFC service provider to be added to an aircraft type operated by the airline, which also features Gogo 2Ku on its legacy Airbus A330s and A340s as well as its Boeing 747s.
Virgin’s A350 fleet also features IFC provided by Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) network.
Don Buchman, Vice President and General Manager of Commercial Aviation for Viasat, commenting on the Virgin Atlantic selection, says the company looks forward to “bringing our technology and service capabilities to Virgin Atlantic and its customers.”
Virgin Atlantic has become the third new airline customer added to Viasat’s IFC roster this year with its selection, joining Breeze Airways and Southwest Airlines as the other two latest airlines to choose Viasat. The IFC equipment being installed on Virgin’s A330-900neo fleet will be forward-compatible with the next generation satellite constellation being rolled out by Viasat with ViaSat-3.
According to comments made by former Viasat President and CEO Rick Baldridge during an earnings call in May, Viasat expects to have its Viasat-3 satellite network ready to provide initial commercial services by January of next year. Mark Dankberg, who shifted to the company’s executive chairman role last year, has returned to the company as CEO, taking over for Baldridge, who will take on the newly created vice chairman role of the company.
Other details released about Virgin’s new A330 fleet by the Heathrow-based airline include in-flight entertainment touchscreens, Bluetooth, and wireless charging with every seat onboard.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commenting on the new A330neo fleet, says the airline’s desire to “create memorable experiences means we’ll continue to imagine with fresh ideas. We’re proud to unveil our state of the art A330neo and show the evolution of our customer experience, with each of our customers receiving a premium experience regardless of the cabin they travel in. They’ll be better connected with their fellow travellers and our amazing crew in the air, and with their friends and family on the ground.”
Virgin expects to begin operating its first passenger-carrying A330neo flights between London and Boston by early October. The airline will receive three new A330s from Airbus starting in September, with the remainder scheduled for delivery between 2023 and 2026.
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