The company expects to complete installation of the service in some government aircraft by early next year, says a Connexion spokesman. Boeing declined to comment on the size of the contract or on the types of aircraft that were receiving the service. After Sept. 11, government interest in Connexion has been "like a floodwave," the spokesman says. Initially, Connexion's primary aim was to replace conventional airline entertainment systems. But in the wake of September's terrorist attacks, Connexion has received more attention for its surveillance capabilities--transmitting information about cabin activity to ground control, for example.
While government interest has increased in recent months, Connexion's staffing has decreased. Before Sept. 11, there were about 740 employees, including contractors. Today, Connexion has about 625 employees (those who left Connexion were reassigned elsewhere in Boeing), and that number will drop to about 540 by next year.
United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines had planned to make equity investments in Connexion, but Boeing last week said the companies have placed those investments on hold, citing the airline industry's decline during the past 2-1/2 months. That doesn't diminish the airlines' interest in Connexion, the spokesman says. Boeing plans to complete a prototype installation for Lufthansa Airlines by early 2003. When the airline business recovers, other airlines will be able to move ahead with Connexion, chief technology officer David Swain says. He adds that the system will then be proven because the U.S. government will have been using it. Says Swain: "It will have driven the risk out."