April 2 2020  |  Connectivity & Satellites

Decade three for Lufthansa Systems

By Rick Lundstrom

This is a special feature from PAX Tech's April Aircraft Interiors Expo Hamburg 2020 edition.


Preparation for the rollout of BoardConnect (photo courtesy of Lufthansa Systems)

When Lufthansa Airlines spun off its IT department in 1995, drop-down screens were still showing movies, inflight connectivity was still nearly a decade from first implementation.

So it is fitting that one of the primary goals of the company in the years ahead is to make that all-important passenger experience the first priority.

“We believe that in the years to come inflight entertainment has to be simple, easy to access and create a real added value for passengers,” said Franziska Stachl, Head of Global Sales Support & Strategy, Passenger Experience Solutions at Lufthansa Systems. “The next step will be to simplify the use of various services for the passengers by connecting different apps and services into one.”

Making something simple is oftentimes not easy. The company has faced its share of challenges in its 25 years, contributing to the development of the first inflight connectivity platform FlyNet, adding wireless technology through its BoardConnect product and expanding the options by developing a portable device that allows airlines to offer streaming and cost saving IFE that allowed airlines to bypass regulations.

FlyNet was the first of what industry jargon called a “hotspot.” It was installed on Lufthansa in 2003. The company’s continuing efforts to establish wireless connectivity resulted in the development of BoardConnect. This gave passengers, who were new to personal mobile devices at the time, the ability to take their eyes off seatback screens. It also saved airline customers money at the same time.

“Requiring just a server and five wireless access points throughout the cabin, Lufthansa Systems estimated the weight savings (in comparison to a traditional wired IFE product on a Boeing 767-300) amounted to 850 kilograms per aircraft,” said Michael Gleich, Head of Customer Facing Functions, Passenger Experience Solutions at Lufthansa Systems. “Weight reduction respectively the impact of additional weight was of enormous importance to save fuel and, as a result, to cut costs.”

Other customers followed. In 2013 Virgin Australia was the first airline to roll out BoardConnect fleetwide. Lufthansa Systems simplified the process further in 2015 when it launched BoardConnect Portable on Eurowings and Azul Airlines as the first wireless IFE system without any aircraft installation requirements. The future of BoardConnect Portable system is BoardConnect Dock, an open digital platform that allows airlines and their partners to adopt and customize onboard services with a variety of applications.

“With BoardConnect Dock, we are making the BoardConnect framework available to technology, content and finance partners, enabling them to create their own onboard offering on this basis,” says Jan-Peter Gänse, Head of Passenger Experience Solutions at Lufthansa Systems. “By doing so, we address a new target group – our partners as a response to the changing requirements of the market.”

With a full portfolio of digital solutions now in place, the company sees a future where inflight connectivity is increasingly important to the passenger.Next up is a digital realm that few would have imagined when home computers chirped loudly before connecting to the Internet.

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