The iPad-based service was first tested on a single 767 in 2011, offering streaming access to over 200 hours of movies, TV shows and music, and is now being introduced on its 767 flights operating between Sydney and Honolulu. Later updates will introduce interactive games, digital newspapers, magazines as well as travel and business apps.
Our inflight entertainment programs are stored on a content server with over 18 times the storage capacity of a 64GB tablet.
These programs are streamed wirelessly to Wi-Fi enabled devices via six wireless access points installed along the aircraft’s ceiling.
No other aircraft in Australia is fitted with this technology. You can now choose from a library of TV and audio content never before available to the Australian domestic traveller.
The Q Streaming iPad available in your seat pocket will automatically connect to the wireless network when you turn it on.
While the move might sound expensive, the reality is that tablet-based entertainment may save money. A report last year in USA Today observed that traditional seat-back entertainment systems can cost $3 million or more per plane, with the figure rising dramatically for the recently-introduced A380 double-decker.
Emirates Airline, for example, spends an average of $15,000 per seat on embedded screens. For an Airbus A380 with 517 seats, the total cost to install seat-back monitors would be approximately $7.8 million. And that doesn't include the content.
"It is the most expensive thing after the engines," says Patrick Brannelly, vice president of product, publishing, digital and events for Emirates. "It is a ginormous investment by the airline. But it's one that's paid off, because the airline has done very well."
Seat-back entertainment systems are also heavy, increasing fuel usage. Rob Fyfe, CEO of Air New Zealand, says that every pound of weight on board an airliner costs the airline $200 a year in fuel. Tablets are significantly lighter.
Seatback entertainment costs have further increased as screen sizes have grown larger in premium cabins, with the typical 12-inch screens in Economy growing to 20-inch in Business and 27-inch in First. Airlines have increasingly been introducing tablets into the entertainment mix, with British Airways, El Al and American Airlines all using them. Most have so far limited their tablet offerings to premium cabins, however, while Qantas will be handing out iPads in Economy also.
Mary Kirby, editor-in-chief of the Airline Passenger Experience Association magazine, says she expects any move away from setback systems to be a gradual one. The idea of buying aircraft without them is, she says, "almost like buying a car without a radio."