American Airlines has some big plans for its Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 aircraft on order. Starting from 2023, American Airlines will offer the new Thales line of Optiq displays with the AVANT inflight entertainment (IFE) product. The first customer for the seatback entertainment product, American Airlines will soon be offering a significantly upgraded inflight entertainment system that will primarily be deployed on international routes.
American Airlines chooses Thales’ AVANT entertainment
Thales has announced that American Airlines is the first customer for its new line of high-performance displays. The Thales AVANT IFE product will be found on new Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 aircraft that have yet to be delivered. The entry into service for these aircraft is planned for 2023.
There will be some noticeable improvements to the inflight entertainment offering for passengers. Thales’ new Optiq displays are a 4K high dynamic range (HDR) seatback screen. The manufacturer advertises that the product is “enhanced with Samsung QLED proprietary technology.” This should mean a significantly improved picture quality given that Thales advertises the system features more than one billion colors.
There is another improvement with this line, and that is in terms of headphone connections. The system can handle Bluetooth connections, meaning passengers can use their wireless headphones, which is relatively new in the industry. United Airlines gained a lot of attention when it announced a Bluetooth pairing system on its new inflight entertainment coming to its narrowbody aircraft.
The screens will be found in all cabins. In business class, the 17-inch displays will come with a five-inch touchscreen handset. It is not uncommon to see both the main inflight entertainment screen and the handset in modern business class cabins. Meanwhile, passengers flying in premium economy and economy will have access to 13.3-inch displays and 11.6-inch displays, respectively.
American has also selected Thales’ high-power charging product. This includes access to USB type C 60-watt and AC outlets in all cabin classes. This should allow for a wide variety of charging options for customers.
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American is upping its game on international flights
The Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9s are primarily destined to fly long-haul international routes. American already offers inflight entertainment on its long-haul widebody fleet and streaming entertainment on most of its narrowbody fleet that follows a “bring your own device” approach.
When it comes to international flights, inflight entertainment is a more important amenity. Given the length of the flights and the greater degree of meal service that can be problematic for enjoying streaming entertainment, seatback screens become even more important for airlines looking to fly higher-yield passengers. The inclusion of the new Thales products in all cabins indicates that American is looking to offer an enhanced inflight experience on its long-haul international routes in a bid to keep targeting a more premium level of traveler that is looking both on price and on quality.
The international market is quite competitive, and American Airlines is showing that it is looking to put its best foot forward. This will be key to stay in the running for shoppers as American targets even longer-haul routes such as between Seattle and Bangalore and leaves open the opportunity to conduct even more ultra-long-haul flying using Boeing 787-9s.
American Airlines has not indicated if it plans to refresh its existing widebody fleet with the new seatback entertainment. The airline is awaiting some Boeing 787-8s from Boeing, though those will not come with the latest Thales product. It would make sense for American to gradually install this product across its widebody fleet alongside other traditional cabin refreshes.
The fight for premium international travelers is on
Between United and Delta and competitors abroad, there is no shortage of choices that American has to compete with for travel between the United States and the rest of the world. Airlines have tried many different models in the international market, though more full-service carriers have had a better run in this market than others.
As American takes new Airbus A321XLRs and Boeing 787-9s, some of those planes will be needed to backfill aircraft American lost when it retired widebody fleets in 2020. Others will be used to power the airline’s expansion. These planes will primarily be pointed internationally, though American will likely also send these aircraft on some domestic hops when the aircraft have room in the schedule. Nevertheless, from 2023 onwards, there will be some far improved inflight entertainment systems flying at American Airlines, and your best bet will be to fly them internationally to experience it.