MIAMI — Air Canada announced plans to equip its North American narrowbody fleet with Gogo inflight Wi-Fi connectivity on Wednesday. The airline released the news live from flight AC107 while it cruised at 35,000 feet en route to Calgary.
The carrier currently has two Airbus A319s equipped with Gogo’s system. Once a final agreement is in place with the Wi-Fi service provider, Air Canada expects have all of its North American fleet equipped by the end of December 2015. Further installations are to begin next month, with a goal of having 29 aircraft equipped in 2014.
In total, 130 of Air Canada’s and Air Canada Express’ current fleet of Airbus A319, A320 and A321s, Embraer 175 and 190s and Bombardier CRJ-705s will be set up for air-to-ground Wi-Fi. Checking AC’s online fleet page, there are 154 narrow-body planes listed. It’s likely, then, that AC won’t be equipping the A319s that it’s planning to transfer to the airlines’ “leisure carrier” rouge.
With last week’s finalization of its contract with Boeing, Air Canada is planning to update its narrowbody Airbus fleet beginning in 2017 with up to 109 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Part of that deal includes Boeing’s purchase of up to 20 of AC’s Embraer 190s, and thus it is possible that some of those aircraft might not be Gogo-equipped, either.
Air Canada will also be testing two satellite-based Wi-Fi systems for its international flights, using Gogo 2KU and Inmarsat GlobalExpress KA services. These tests are expected to be conducted in 2015.
In February, Air Canada’s main competitor, Westjet Airlines, announced plans to overhaul its In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) with a new Panasonic system. Without seatback monitors, passengers will connect their own devices, or rent tablets on board.
Westjet is also planning to have air-to-ground Wi-Fi, but it is only planning to have one aircraft equipped by the end of this year. They say that the rest of the fleet will then be equipped as quickly as possible.
It looks like Air Canada wins this round of the Canadian Wi-Fi Rollout Battle over WestJet.