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Has The Pandemic Slowed Investment In Inflight Connectivity?




The events of 2020 were damaging to aviation at every end of the scale. From airlines and airports to suppliers and support businesses, everyone has felt the pinch, and continues to do so. With airlines emerging from COVID burdened with debt and eyeing the prospect of stifled demand for some time to come, has the longstanding goal to roll out inflight connectivity taken a back seat?

Has COVID set back inflight WiFi? Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Investment will continue

Two years ago, connectivity was seen as the next big investment for all airlines to make, with passengers demanding a seamless experience from ground to air and back again. However, as airlines look to trim costs where they can, it would almost be understandable if inflight WiFi fell down the list of priorities.

On the other hand, with depressed travel demand predicted to continue for several years, attracting passengers is going to be crucial. Simple Flying caught up with Dr Joe Leader, CEO of APEX, the Airline Passenger Experience Association, to see how things look from his perspective. He told us,

“Here’s the good news for connectivity: the investment will continue. The infrastructure and everything needed to make the connectivity of the future advance has all been put in place already, and it provides incentives for airlines to advance their programs.”

Delta WiFi viasat
Development has continued despite COVID. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Throughout the pandemic, despite budgetary squeezes, connectivity providers have continued to roll out their satellite launches at pace. Panasonic’s first XTS payload went live just a couple of months ago, and Inmarsat tripled the capacity of its GX Network in December 2020. Alongside this, the next generation LEO leaders like SpaceX and OneWeb have continued to build their megafleets month by month.

As well as the orbital support, there have been plenty of on-the-ground developments too. Antenna technology continues to move in the right direction, with phased arrays and electronically steerable solutions pressing forward, despite the pandemic. New terminals have been unveiled, and new partnerships formed.

Inmarsat’s GX network tripled its capacity in 2020. Photo: Inmarsat

All in all, the path is being laid towards a better inflight WiFi experience in the future. But what’s been happening on the airline side?


Downtime has facilitated installations

One aspect of the mass groundings of aircraft over the past 12 months has been the added flexibility for airlines to conduct upgrades, maintenance and improvements, without missing the capacity in their networks. Dr Joe explained that, for some airlines, this was an ideal opportunity to speed up their WiFi rollout,

“With some airline executives that I’ve spoken with, they’ve used the downtime to more quickly do installations. For others, they’ve been waiting until they know that an aircraft will be returning to use. But in all cases, they’re advancing. I have not yet seen a program where it has been put completely on the back burner because of the pandemic.”

This is evidenced in the higher number of connected aircraft flying today. British Airways completed its rollout of Inmarsat’s EAN early this year, and KLM outlined plans to bring connectivity to short-haul European flights. Vistara became India’s first WiFi-equipped airline, while ZIPAIR joined the ranks of the very few carriers able to offer it for free.


Vistara Boeing 787
Vistara became the first Indian airline with WiFi. Photo: Getty Images

All this happened despite COVID. Clearly, connectivity is still high on the agenda for airlines around the world, and programs remain on track regardless of the pandemic’s impact. Dr Joe added,

“The next generation of connectivity will continue. It might not be at quite as fast a pace as we all originally envisioned. But it’s going to be nearly at that pace because the infrastructure and equipment have been built.”

What about free WiFi?

The holy grail of inflight connectivity is the day when we can all jump on a plane and stay connected without paying a fee. Dr Joe thinks this is still some way away, but says that there’s another lever airlines can pull in this sphere. He said,

“You can instill a tremendous amount of loyalty into customers if you even give them a taste of free. So we’re seeing some of our airlines, in order to get people to sign up with their frequent flyer program or provide data, they’re giving more and more without charge. Hopefully, that’s a trend that continues.”

Last year, Inmarsat undertook a wide-ranging survey into a wealth of aspects of flying, and how the pandemic has changed passenger needs; its Passenger Confidence Tracker. One such element was the importance of inflight WiFi. The results showed that more than a third of fliers believe inflight WiFi would be even more important in the post-COVID world.


Interestingly, the same proportion of respondents stated that they believed the availability of inflight WiFi would affect their choice of airline on post-COVID trips. That just goes to highlight the importance of continuing investment in this technology, and the advantages it brings to airlines.

Although we may still be some way from widespread, good and free WiFi for all, tasters of free connectivity will undoubtedly boost loyalty in the short term. In the longer term, airlines remain committed to connectivity, and that’s good for everyone.

Join the Virtual Expo to hear more

You can hear more from Dr Joe Leader and some of the industry’s leading airlines and suppliers at the forthcoming FTE APEX Virtual Expo – “Relaunching global air transport” – taking place on the 25-26 May.


It promises to be the most comprehensive global industry gathering of the year, championing bold new ideas, solutions, collaboration and innovation efforts through all-encompassing conference sessions to facilitate an industry recovery that makes air transport even stronger in the long term.

As part of the ‘Relaunching global air transport’ theme, the show will deliver a line-up that reflects the bold new ideas and many new faces that are going to be at the heart of our industry recovery.

The conference will be complemented by a free-to-attend, interactive online exhibition with live product demos, which will include ‘Airport’ and ‘Inflight’ halls, as well as a dedicated ‘Startup Zone.’

Exhibitors already confirmed to showcase their cutting-edge products include Axinom, Burrana, Vision-Box, Global Eagle, Viasat, Elevation Software, TAV Technologies, Omnevo, PXCom, Aerogroup, Airbus, Airfi.Aero, IFPL, KID-Systeme and many more. View the full list of exhibitors here.

Early bird registration ends tomorrow – May 7th – so reserve your place today.

This article is brought to you by Simple Flying Connectivity, a new category on Simple Flying dedicated to inflight connectivity. Click here to read all of our inflight connectivity content.

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The World War II Weekend Air Show Is BACK! And Here’s Our Report.



World War II Weekend Air Show
B-17G “Yankee Lady” coming in for a landing. (All images credit: Author)

The World War II Weekend is one of the best air shows on the American East Coast.

Organized by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, the 30th annual World War II Weekend air show was a stunning success. After being cancelled last year, due to COVID, the June 4-5-6, 2021 show was a sign of normalcy returning. Held on the East Coast of the United States in Reading, Pennsylvania, this air show consists solely of warbirds from the Second World War, as well as a large contingent of WWII reenactors on the ground.

The show is rather unique, in that it is solely composed of warbirds from the Second World War. No fast movers, no helicopters. The only comparable shows, that I know of, would be: the Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, California and shows held at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in the United Kingdom.

World War II Weekend Air Show
Sherman tank with supporting infantry makes its way through the crowd.

Not only is the show visually stimulating, but also the sounds of various aircraft are music to one’s ears. The deep throated roar of radial engines was contrasted by the ripping/tearing sound of inline Merlin powered aircraft.

SBD Dauntless and TBM Avenger wait out the storm.

The weather cooperated for the most part with blue skies during the show’s busiest days on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday there was an intense and localized downpour which brought the show to a halt and sent people running for cover. Still, once the rain cleared, it provided for some nice photography.

Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero makes a photo pass.

It was a thrill seeing a Japanese Zero, in this case a Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero, for the first time. Owned by Ellenville LLC, this rare Zero is powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine. The company also flew their FG-1D Corsair as well as a P-51D Mustang.

Member of the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team prepares for the day’s jump.

The WWII Airborne Demonstration Team drops on Saturday and Sunday gave the public a small glimpse of what our airborne troops experienced. The Team is part of The Parachute School, which trains individuals in WWII military style static line parachuting. Both days the Team jumped from a C-46 Commando in two sticks of six men and women. Their authentic attention to detail in their uniforms and parachuting skills were most impressive.

Seeing and hearing heavy four engine bombers is always stunning to experience. The Yankee Air Museum brought their B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady”. Plus, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) flew in their star attraction, the B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”. Both bombers performed during the show as well as flew rides for lucky passengers.

World War II Weekend Air Show
SBD Dauntless dive bomber shows off her bomb load.

The CAF always provides numerous warbirds from various units for the World War II Weekend Airshow. Airbase Georgia, the CAF unit based near Atlanta, contributed their P-51D Mustang, SBD-5 Dauntless, FG-1D Corsair, and a very rare P-63A-6 Kingcobra. The TBM-3E Avenger “Doris Mae”, from the CAF Capital Wing, conducted rides and took part in the missing man formation.

Even though the show had fewer warbirds, as compared to past years, it was an impressive event with mostly good weather. World War II Weekend Airshow is definitely a bucket list air show for aviation aficionados. It normally takes place on or around the anniversary of the D-Day, in early June. I recommend you place it on your air show calendar for 2022.

World War II Weekend Air Show
Weather begins to clear after drenching the B-25 Mitchell “Panchito”.

Randy Jennings is the proud son of combat WWII Mustang pilot, Warner Jennings. From birth, he has been obsessed by all things aviation; past, present and future. As a photojournalist, he has covered aviation events in the United States and Europe. He lives in the Washington DC region with his beautiful wife and rambunctious daughter.

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WestJet Launches New Boeing 787 Amsterdam Flights



Little by little re-expanding its international network, WestJet said today that from August 5th, the airline’s customers would be able to enjoy a new transatlantic Dreamliner service between Calgary and Amsterdam. Partnering with Dutch flag carrier KLM will provide easily accessible connections to other major European destinations.

WestJet Dreamliner
WestJet will add more Dreamliner services from Western Canada this winter. Photo: WestJet

Flights will commence on August 5th

Starting on August 5th, WestJet will operate its 787-9 Dreamliner from its hub in Calgary, Alberta, in Western Canada, to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) in the Netherlands. John Weatherill, WestJet’s Chief Commercial Officer, shared the following in a statement,

“We are committed to putting international investments in place, as leaders of the travel and tourism industry, to support a safe restart to international travel and further Canada’s economic recovery. With flights set to begin later this summer, we look forward to helping connect Canadians to their loved ones in Europe.”

For the first month of operations, the service will depart twice per week. From September 9th to October 31st, it will increase to thrice-weekly departures. While WestJet is not part of any airline alliance, it does partner with KLM, among others.

As such, connections will be available to onward destinations in Europe such as Athens, Lisbon, Milan, Munich, Vienna, and Venice, just to name a few. Schedules will be adapted to support late-day departures and daytime arrivals, the airline said.

KLM E195 E2
WestJet partners with KLM, allowing travelers easy connections to European destinations such as Athens, Berlin, Madrid, and Manchester. Photo: KLM

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Calgary to London back from July 5th

WestJet will also recommence Dreamliner services to London Gatwick (LGW) from Calgary International Airport (YYC) beginning on July 5th. The airline is currently flying from LGW from Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ). Service from Calgary will operate two times per week. Flights from Toronto to the UK capital will take off three times weekly.

While WestJet may express confidence in the relaunch in international travel, it has become clear over the past year that any scheduling of capacity and routes is tentative at best.

Canada’s second-largest airline is currently only operating seven international destinations after a near-complete halt of international operations earlier this year. However, it is set to increase to 14 from July 5th as the airline adds more transborder routes to the US.

WestJet 787
By the first week of July, WestJet will be back to serving 14 international routes from Calgary and Toronto. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Too optimistic a timeline?

While the pandemic seems to be under control in many places of the world as vaccination drives continue to roll out, cases are once more on the rise in countries that previously seemed to have passed the worst stages of the crisis. The highly contagious Delta variant has become more prevalent in the UK, and numbers are rising despite far-reaching inoculation efforts.

In Chile, for instance, the Gamma variant, most likely originating in Brazil, is causing the near-collapse of the healthcare system. Planning for reopening is all well and good, but COVID might yet have some tricks up its sleeve, as much as we would like to once more jet freely across the Atlantic in a 787-9 by late summer. Let’s keep fingers crossed that WestJet’s transatlantic route plans will come to fruition.

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Eurowings to open Prague base this year



Eurowings, a subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group has announced that it will be launching a new short-haul base later this autumn from the capital city of the Czech Republic. This will also be Eurowings’ 10th base in Europe and will create “more than one hundred new jobs” and will provide “important employment impulses for the Czech aviation market,” according to the airline.

Eurowings stated that it plans to base two Airbus A320 aircraft at Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport (PRG) from the 31st of October and will position an additional A320 aircraft at the airport in the summer of 2022. Initially, the German carrier has stated that it will fly from Prague to Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Milan, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Athens and Birmingham.

In a company statement, the Chief Executive of Eurowings, Jens Bischof said “Eurowings will offer non-stop connections to Czech business travellers and vacationers alike – just in time for the relaunch of air traffic after the long-time corona crisis.” The CEO added that Eurowings “will offer local touch combined with top-notch customer-friendly services at our Prague base that will clearly distinguish Eurowings from low-cost airlines.”

Eurowings Airbus A319
Eurowings Airbus A319 registered D-AGWN at Hamburg Airport. Photo by Pascal Weste | AeroNewsX.

The announcement comes amidst growing confidence in the recovery of air travel in Europe, where vaccination is expected to allow governments to ease travel restrictions and open their borders to foreigners. As a matter of fact, the number of daily flights in most European countries has increased dramatically over the last number of weeks mainly due to the start of the summer season.

The opening of Eurowings’ Prague base comes as a major blow for Czech Airlines, the country’s former flag carrier which is mostly owned by leisure airline Smartwings. Czech Airlines filed for insolvency earlier this year in light of the severe impact the coronavirus crisis had on the industry and is now undergoing a restructuring process in an attempt to save one of Europe’s oldest airlines from disappearing.

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Years In The Making: flydubai Launches Slovenia Flights



After years of efforts from Slovenia’s government and Ljubljana Airport operator, Fraport Slovenia, the country will finally be linked with the Middle East. flydubai is launching flights between Dubai and Ljubljana in September as a three-weekly service that is also codeshared by Emirates.

flydubai is coming to Ljubljana, marking the first service between the Middle East and Slovenia. Photo: Getty Images

Finally: Dubai-Ljubljana flights

Slovenia’s Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport will finally receive a nonstop commercial link with the Middle East this year when flydubai launches flights from Dubai to the Slovenian capital.

The services will run as follows:

  • Flight FZ1789 departing Dubai (DXB) for Ljubljana (LJU) on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 10:00 and arriving at 14:15
  • Flight FZ1790 returning from Ljubljana to Dubai on the same days, departing at 15:15 and arriving at 23:05

Flights start on 24th September, and they will operate year-round. The route will be operated by flydubai’s flagship Boeing 737-800 aircraft, and Emirates will codeshare.

Emirates and flydubai will continue their partnership on the route to Ljubljana, offering a simple transfer process in Dubai by selling single tickets between the two of them. Photo: flydubai

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Years in the making

The launch of Dubai-Ljubljana flights has been years in the making. Ljubljana was seeking flights to Dubai, Doha, or Abu Dhabi in order for the country to have one-stop access to Australia and Asia.

Presently, Turkish Airlines provides much-needed connectivity for Slovenia via Istanbul, but having a link with Dubai or Doha in addition to having Turkish Airlines was always highly desirable because of the extra one-stop destinations that this would provide.

Previously, what counted most against Ljubljana was that it is in the catchment area of several large airports that are well-connected to the Middle East. Vienna Airport is very close to the Eastern part of Slovenia, while Venice is very close to the West.

Furthermore, Zagreb Airport, serving the capital of Croatia, is even closer. Up until before the pandemic, Zagreb had a daily link to Dubai with an Emirates Boeing 777 aircraft and two daily flights to Doha with Qatar Airways’ Airbus A320 family aircraft.

In the past, Emirates even sold tickets to Ljubljana itself via Zagreb Airport: passengers would land in Zagreb on a scheduled Emirates service and then transfer onto a bus that took them to Ljubljana.

Qatar Airways Doha hub
Qatar Airways served Zagreb twice daily up until the pandemic, and sources indicate that a substantial proportion of passengers were from Slovenia. Photo: Getty Images

Slovenia and the UAE are open to tourists

Passengers flying from Slovenia to the United Arab Emirates on Flydubai’s Ljubljana-Dubai route will be able to enter the country fairly easily, with just a negative PCR COVID-19 test required.

Meanwhile, the UAE is on Slovenia’s red list (but not the “dark red” list), so entry into Slovenia from Dubai is more complicated with testing required regardless of the person’s vaccination status. Still, this may well change in the future as the flights are not launching for another three months.

What do you think of the news that Slovenia will finally receive a link to the Middle East? Do you think Flydubai will be increasing frequencies soon? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.

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