Etihad Airways has confirmed it will provide onboard wireless internet on selected routes to Europe before the end of the year.
Speaking today at the World Broadband Forum in Paris, Etihad chief executive James Hogan said: “I can tell you that Etihad will have two aircraft with operational onboard internet by December this year, and five aircraft by March, 2012.
“Three of those five aircraft will be Airbus A330-300s, which will operate between Abu Dhabi and cities like Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Munich and Paris.
“And we are right at the point now of settling on a fleet-wide connectivity solution for the years to come.”
He added airlines around the world now faced pressure from customers to make broadband internet access standard on all flights, but cautioned the industry to invest wisely in wireless innovation.
He said: “Perhaps the biggest challenge is to stay in synch on this incredibly fast and exciting journey into the future.
“Annually, airlines invest billions in aircraft and millions in in-flight entertainment and other trappings, years before the aircraft enter service.
“Changes in technology move at the speed of light.
“There is an ever present danger of investing heavily in a system or hardware that is likely to be obsolete by the time it rolls off the production line.”
In a wide-ranging speech concerned with the effects of the internet revolution on the aviation industry, Hogan said wireless processes enabled huge financial savings to be made.
“The associated changes now deliver around $18bn in efficiency savings each year, some of which is passed on to customers, some of which enables continued reinvestment.”
He added Etihad’s online sales in July, 2011, were up 71 per cent on the previous year.
“The day is approaching when the greater part of our selling and CRM will be digital, particularly via smartphone and tablet devices,” he concluded.
Etihad Airways was recognised as the World’s Leading Airline for the second successive year by the World Travel Awards in 2010.