Air Canada taps Intelsat for expanded fleet connectivity

The reach of satellite-based data services is rapidly expanding to more places on Earth and in the sky as airline passengers come to expect in-flight connectivity as a standard.

Addressing the needs of its passengers, Air Canada has turned to Intelsat – one of the world’s leading providers of in-flight connectivity (IFC) – to provide connectivity systems for nearly 100 additional aircraft across its fleet, including Intelsat’s multi-orbit electronically steered array (ESA) antenna.

Air Canada is Canada’s largest airline, the country’s flag carrier and a founding member of Star Alliance, claimed to be the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network. Air Canada provides scheduled service directly to more than 180 airports in Canada, the US and internationally on six continents.

To further enhance customer experience through the use of technology, it has partnered with Bell to offer free messaging for all members of its Aeroplan customer loyalty scheme worldwide on all Wi-Fi equipped aircraft across Air Canada’s fleet.

Air Canada’s flag carrier and its regional partner Jazz together operate more than 300 aircraft and are said to offer more Wi-Fi equipped flights than any other airline in Canada. The relationship with Intelsat is designed to serve as a key enabler as Air Canada seeks to offer its customers the fastest and most consistently available internet connectivity in the industry, throughout its global network.  

Intelsat currently operates in-flight internet on 240 aircraft spanning Air Canada, low-cost leisure-focused subsidiary Rouge, and Air Canada Express. The programme includes IFC installations on three types of Air Canada aircraft. The fleet of 40 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will be equipped starting this year with Intelsat’s 2Ku IFC system, while Embraer 175 and Mitsubishi CRJ-900 aircraft – currently installed with Intelsat’s air-to-ground system – and the 55 aircraft currently flown by Air Canada’s Jazz regional partner will be upgraded with Intelsat’s new ESA antenna, specifically designed for smaller aircraft, starting in 2024. 

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Intelsat’s 2Ku IFC solution offers a combination of a low-profile, fuselage-mounted antenna and on-wing performance. The new ESA, which is less than three inches tall and interoperates on both Intelsat’s family of geo-stationary satellites and on OneWeb’s constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. This strategy said Intelsat will enable Air Canada to deliver the highest quality inflight internet experience available to airlines wherever it flies.

“The efforts and the commitment of Intelsat’s team and their service partners made the difference for us. We’re confident Intelsat provides proven technology, an extensible platform and network, and the right vision for the future of in-flight connectivity,” said Mark Nasr, Air Canada’s executive vice-president of marketing and digital, and president of Aeroplan.

“Through our Bell partnership, equipment installation schedule, and strong conviction around the importance of in-flight connectivity, we seek to offer our customers the best and most consistently available offering in the industry.”

Intelsat said that its team members now have their sights on the “next firsts” in aerospace as they disrupt the field and lead in the digital transformation of the industry.

“Intelsat has been delivering reliable in-flight connectivity to Air Canada and its passengers for 14 years,” said Dave Bijur, senior vice-president commercial for Intelsat commercial aviation.

“Air Canada’s leadership will continue for decades to come thanks to this investment in 2Ku connectivity for the 737 MAX fleet and the decision to install Intelsat’s innovative multi-orbit service across their regional jet operation.”

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