Jetstar is now renting iPads to passengers as personal in-flight entertainment devices on domestic, trans-Tasman and international flights, starting today.
Each Jetstar iPad will come preloaded with music, TV shows and music videos, games, ebooks and magazines, accessible through a custom-built Jetstar app (check out our deep dive into the details of the Jetstar app and the special iPad hardware.)
The iPads will be offered to economy passengers at a cost of between $10 and $15 -- but only on flights longer than two hours. That's the same prices as the current clunkier Airvod units Jetstar uses.
Domestic flights will start at $10 per rental, while longer A330 flights to Singapore and Japan will be $12 if prebooked or from $15 on board. Prebooking will only be available on the A330 services.
There will be 24 iPads loaded on the A320 (that's the 180-seat plane used on most Jetstar flights), 30 on the slightly larger A321, and 160 on the larger long-haul A330, which seats over three hundred passengers.
The system made its real-world debut today, with passengers aboard a Jetstar ‘preview flight’ from Auckland to Melbourne getting hands-on with the devices.
The iPads will first be seen on Jetstar’s fleet of Airbus A320 and A321 planes, currently seen on domestic routes as well as flights to New Zealand and Asia.
Rollout on the international-class Airbus A330 is slated “by mid-2011” with more to follow, from additional A320 and A321 aircraft to Jetstar’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliners due in early 2013.
Jetstar is using the slimmer and lighter iPad 2 in its system. The tablets represent a dramatic leap ahead from the current cumbersome Airvod units (shown below).
The iPads will be fitted with a custom case containing a second battery so they can run for over 20 hours between recharges.
The cases will be swapped out during the aircraft's turn-around time at night, although the iPads themselves will remain on board, with freshly charged battery packs being brought on board and fitted to the iPads for their next day's travel.
A flip-stand on the case will allow passengers to rest the iPad horizontally on the seat’s tray table, while the case also contains an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip to help prevent the iPad being stolen by light-fingered passengers.
The case also ensures that passengers can't connect the Jetstar iPad to any other devices -- like their own laptop -- to avoid security or copyright problems.
Jetstar has also signed a "48 hour replacement agreement" with "an authorized Apple repairer" to ensure that problematic iPads are quickly fixed.
The airline first trialled the iPad in June 2010, with 30 of the touchscreen tablets used for two weeks on domestic flights. Despite the delays in launching a commercial service Jetstar will be among the world’s first to adopt Apple's touchscreen tablet as its in-flight entertainment system and rent the tablets to passengers.
Qantas has also begun a six-week trial of the iPad for in-flight entertainment next month, using wi-fi to stream content to the tablets from a central server on a single Boeing 767-300 – read our detailed report here.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.