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Virgin Australia confirms inflight entertainment upgrade for new A330s

By danwarne     Filed under: inflight entertainment, in-flight entertainment, Virgin Australia

UPDATE | Virgin Australia will launch its new in-flight entertainment system in mid-2012, using wireless networking to beam movies and music to each passenger’s smartphone, tablet or laptop – with Internet access to follow. Read our report for full details.

PREVIOUS | Virgin Australia will install the excellent "Red" inflight entertainment system on its two new Airbus A330 aircraft to be delivered in April 2012.

The A330s are used to shuttle customers between East Coast cities and Perth.

The planes will have the same Panasonic Avionics on-demand entertainment system that is fitted on V Australia's Boeing 777-300ER international fleet.

Red is also the inflight entertainment system used on Virgin America, which Australian Business Traveller reviewed in-depth last year.

Until then, Virgin Australia business class passengers on the two ex-Emirates A330s will have to put up with the looping entertainment, but the airline says it will carry a number of portable players on each flight in case the entertainment system fails in individual seats.

... but only portable players for 737 passengers

Passengers on the newer but more compact Boeing 737-800NG aircraft still won't have in-seat inflight entertainment, but Virgin this morning announced it would be providing portable "digiplayers" for business class customers.

Australian Business Traveller reader feedback wasn't universally positive about the use of digiplayers for business class customers flying on 737s.

Chris Neugebauer wrote, "Really?! Those devices are ancient crap from before Live2Air. I wouldn't call that a perk."

Another reader, Nigel S, tweeted: "we are talking J [business class] perks here ,what do Virgin Australia Y [economy] passengers get as inflight entertainment -- crayons and colouring books?"

However it wasn't all criticism for Virgin. Qantas Frequent Flyer Calculator developer Adam Ware pointed out that Qantas still uses "25 year-old, washed-out purple projector displays" on some of its Boeing 767 business class cabins.

The long term plan: inflight Wi-Fi

While the portable players for the Boeing 737s are clearly an interim solution, Virgin Australia last week confirmed it was looking at using inflight Wi-Fi for providing both internet access and streaming videos to passengers.

It hasn't commented yet on whether passengers would bring their own iPads, tablets or laptops to watch streamed videos under this kind of system, or whether it would supply some type of tablet to passengers.

Jetstar is also planning to introduce iPads as an inflight entertainment option soon, and Finnair recently said it was planning to cut the cost of installing expensive and rapidly outdated fixed entertainment systems in favour of iPads.


About danwarne

Dan is a tech enthusiast who frequently qualifies for enhanced airport security screening due to the number of cords and gadgets stuffed into his cabin bag.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 7/9/11 by chrisjrn

Good to hear that Red's going on the A330s.  It'd be great if they offered the same food/drink ordering system that Virgin America uses -- in my experience at least, it made the whole buy-on-board process a lot quicker than the traditional "trolley" approach.

2 on 7/9/11 by am

Adam Ware is an idiot then... Not only is the oldest QF 767 21 years old, they all had LCD screens installed in the past few years with the seat refreshes that occurred.

Anyway - good news that progress it being made!! Any chance that they will install new seats while they're at it?? I suppose this also paves the way for a light version of RED to make it into the 737s down the road :)

1 on 7/9/11 by hlwat

Travelled QF J class on a 767 approx 6 weeks ago SYD-MEL... Lo and behold, shitty purple hue projector...

1 on 7/9/11 by am

Hmm, obviously I was mistaken and not the entire fleet was done... My last flight on an LCD-less 767 was over 18 months ago, and I know that the vast majority of the fleet was done when they did the refurbishment.

3 on 7/9/11 by jordanmyer-smith

why no love for the RED system on the 737's? the a319 and a320 that V America use are the same size and one would assume that most of the live to air functionality and backend hardware could be used for Red. Also is it safe to assume that Y pax will also get the system for free on the 330?

1 on 7/9/11 by danwarne

Yes, that is safe to assume. The A330 has economy class IFE that's not LiveTV so there'd be no way to pay etc. 

Why no Red system for the 737s? Because I'd say almost certainly Virgin is looking at a Wi-Fi + iPad system for passengers. Many airlines are ... it's infinitely cheaper than fixed inflight entertainment systems, muuuuuch easier and cheaper to service (you can just swap the iPad out on the plane) and has the cool-factor associated with handing each passenger an Apple iPad.

Red is good, but no fixed IFE is as responsive, or has as good a screen as an iPad ... 

1 on 7/9/11 by jordanmyer-smith

Oh I understand its cheaper, but frankly anything that requires a battery to be charged and has the potential to die on me isn't appealing (its happened on a couple of JQ Star Class flights I have taken recently). In addition if I am required to pay for wifi in order to access free content, it once again fails in my book. Also having to hold anything that doesn't have a mount annoys me even further, the main reason why I don't use my own iPad when I fly (thats just me personally, but i tend to use the IFE most when im eating which requires the tray table to be down, which is where I would try and put my iPad to watch a movie). Although I honestly cant see there being enough storage in the galley for 180 ipads (virgin's new 800s have the small galley option)! Anyway each to their own, but if thats the IFE planned for the 737s I wont bother with my status match.

1 on 8/9/11 by danwarne

I would expect airlines that use iPads as IFE to provide free access to Wi-Fi for the purpose of streaming media (after all, it's only moving data within the plane, not connecting to the ground) and I'd also expect them to provide a seat-back mounting solution for iPads.

I guess iPads could be provided to passengers in seat pockets rather than stored in the galley -- I know Jetstar had an anti-theft system planned where an alarm would go off if someone tried to remove one from the plane.


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