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Qantas starts trial of Apple iPad for in-flight movies, music

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, iPad, inflight entertainment, IFE, in-flight entertainment, in-flight wi-fi, inflight wifi, streaming video

Qantas has begun using Apple’s iPad for in-flight entertainment, with all passengers in economy and business being provided with an iPad 2 for the duration of the flight.

Update: read our hands-on review of the Qantas iPads

The trial, originally slated for late last year, will run throughout February under the moniker of 'Q Streaming' but will be limited to a single Boeing 767-300.

That plane will be scheduled across a variety of routes, from Sydney-Melbourne to transcontinental coast-to-coast services (if you're a real aviation geek who wants to know if you'll be setting foot onto that particular plane, the aircraft rego to watch for is VH-OGH).

"You'll find this 767 on our triangle route of Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane but customers will get the most benefit on the long east-west routes" Alison Webster, Qantas Executive Manager for Customer Experience, told Australian Business Traveller.

iPads for every passenger

All passengers on that aircraft will find an iPad 2 sitting in their seat-back pocket, while those in business class will also get a flexible stand which can be used on the fold-down meal tray. The plane will carry one tablet for each of the aircraft’s 254 seats, with several spares on hand.

A special ‘Q Streaming’ app loaded onto the iPad will act as the front-end for on demand content beamed over wireless networking from a central server on the aircraft, using technology developed by Lufthansa Systems as part of their BoardConnect platform – which has also been adopted by Virgin Australia for its own in-flight system set to debut in mid-2012.

Webster says the iPads will be "locked down", bypassing Apple's normal home screen and booting straight into the Q Streaming app – "so if anyone decides they want to 'borrow' one it won't have any capability off the aircraft."

Towards the end of February, Qantas will allow passengers to view the streaming content on their own iPad by making the Q Streaming app available as a free download from the iTunes App Store.

Windows and Mac laptops runnin Microsoft's SIlverlight software will also work with Q Streaming.

Qantas says its iPads have the capability to be preloaded to the same level of content as offered on their flagship Airbus A380, although the trial will be restricted to streaming content from a smaller selection.

In a novel and welcome twist, Q Streaming will eventually allows passengers with their own tablet to download video to watch within a 24 hour period of leaving the aircraft if the programme was cut short by the plane landing.

What about Android tablets?

The system also has the capability to work with Android tablets, notebooks and even smartphones, although the trial is an iPad-only program.

"This pilot programme is about putting the wi-fi streaming capability through its paces" Webster says. "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" Webster says. "We’ll evaluate the trial at the end of this year and then make some strategic decisions."

If successful, the system will be rolled out on ten Boeing 767-300s, with the airline considering installing seats with in-built iPad brackets.

Qantas is keeping an open mind on introducing it to long-haul Airbus A330s, but is quick to point out that the airline remains committed to conventional in-flight entertainment systems with a screen in the seat or the armrest.

Qantas will also launch in-flight Internet on Airbus A380 flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles next month: read our report for full details.

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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.

 

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1 on 14/9/11 by am

Excellent idea QF. It's good to see that they're rolling this out to economy as well as business class, and it should act as a good stopgap to allow QF to offer IFE before integrated systems come with new aircraft deliveries.

2 on 14/9/11 by danwarne

Interesting that Apple is allowing Qantas to lock down the iPad and run a special firmware that boots to a specific app. It seems very "un-Appley" given they like a consistent user experience across their devices no matter what.

To be truly locked down, Apple would have had to disable the feature that allows the iPad to be put into DFU mode, which allows standard firmware to be restored onto the iPad no matter what. Again, seems unlikely Apple would make such a fundamental modification of the iPad for an airline.

I guess the IFE vendor may have done a jailbreak-style hack to fiddle with the iPad's internals, but I've never heard of anyone being able to disable iPad DFU mode, given it's a basic fail-safe recovery mode.

1 on 14/9/11 by lazybones1987

Hmm, looking at some screen shots of Jetstars iPad based IFE system, it seems like they are running a custom firmware as well (you can only access certain apps and seeting with the iPad). I'm guessing JetStar and Apple have struck a deal to modify the firmware.

1 on 25/1/12 by chrisjrn

Actually, I understand that the trick that Jetstar have used is to put their iPads into a custom case that prevents users from pressing the home button or accessing the dock connector.  A nasty hack, if you ask me.

See http://www.ausbt.com.au/inside-jetstar-s-ipad-app-and-long-life-battery-case-hardware for more info.

3 on 15/9/11 by woganfan

It is a pity that it cannot be streamed on to a customers personal iPad until the end of the trial though.  An excellent idea though.

4 on 20/10/11 by colinsteven

I'm probably the only person who isn't goin to like this idea, the lighting in aircraft is crap for viewing movies on my iPad, so I tend to watch the ife. Plus I find it hard to balance the iPad and eat dinner at the same time, at least with built in ife you can keep watching the movie without having to find room for the meal tray. 

5 on 3/11/11 by frenchglen

anyone know the latest on qantas sorting out cross-country licences for general internet access for all internet devices on the A380s yet????we've been waiting for like, 3-4 years now? sigh....waiting until I can be truly productive in the air, one day...

1 on 3/11/11 by David

Do you mean domestic Internet (as in, across the country) or international A380 internet? The former's a ways off; for the later, Qantas will begin trialling in-flight internet on its international Airbus A380 planes early next year: see our article at http://www.ausbt.com.au/qantas-to-trial-international-in-flight-internet-on-airbus-a380

1 on 3/11/11 by frenchglen

oh david whoever you are thank you for pointing me to that (and this site I'm clearly going to read a lot)!! about every 3 months I depressingly google it as i fly on intl A380s four times a year. woohoo.

6 on 25/1/12 by Al

About time, this was supposed to hapopen late last year. A shame that QF can't lock down the schedule for this flight, I think a lot of people would like to fly this particular aircraft just to try out the system!

7 on 30/1/12 by AirportAddict

Is there any ETA for inflight internet on all qantas aircraft?

1 on 2/2/12 by David

No.

8 on 2/2/12 by AirportParty

So does the plane has wi fi for anyone to use?? And also what would happen with start up and take off. Does wi fi affected it? 

1 on 2/2/12 by David

It's got wi-fi but not anybody can use it - the five hotspots are password-protected. The system is switched off during take-off and landing.

9 on 2/2/12 by AirportAddict

In your other review, did you say that a windows and mac application would be available that would be similar to the ipad app? for passengers to install on their own computers?

1 on 2/2/12 by David

Yes (for details, read that other review).

 

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