Air Canada Picks Intelsat For Airbus A321XLR Connectivity

Air Canada A321XLR
Credit: Air Canada

HAMBURG—Air Canada has chosen Intelsat’s connectivity equipment and services for its Airbus A321XLRs and A321ceos.

Intelsat will provide its 2Ku solution as a line-fit system for Air Canada’s A321XLRs. The carrier has a firm order for six and plans to operate a total of 26; the other 20 will be leased-in.

When Air Canada starts operating its A321XLRs has yet to be determined. Airbus has moved the first delivery of the aircraft—to an unspecified customer—to early 2024, from late 2023. The first A321XLR flew on June 15 in Hamburg.

Air Canada has also chosen Intelsat’s 2Ku to upgrade its 15 Airbus A321ceos. Retrofit installations are scheduled to start in early 2023. The contract is for up to 45 installations, comprising A321XLR line-fit and A321ceo retrofit.

In service with 1,200 aircraft, 2Ku receivers have the capacity for 250-300 Mbps. Air Canada sees passenger demand for video streaming in particular, according to Jeff Sare, Intelsat’s president for commercial aviation.

The Air Canada-Intelsat agreement is a harbinger of the expected demand for connectivity on long-haul narrowbodies. The emergence of that generation of aircraft, with Airbus leading the market with its 4,700 nm A321XLR, means an increasing proportion of single-aisles will require a level of connectivity that had been thus far only requested on widebodies.

Asked about whether crew use will grow, Sare notes cabin crew members need less bandwidth than passengers. Nevertheless, they are using the connection increasingly often, he says.

Airbus has launched Airspace Link HBCplus, a broadband connectivity solution using common hardware for a selection of service providers. After a first step with the Ka-band, the airframer plans to follow with Ku-band. At that point, Intelsat wants to become part of the providers. “We are talking to Airbus,” Sare says. “Standardized hardware on the airframe makes sense for the airline.”

Thierry Dubois

Thierry Dubois has specialized in aerospace journalism since 1997. An engineer in fluid dynamics from Toulouse-based Enseeiht, he covers the French commercial aviation, defense and space industries. His expertise extends to all things technology in Europe. Thierry is also the editor-in-chief of Aviation Week’s ShowNews.