In-flight Tech Innovations In Sight?

In-flight entertainment has come a long way since 1921 when Aeromarine Airways amphibious airplane showed a film titled Howdy Chicago to its passengers.  Through the years there have been actual cinemas built into the rear of an aircraft (this never went into service), full-feature films and headsets arrived in the 1960’s, and in the 70’s and 80’s projectors, CRT and on demand audio/video systems were developed and improved.  Today most wide body aircraft offer the option of in-flight entertainment, while narrow body may or may not offer this depending on space and weight restrictions.

An interesting side note…Jet Blue did a study and found that trips to the lavatory actually dropped way down after personal TV’s were installed on its aircraft.  Who knew?

Where are we today?  There is exciting news coming from companies that supply airlines with in-flight entertainment options.  In an effort to cater to passengers who bring their own tech gadgets on board (like smart phones, laptops, ereaders),  there have been changes and innovations to keep those customers happy as well as entertain those who do are not tech-equipped.  We can look forward to no shortage of in-flight entertainment options, documentaries, and programs for the kiddos as well as videos to keep us healthier.   Those screens on the Seat-backs are not likely to be going away.  It is anticipated that they may get even more techy with high definition, 3-D movies and games, and even holographic programs in the near future.  In addition, the major airlines are also working hard to figure out how to deliver that same type of programming, plus Wi-Fi, streaming and internet-delivered content to travelers on their own or airline-provided technological devices.   Now that is music to our ears, right?


It is being reported that JetBlue plans to offer free in-flight Wi-Fi, intending to equip 30 planes with what it assures will be very fast service in early 2013.  Once that is in place, checking your e-mail and roaming the internet is expected to be free.  However there will be a fee for watching films.


Delta Air Lines recently said it plans to upgrade its Wi-Fi equipped airplanes in order to make it possible for passengers to stream programming directly to their personal devices using a service called Gogo Vision.  Fees for that programming will start at $.99 for TV shows and $3.99 for full-length movies.  There’s a bonus, too: access to that material on that same device (if you’ve got access to the internet) will still available for 24 hours after you disembark from your flight.  We can expect to see that on 800 of Delta’s two-class domestic aircraft by the end of 2013 according the company.


Airlines are upgrading to VOD and better WiFi. Photo:

At some point in time we may be able to access these same programming features on our personal devices – at a price.  It is common knowledge that the airlines already earn big bucks from charges for extra services, and this is just one more opportunity to upsell more services to the captive audience.


Watch for more to come in the near future.  For instance, would you watch a fitness video that includes Tai Chi and yoga exercises you can follow while seated?  I can see some advantages for this on long flights.  Or, maybe you’d like to be able to place your tablet upright on the tray table and have it stay put?  Smart Tray International is offering a tray with a special groove on it to do just that for a hands-free experience.  They also have a “tray-in-a-tray” option for holding tablets.

This month, Row 44 announced plans to provide VOD Video On Demand on Allegiant Air fleet of 747s.  Per Allegiant, this is “a wireless, streaming device-based entertainment platform that operates without satellite connectivity, as part of its in-flight entertainment passenger experience.”

Qantas Airways reported it will roll out a new in-flight entertainment platform on its fleet of Boeing 767 aircraft from the fourth quarter of 2012.

Quantas is partnering with Panasonic to provide more than 200 hours of free on-demand content which will be streamed directly to iPads in every seat.

With these new offerings, will travelers be more willing to undergo the hassle of screening and the costs of add-on services to fly to their destinations instead of seeking alternatives?  This, I imagine, remains to be seen.

About Pat Mallett

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