GX Aviation broadband launch customers Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have completed their four-month Ka-Band internet trial on short- and medium-haul flights and have transitioned over to a paid service.

“The commercial service introduction follows the completion of a test program, lasting approximately four months, during which performance targets were successfully met and feedback from passengers as well as Lufthansa Group cabin crew was extremely positive,” connectivity provider Inmarsat said.

Passengers traveling on equipped aircraft can access high-speed internet on their mobile devices via three packages, priced at €3 ($3) for messaging (FlyNet Message), €7 for general web browsing (FlyNet Surf) and €12 for video streaming (FlyNet Stream). Ultimately, passengers will also be able to pay for internet access with Air Miles or via roaming partners.

“This is a significant milestone for GX Aviation too, which took more than five years to develop as the world’s first inflight broadband solution with seamless global coverage delivered through a single operator,” Inmarsat Aviation president Leo Mondale said.

Lufthansa Group plans to ultimately fit approximately 300 Airbus A320-family aircraft with the service under a 10-year strategic partnership with Inmarsat.

To date, almost 80 Lufthansa Group aircraft have been equipped, including 19 at Lufthansa, 31 at Austrian Airlines and 29 at Eurowings. “Eurowings is also set to launch its commercial services in the coming weeks,” Inmarsat said.

Lufthansa became the first airline to offer internet access on long-haul flights in January 2003, but the service was discontinued in 2006 when satellite operator Connexion by Boeing ceased operations.

In December 2010, Lufthansa resumed internet access on intercontinental flights and both Lufthansa and Eurowings have offered Wi-Fi across their entire long-haul fleet since 2015.

“After the Boeing 777 had joined their fleet, SWISS also offered internet access on long-haul flights and is currently planning to introduce internet on board its short- and medium-haul flights from 2018 onwards,” Lufthansa said.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@penton.com