Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has selected Panasonic Avionics to provide in-flight entertainment systems and in-flight connectivity, including broadband Internet and live TV, for the...

Etihad Airways is paving the way for in-flight internet, live TV and mobile phone service for its entire long-haul fleet of widebody aircraft by signing an exclusive, 10-year deal with Panasonic Avionics valued at $1 billion.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has selected Panasonic Avionics Corporation to provide in-flight entertainment systems and in-flight connectivity, including broadband Internet and live TV, for the airline’s existing widebody fleet and for all the widebody jets which Etihad has on order.

James Hogan and Paul Margis, respectively Etihad Airways’ and Panasonic Avionics’ chief executive officers, signed a letter of intent on November 17 for a 10-year exclusive agreement for in-flight entertainment and communications (IFEC) solutions, including mobile-phone services in conjunction with AeroMobile.

Among the 100 aircraft which Etihad Airways had on order as of November 2011 were 10 Airbus A380 super-jumbos. All of these, as well as all the other widebody aircraft that Etihad has on order or is already operating, are being fitted with Panasonic Avionics in-flight entertainment and communications equipment under a $1 billion deal signed on November 17, 2011. The IFEC equipment allows Etihad to offer in-flight internet, live TV and mobile-phone service on every widebody aircraft it operates

The deal is now being finalized. Etihad Airways values the contract at more than $1 billion at list prices for the IFEC equipment and the deal will include a full-service maintenance contract.

Etihad Airways and Panasonic are developing a plan to deploy Panasonic’s eX2 and eX3 IFEC systems on 100 new aircraft. Etihad has already had the eX2 system installed on 16 of its aircraft.

Under the new agreement, Etihad Airways will install Panasonic’s eX2 system on its new Airbus A380s, Boeing 787s and Boeing 777-300ERs, and will use Panasonic’s eX3 solution for its new Airbus A350 XWBs.

The deal also includes installation of Panasonic’s Global Communications Suite, which provides in-flight broadband connectivity, mobile-phone service and live-television content, across Etihad Airways’ entire fleet of existing and to-be-delivered widebody aircraft.

“It is essential that we offer the most engaging and dynamic in-flight entertainment for our guests – especially on longhaul flights,” said Hogan. “We went through a comprehensive technical and commercial evaluation of what was out there in the market. Panasonic will support Etihad Airways’ commitment to delivering a system that will enable us to stay at the leading edge in this all-important area.”

Etihad Airways, which bills itself as the national airline of the United Arab Emirates because it is headquartered in the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi, began operations in 2003 and by 2010 was carrying more than 7 million passengers a year.

From its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Etihad Airways serves 86 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, with a fleet of 63 Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

The carrier has another 100 aircraft on order, including 10 Airbus A380s, the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

For more information on Etihad Airways, visit www.etihadairways.com.