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ASSOCHAM seeks PM nod to permit satellite-based In Flight Connectivity

New Delhi. In an era of digital push, the ASSOCHAM has approached the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi and other concerned senior ministers to permit  satellite –based ‘In Flight Connectivity (IFC)’ in the aircraft flying over the Indian air space, both for the domestic and foreign airlines, an ASSOCHAM press statement said December 28.

“IFC promises to substantially improve safety of airlines as it enables flight tracking in respect of aircraft in near real time reporting latitude, longitude, altitude, true heading and ground speed; Streaming of flight data recorder off the aircraft in real time; and Facilitating real time intervention for safety and security based on flight data monitoring,”  the chamber said in a similar letter to the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju and Communications Minister Manoj Sinha.

The ASSOCHAM letter said besides increased safety, the IFC would enable the passengers to stay connected and make use of several services. “Aviation is facing a technological revolution. As aircraft becomes smart, fully connected machine, new services can be introduced to benefit the passenger experience, grow revenue for operators and improve safety. All this relies on stable and safe connectivity – from the cabin to the cockpit. IFC can in fact cover both cabin service provision to the passengers and cockpit safety and security services, such as flight tracking,” it said.

Customer surveys clearly bring out that travellers expect to stay connected via their smart devices and laptops even while flying. Vast majority of them wants IFC and in fact choose an airline based on broadband availability. A number of airlines (72 airlines by the end of 2015) have already installed or announced plans to install passenger connectivity system on board and the number of connected commercial aircraft is increasing rapidly – thanks to the satellite high speed internet.

A large number of countries and airlines have already operationalised the in-flight connectivity. Even Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal have permitted IFC in planes over- flying their territory while India is yet to take any decision.  “As a result each time an aircraft equipped with IFC enters Indian air space, it is forced to switch off the service to the passengers till it passes the Indian skies, causing hardship to the passengers”, the chamber letter signed by its Secretary General DS Rawat said.

It said the IFC is imperative for businessmen or other individuals to stay connected  but its absence in the Indian territory which consumes on an average two hours of a journey, disrupts the communication. Earlier India permits the IFC, the better both for the air passengers as also for India’s image as a progressive country. IFC also enables digital payment in the aircraft while in the air and eliminates the need of cash.