Thales’s in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) division has opened a new facility near London Heathrow Airport. The new premises will serve as the base for its sales and marketing operations in the UK and Ireland, as well as for its maintenance, repair and onboard services team covering Europe and Africa.
The opportunity to be close to so many airline customers operating through the hub airport partly drove Thales’s decision to relocate. More specifically, it ties in with Thales’s strategic relationship with British Airways (BA) built on the carrier’s 2008 decision to invest in the Thales TopSeries IFEC system for its new fleet. Last year the partners extended their relationship to a component repair agreement through which BA (now part of the International Airlines Group, which also includes Iberia) will repair Thales IFE equipment both for its own fleet and those of other carriers at its engineering facility in Llantrisant, Wales.
Meanwhile, Thales continues work on its new-generation, lightweight Avant IFE systems, due to enter service on Qatar Airways A380s at the end of next year. The product will feature the new Touch Passenger Media Unit (TouchPMU)—a smartphone-like device through which passengers can control their connectivity and entertainment options, as well as order drinks and meals, all without disturbing the content on Avant’s seat-back displays. Plans call for TouchPMU to enter service on a Qatar Airways Boeing 787 by the end of August.
Thales IFEC chief executive Alan Pellegrini said that Avant will give airlines a higher level of redundancy because it can store up to 100 movies in the seat units, as a back-up in case the main server fails. Also due to enter service next year, Thales’s new AVA wireless streaming solution will allow streaming of video and other content onto passengers’ own wireless devices. Thales is also working on new features such as gesture controls to allow premium-fare passengers to control IFEC by simply pointing at their displays.