American Airlines’ New Dreamliners Will Fly With Viasat WiFi

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With the delivery of American Airlines’ new 787-8s starting to trickle through, it has finally been confirmed that the airline is switching to Viasat for the WiFi provision on these widebodies. Traditionally supplied by Panasonic, American’s delight with the performance of Viasat on its narrowbody fleet seems to have sealed the deal for its future Dreamliners too.

American Airlines 787-8
American Airlines’ new 787-8s will use Viasat. Photo: American Airlines

American finally confirms its selection

American Airlines has famously had a divided WiFi offering. With various portions of the fleet operating under different suppliers, Gogo, ViaSat and Panasonic, with the first two used exclusively on its narrowbody fleet. Panasonic has been its go-to choice for widebody WiFi, but rumor had it that American would move away from this provider with the arrival of its new 787-8s.

Back in May last year, PaxEx.Aero predicted that the choice would be Viasat, highlighting the carrier’s love for the provider. Viasat is considered to be incredibly reliable with good speeds in comparison to alternatives and had already been installed on more than 450 of American’s narrowbody planes.

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American Airlines 787-8
The new Dreamliners have ditched Panasonic. Photo: American Airlines

Now, it’s been confirmed that the airline’s forthcoming 787-8s will also feature Viasat WiFi. This is a move away from the Panasonic solution previously employed on its Dreamliners. With these aircraft usually deployed on transatlantic routes, the decision makes perfect sense, given the comprehensive coverage offered by the Viasat network.

The Viasat solution

The 787-8 Dreamliners, of which American has 42 on order, will be delivered with the new hybrid Ku/Ka-band solution from Viasat as well as a stunning new business class seat. The revised hardware kit is designed to take advantage of the robust ViaSat-2 and Ka-Sat coverage across the transatlantic routes.

Having the option of switching to Ku-band will also allow AA to fly west, taking advantage of the coverage over the Pacific while it waits for ViaSat-3 to come online. This means that, from launch, the American Airlines 787s will have complete coverage wherever they fly. The coverage and capacity will only be improved with the advent of ViaSat-3.

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ViaSat-2 coverage
ViaSat-2 plus the capacity from joint venture partner Eutelsat’s KA-SAT will be perfect for transatlantic routes. Photo: Viasat

Unfortunately for American, its shiny new 787s aren’t flying anywhere at all right now. In fact, towards the end of March, American Airlines took delivery of one of its new Dreamliners, registered N870AX, but it is yet to operate a revenue flight. After two weeks on the ground at Dallas-Fort Worth, the Boeing widebody flew out to Tulsa, where it’s being stored with several other AA aircraft.

AA’s planes parked at Tulsa. Photo: American Airlines

More connected airplanes than any other airline

Earlier this year, American Airlines created a rather brilliant ‘WiFi withdrawal’ ad, which hits the nail on the head in terms of how we feel about being connected. Featuring everyone from the social media influencer to the parent with kids to amuse, it’s a lighthearted look at the need for connectivity onboard the aircraft, and notes that AA has more connected aircraft than any other airline in the world.

While it’s undoubtedly correct to say AA has more aircraft with WiFi than its competitors, there’s still some ground to be made up before the offering is flawless. Practically all North American airlines now offer WiFi in some form or another, and JetBlue even offers it for free. Delta is working towards free WiFi for its passengers, but no word has come from American that the airline plans to move away from its paid access model.

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Added to this, more than 100 of American’s A321s don’t have any in-seat power. With a number of these aircraft deployed on relatively long routes, often transcontinentally, passengers are keen to see this feature added to keep devices charged up.

Have you tried AA’s WiFi offering? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

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