MIAMI— The big winner this week at the Dubai Air Show may prove to be Inmarsat’s GX in-flight connectivity product. With all three satellites now in orbit and service expected to begin in early 2016, the company is now making great progress in signing up customers. Singapore Airlines announced (though not at the show) that it will be switching the bulk of its fleet to the product starting in late 2016, covering the Airbus A350s, A380s and Boeing 777-300ERs. This is a shift away from the Panasonic Ku-band solution, and arguably the most significant vendor shift in the connectivity market to date. Separately, Jazeera Airways signed the first GCC-region LCC contract for GX connectivity, a move which Abdullah Al Hudaid, the carrier’s Chief Operating Officer, noted will provide an improved passenger experience and one which he hopes will serve as a competitive advantage for the small, regional operations.
The show saw only one order of significance, and calling it significant may be a stretch. Jet Airways was revealed as a previously unidentified customer for 25 Boeing 737s. These are NG orders which will now be deferred and converted to 737MAX-8s. The announcement also includes options on 50 additional MAX aircraft. Naresh Goyal, chairman of Jet Airways said “this order is an endorsement of our confidence in the long-term prospects of the Indian aviation sector, which reflects the positive forecast for the country’s economy and offers tremendous potential for growth and development.”
RT @emirates: . @HHShkMohd tours the world’s first two-class @Airbus A380 at @DubaiAirshow #DAS15 pic.twitter.com/9R2Cda9ytI
— Dubai Airshow (@DubaiAirshow) November 9, 2015
On the static display line each of the “Big 3″ GCC carriers had an Airbus A380 on display. Emirates showed off its newest delivery, the 615-seat 2-cabin layout. Qatar Airways and Etihad have just the one configuration each and both were keen to show off their premium cabin offerings. For all three the cabins feature the latest and greatest in passenger comfort. In economy class each offers a comfortable product including large IFE screens (11″ on Etihad and Qatar; 12” on Emirates), USB and traditional power jacks and a comfortable seat pitch and width.
With so few orders and no other major announcements the big question is, “What Happened?”
Given the massive numbers of pending aircraft deliveries around the globe, and especially for the local carriers, it appears that they’re taking some time off to now figure out what new and exciting options they want to kit out the aircraft with rather than just ordering more and more. Prior to the show Qatar Airways’ Akbar Al Baker suggested that his airline is looking to maintain a 5-year average fleet age. With the current open order book, both firm and options, that should be relatively easy to do even with some growth as well. The same holds for the other carriers in the region.