Airline first: Qantas to trial iPads for in-flight entertainment

Airline first: Qantas to trial iPads for in-flight entertainment

All passengers will have an iPad -- or bring their own device -- as wireless technology flies next month
in-flight entertainment
While big screens were superseded by seat-back units, they could soon give way to wireless tablets.

In a world first, Qantas is set to trial iPads as a replacement to seat-back screens and bring wireless technology to in-flight entertainment.

The six-week trial will begin next month on a single Boeing 767-300 and continue until December.

Each of the aircraft's 254 seats will have an iPad2, which will access the aircraft’s server -- the Q Streaming app -- via a Wi-Fi connection.

If the trial is successful, it will be rolled out to 10 Qantas Boeing 767-300s next year. Each seat would be fitted with an iPad bracket.

But the program won’t be restricted to iPads: Android tabs and smartphones will also be able to access the onboard server.

"The system is able to support a variety of devices and the ultimate goal is for customers to bring their own devices if they choose,” Alison Webster, Qantas' executive manager for customer experience, told Australian Business Traveller.

If travelers bring their own device, they will still be able to access the Q Streaming app for 24 hours after their flight, and finish watching the film that stopped when the plane landed.

But if a cheeky traveler decided to take the iPad home as a souvenir, he or she would be disappointed as its access will be restricted to the Q Streaming app.

As well as being convenient for travelers, wireless technology also benefits the airline.

Webster told the Sydney Morning Herald that there were weight savings associated with using wireless technology, as opposed to the seat-back systems.

"We are all focused on fuel-burn being environmentally friendly and we have huge commitments to sustainability targets," she said.

Is it the way of the in-flight future?

The Q Streaming app is based on Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect technology.

In America, Southwest, United, Virgin America and American Airlines are in the process of streaming entertainment to passengers' personal devices on selected flights.

But for Qantas, it’s part of the airline's expansion plans to become a luxury, Asian carrier.