Friday, 16 December 2011

Airline entertainment is going Wireless! But for income or for customers?

Inflight entertainment is about to catch up with the 21st Century.

I gave up watching most airlines inflight entertainment systems some time ago. Rarely do they have what I want to watch or listen to and if they do - it's via some crappy low resolution screen. Listening is about the same, unless you are at the front of the bus with noise cancelling headphones.

I'd much rather watch or listen to what I want to on my own tablet or laptop - and from my observations many other passengers have made the same decision.

But there are a few interesting developments in the airline onboard entertainment space at the moment:
  • Virgin Australia is rolling out Lufthansa’s BoardConnect technology (video below) - which will let you access their entertainment system via WiFi on your smargphone, laptop or tablet
  • Jetstar Australia are experimenting with iPad'swith their own app
  • Qantas A380 services to LA will be experimenting with a system supporting web browsing, email and apps but not services such as Skype or mobile phone calls. The 6 week trial will be free for business and first passengers, and then paid packages will be trialled
  • Emirates have launched in flight internet on their A380's - for which they are charging between $7.50 and $25
Lufthansa's BoardConnect system


But what is their reasoning - is it to provide customers with what they have on land - communications where they want it' when they want it, and on the device they choose, or will it be viewed as just another way to gouge the passenger, as the video above tends to suggest?

Will they make the same mistakes that hotels made when introducing internet access? No respectable traveller uses a pay-extra-for hotel internet package if they can help it.  They either access the web independantly via 3G or similar network, or choose to stay in a hotel that provides free WiFi.

Wireless access is so fundamental to our lives these days, that it should be as basic as a seat and a window on an aircraft and on 'full service' airlines, should be part of the ticket price.

This is my wish list for internet access and entertainment on aircraft:
  • WiFi Access
    I want it on your aircraft so that I can use the Apps on my smartphone, or iPad, or access the internet on my laptop. I don't want to pay extra, but if I have to,  I certainly don't want to have to pay for each device I use, like in stupid hotels
  • Entertainment system
    Make sure I can access your entertainment system on my device. I don't want to HAVE to use yours, although I may choose to, in which case I am prepared to pay for the loan of the tablet, but not for the system (take note Jetstar!)

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