EBACE Convention News

Arinc intros flat-fee pricing for satcom datalink services

 - May 6, 2009, 6:41 AM

Arinc has adjusted the pricing structure for its datalink services by introducing a flat fee for global communications via VHF Inmarsat and Iridium. According to the company, this will reduce or at least stabilize costs for operators at a time when they can ill-afford to incur unexpected fees.

Arinc Direct business manager James Hardie explained that the flat fees will be calculated on a per-aircraft basis according to the communications platform used by an operator (that is, VHF, or Inmarsat or Iridium satellite links). The fees will also vary depending upon the other Arinc services, such as flight planning, to which an operator subscribes. The company said the flat fees are part of a series of measures taken in response to operators’ demands to reduce their cost structure.

“We have tried to simplify pricing and reduce the barriers to using Arinc Direct on a day-to-day basis,” explained Hardie. “We based this decision on an examination of customer use of the services and hope it will avoid the unforeseen costs of not sending messages because the pilot is trying to save money.”

In March, the company enhanced Arinc Direct by launching a new database for crew manifests and other customer data, such as the electronic advanced passenger information system now required by U.S. authorities before flights depart for U.S. destinations. The database is managed through Arinc’s AviNet IP Host to Host communications platform.

The PPS flight planning software from Danish company Air Support (Booth No. 842) is also being integrated with Arinc Direct. Earlier this year, Arinc added a new fuel-cost calculation tool that can provide a charging cost index for each flight or each flight hour. It is now preparing to add an aircraft comparison tool for people looking to buy an aircraft.

Last year, Arinc introduced a weight-and-balance calculator to the package. Lately, it has started to provide operators with information from Eurocontrol’s central flow management unit about recently cleared routes so operators can see which flight plans are likely to be accepted Arinc Direct now supports just over 250 business aircraft in its Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. It has appointed a new field service engineer to work with these customers on issues such as switching their datalink service to Arinc and helping to integrate the system with existing avionics.

Meanwhile, the first business aircraft applications of Arinc’s new Onboard Internet (OI) service on laptop computers could be operational by October. The company launched the SwiftBroadband service last September and has since achieved proof-of-concept demonstrations for clients. Flight trials for airline applications are not likely to be achieved until the first quarter of 2010.

According to Andy Hubbard, Arinc’s director of aviation solutions, several business aircraft manufacturers and operators are in talks with the company to adopt OI both on new aircraft and as retrofit packages. He indicated that the first unit could be installed on a business jet by November.

Separately, Arinc has responded to the mandate from Eurocontrol for operators to install controller pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) as part of the Link 2000 initiative to increase air traffic management capacity by replacing voice communications between pilots and controllers with digital messages. The requirement is for new aircraft to be CPDLC-enabled by 2011. By 2013, ground-based ATM facilities will have to meet the requirement and existing aircraft will have to be retrofitted by 2015.

Arinc’s solution is based on its VHF Datalink Mode 2 system which is available to provide high capacity communications in real time. The system is already in use with Eurocontrol’s Maastricht upper airspace center, and Italian ATM agency ENAV will be introducing it before year-end.

According to Arinc, its entry-level AviNet Mail communications system could be helpful for business aircraft ground handlers and FBOs needing to send messages between service providers and customers, such as confirmation of aircraft departure, fuel requirements and passenger data. Later this year, it will be able to operate on hand-held PDAs in Europe, as it already does in the U.S.

“More than ever, Arinc has to be sensitive to customer needs,” said Dave Poltorak, vice president and managing director for Arinc EMEA. “They are in a difficult situation and flying less. They are looking to reduce costs and they are looking to us to help them do this.”

This year, Arinc (Booth No. 575) is marking its eightieth anniversary. Having spent the first 78 years of its life owned by a group of airlines, the past two have been under the ownership of the Carlyle private equity group. According to Hubbard, it is questionable whether investment in product development would have continued under the ownership of airlines in the current economic climate. “Under Carlyle, the investment has been questioned but has stayed unchanged,” he concluded.