Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Virgin Australia Unveils First Phase Of Inflight Entertainment Plans

Virgin Australia Aircraft

You may have noticed that in 2011, as our new planes have joined the fleet, they have been missing an IFE system, ie the TVs in the back of the seats.

We have today announced that we will be collaborating with industry leader, Lufthansa Systems, to develop a state of-the-art inflight entertainment system using Wi-Fi technology delivered to personal, hand-held devices on our aircraft.

Group Executive Product and Guest Services, Martin Daley, said the two companies had signed a letter of intent to produce and install the initial systems, known as BoardConnect, from mid-2012.

“This system, considered to be at the leading edge of inflight entertainment technology, provides guests with a wide range of products including video and audio streaming delivered on demand to personal entertainment devices or Wi-Fi enabled laptops.

Virgin Australia Aircraft will feature state of the art IFE in 2012

“Our new entertainment system will provide guests with more options than ever before to tailor their inflight entertainment experience to their personal tastes along with the freedom to choose how and when they access inflight entertainment.

“This latest product release, combined with our new Business Class and Economy Class cabin environment, further enhances the inflight experience,” he said.

Mr. Daley said the growing number of travellers carrying their own devices meant this new inflight entertainment system would allow Virgin Australia to remain at the forefront of technology.

Features will include:

* Ability to control and view content from personal entertainment devices (PEDs) and WiFi enabled laptops;
* Extensive range of movies, television and audio content;
* On demand controls to start, stop, rewind, fast forward and pause content;
* Selection of games for adults and children including arcade style games in future releases; and
* Service and Product information including destination / airport guides, travel offers and Velocity information in future releases.

Are you happy knowing that you will be able to use your own portable devices on board our flights?


32 Responses

  1. Kathy December 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Awesome! That’s one reason to make me want to fly Virgin!

  2. John Boxall December 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Sounds great – glad to see you looking forward with regards to technology instead of installing the “same old” types of systems. I hope this new system will not require the metal boxes that reduce foot space beneath some seats.

  3. Ingrid December 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    What happened to all the rules about no phones or internet to be used on a flight?

    Laptop batteries die. People watch laptops without headphones in. I can see some problems with this idea.

  4. Theo December 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I agree with Ingrid, althought the sound of this is great, laptop batteries die quickly, conceding ipads and smart phone have longer lasting batteries and would therefore serve as a smarter option, people not using headphone could become a great annoyance to other travellers

  5. Josh December 15, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    This is awesome news!!!

    @Ingrid – I’m sure the same rules will apply with not having your electronic devices switched on during take off and landing, but whilst in the air its a different story.

    I also understand that there will be USB power inputs so you can charge some devices. Laptops, well if you are in the lounge you can charge them up or charge before you travel.

    You can’t actually hear your movies on your laptop well enough while in flight (with the aircraft noise) so people will be forced to wear headphones.

  6. James December 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I think its a terrible idea for many reasons.

    1) Availability – It’s not gate to gate and I am assuming that you won’t be able to use devices below 10,000ft so for MEL > SYD that’s nearly half the flight where you won’t be able to have IFE. It is also awkward to have your laptop under the seat in front of you so most people will be jumping up to get their laptop as soon as the seat belt sign comes off. Not so much an issue for iPads and smartphones though.

    2) Power – As mentioned above batteries run out and as it seems that there is no power points in the economy cabin, those flying trans-cons will want to ration their useage pretty carefully. Especially if you need to do work either before or after the flight. I certainly wouldn’t want to be watching a movie on my phone inflight without being certain of how much I would need to use it when I landed and when I can get to the next power source.

    3) Space – A meal tray doesn’t have much space on it and when its out, there is very little space elsewhere. So if you order something to eat or get your food as part of a Flexi ticket then you will have to put your entertainment away. Not great while watching a movie or documentary, especially on the 2-3 hour sectors. On longer sectors I don’t want the tray table out the whole time and restricting my space.

    4) Map and Flight Info – This might be just me but I enjoy and rely on the Moving Map and Altitude indicators on most IFE systems. It lets me know where I am and how long to go. It is especially useful in the descent phase if I don’t have a window seat. This may be coming in Phase 2 but I can’t see how this feature can be used by passengers in the current form.

    5) Ergonomics – Display units are displayed in the seat backs so that they are at the eye level of the viewer. With a laptop, smartphone or tablet the user will have a tilted head and neck for the majority of the flight. Seat back TV’s are also comfortable to use, you don’t have to hold them, you don’t have to move them, they don’t take up your space.

    6) Distractions – People are afraid of flying and use the IFE to help distract them from the fact that they are flying in a narrow metal tube. Giving children something to watch or play will help them become more settled and less of a disruption to other people. I think it’s a bit much to expect every passenger to have an entertainment device (or more if they travel with kids), even in this day and age.

    I’m sure there are other reasons and while I think this type of IFE sounds futuristic and forward thinking, there are lots of options currently in the market that have seat back TV’s and are more futuristic and forward thinking. Hopefully VA goes down the Virgin Atlantic path and installs the TV display sets to go with it to make it a truly perfect system.

  7. Jarod December 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    @Ingrid – Virgin America flights offer in-flight WiFi access, their aircraft have power outlets on them just like we have at home. Also, has Josh stated you would be forced to use headphones because the noise is just to great.

    I just wonder if Virgin Australia will be offering in-flight WiFi just the same as Virgin America via a company such as GoGo.

  8. David December 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    @James – OMG, get a life

  9. Neil December 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I’ve got to agree with most of James’ point. As a Platinum flyer with Virgin, my heart sinks when I go on a new plane. It seems Virgin are trying to beat Jetstar for lack of space in planes. It may just be me, but it appears there is alot less space in a new plane than there is in an old plane.

    I’ve bought an iPad when the new planes started rolling out, as at 6’3, I can’t use my laptop in an economy seat. As you can imagine, being Platinum, I travel alot, so need to keep amused and working on flights.

    Come on Virgin – your standards are slipping while trying to be the next big thing.

  10. Robert December 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Worth noting that the Virgin America power outlets are two between three (ie. there’s an outlet between A and B, B and C, D and E, then E and F. They are right under the seat so are a bit fiddly – also when I used it I was running my netbook and the girl next to me her Macbook. We had a few instances where the power cut out and we had to wait awhile then unplug and replug our devices. Don’t get me wrong – they’re awesome, just not perfect. USB power will be a reasonable alternative for many people – I have charged my iPhone on V Australia through the USB quite happily.

    Not being gate to gate is disappointing for short haul – and I certainly hope this is not being considered for long haul… need to be able to watch entertainment without the tray table on a long haul flight!

  11. Dean December 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Neil, not sure what old plane you are comparing to our new Boeing 737-800 BSI, but the leg room in them is the same as our older aircraft.
    If you feel that our standards are slipping, we would be happy to investigate your thoughts? Feedback can be left at our website via the Contact Us page.

  12. Luke December 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Sounds like a good idea. I would imagine virgin will be offering a number of “for hire” devices like iPads that will allow people without their own devices to enjoy IFE. I think this offers a great opertunity for weight and cost savings for the airline and therefore the passenger, traditional systems have large amounts of hardware and wiring which increase the aircraft’s weight which increases it’s fuel burn.

    Also the traditional displays for IFE are roughly half the size of even the smallest laptops and tablet solutions. Allowing customers to view content on the screen size of their choice will be a significant bonus.

  13. Lukas December 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    The idea that Virgin has put out is certainly innovative but I can see that it will have limitations for travelers who aren’t technologically savvy. My parents find it difficult to understand basic computer skills so they would have difficulties trying to use it. Remember Virgin, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

  14. Andy December 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    What if someone watches “inappropriate” or adult content on their laptop/ipad and there are kids on the flight? Granted people can do this already by watching an x-rated movie on their laptop (or whatever), but it’s just easier to access this stuff on the web. Are flight attendants going to be trained to tell people what they can and can’t watch, or will a clause on “what is / isn’t appropriate” be added to the T&C at the time of ticket-purchase, or prior to boarding…? Just curious ^_^

  15. Tobes December 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I have mixed feelings about this and I have since I realised this was the plan after seeing a new plane a few months ago.

    As James has said half a Sydney to Melbourne trip will be without the entertainment and as that is what I most commonly fly it will get annoying. There is no doubt however that there will be significant savings for Virgin, less weight on every plane a much less complicated system to maintain.

    I do have one question though, will you continue to offer live2air channels or will it all be pre-recorded? Also, a great feature would be resume that carried over between flights. (Hey I didn’t say it would be easy to implement :))

  16. Tyler December 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    It’s been asked before – but will this new cabin entertainment include the installation of onboard power sockets for seats? I have an iPad and laptot that I use on flights – the iPads battery is amazing but the laptop can be a drainer. Perhaps USB or 12V power adapters should be included in the future?

  17. James December 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    @ David – Sadly I spend too much time on planes to have much of a life :)

    @ Neil – The ABC seats forward of the exit rows in economy have an inch or two more space than those behind the exit rows and those on the right hand side. If you have been in these seats previously and then had to move towards the back then there may seem like less space. Always go forward and left :)

    @ Dean – When did VA/DJ get a -900 series?

  18. Sandra December 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I don’t have a personal device? what then?

  19. imavirgin December 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    By the look of this, the wifi option is just phase 1, virgin will proberly install RED or V Port or similar on top, this is what Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Americas set up is, they also have ipads on offer to rent to access the wifi, RED and VPORT have live 2 air built in and internet built in. I cant see Virgin Australia not implementing the same systems.

  20. Chrisso December 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Very disappointed by this decision. Have missed the seat back TVS in the newer planes. I don’t have any of these devices and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I fly every week and love flying with VA but I think this is a backward step in customer service.

  21. Bonnie December 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I’m sure all this is at an extra expence

  22. David T December 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    @James – completely agree with you, this is a bad approach to IFE; I spend at least 4 hours a week on short haul flights with Virgin or QF, and this is does not make Virgin more attractive.

    If I’m using my own device, does it not occur to Virgin that I’ll already have my own content? Seems quite pointless.

    Now wifi delivered internet would be worthwhile – and a point of difference with QF.


  23. Courtney December 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I’m half excited about this. It looks great but I share the concern that these things are coming at the expense of the brilliant service and comfortable seats Virgin used to have. From always being delighted with the service, my husband and I have had three disappointing experiences in the last month. I’d rather Virgin worked on that than making my iPhone useful for more than Angry Birds.

  24. Jonno December 15, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    I will fly SQ to SIN and MNL on Dec 27. As a Velocity gold member, will I get the additional 20 kg baggage allowance in SQ that is offered to Star Alliance Gold members? Thanks.

  25. Paul J December 15, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Who came up with this idea!? Absolutely ridiculous. I fly on about 2 flights per week every week of the year. This does not make me want to fly Virgin. I agree with David’s comments. How can Virgin pretend that saving money by stripping out the hardware from their planes make Virgin a more attractive option… hilarious.

  26. Andres December 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    @Dean 737-900 BSI?

    Since when?

  27. Campbell N December 15, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Rather than leading edge I would suggest, outside of an aeroplane this kind of service is minimum expectation. I’ve always thought a domestic airline that provided free IFE would recoup the expense in no time by attracting more customers. I’ve been booking virgin flights of late for this very reason assuming pricing is similar to the competition. I’m sure I’m not the only one that does the same.

  28. Jaun-Paul December 15, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    I must admit one of the reasons I choose Virgin Australia is the in flight entertainment. To put it simply i like it and it is a major deciding factor for me especially on longer flights. I own all the iDevices including iPhone, iPod and MacBook Pro (laptop) but being 6’1 I don’t want to have to hold my device or have the tray table down as space is already limited for me. I also want gate to gate entertainment especially on the Sydney Melbourne run as you would not get any viewing time on your self provided device. Having to carry cables, chargers as well as earphones is just to much to deal with especially when you have to get it out of the overhead locker and return it again before landing. Customers want quality easy entertainment in the seat. Offering a wifi service is not a simple solution and sounds more like an option EasyJet would offer to strip back costs.

    The new branding, lounges, terminals, frequent flyer program and aircraft are excellent. Please DON’T diminish the experience by putting in a very second rate entertainment option.

  29. Dean December 16, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Apologies for the typo Andres, have corrected with 737-800.

  30. jono December 16, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Guys, they have been using internet wifi on overseas planes for years. It won’t affect the instruments. Relax!

  31. G December 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Lufthansa, Virgin America, Delta and many others are doing this and i reckon its great. As long as i can send emails inflight, i’m chuffed!

    I think qantas is trialling this on their A330s so go Virgin! beat em 2 it!

  32. Steve Jacobs December 28, 2011 at 12:43 am

    They should have just copied Virgin America’s IFE system. Hands down the best in the world. Live TV+movies+internet+music. Could have put alot of pressure on QF.