Virgin Australia will this week begin trials of an inflight wireless system which can broadcast movies, TV shows and music straight to a traveller's own tablet, laptop or smartphone.
A Boeing 737-800 – which Virgin Australia confirms as bearing the registration number VH-YID – has been fitted out for the four week test, ith Virgin Australia now offering free iPad and iPhone apps which let passengers tune into the programming.
However the wifi technology, which uses Lufthansa Systems' BoardConnect platform, doesn't include Internet access.
The iPad and iPhone apps let you tune into Virgin's inflight entertainment to enjoy over 300 hours of free movies, TV shows and music.
Virgin has also beefed up its apps with 'offboard' information about the airline, the airports and destinations it serves.
Windows and Mac laptops running Microsoft's Silverlight web software can also enjoy the programming, with a special Wireless In-Flight Entertainment System Check web page to ensure your kit supports Virgin's streaming system.
Lufthansa Systems also ran the Qantas Q Streaming trial earlier this year, although the eventual rollout of Q Streaming across Qantas' Boeing 767 fleet was done in concert with Panasonic Avionics.
Virgin already offers wifi content streaming on several flight using its own Samsung Galaxy tablets which are carried on board in limited numbers and supplied to travellers.
The trial is scheduled to run to late January, with Virgin then aiming to introduce it across the rest of its domestic fleet.
"Subject to it being successful – which we expect it to be – we'll start the (fleet-wide) fit-out round about February, and by the end of 2013 we'll have a large part of our fleet done" Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller last month.
As to which aircraft will see the upgrade, "Obviously we're going to do the aircraft without IFE first" Borghetti said, "and then the last aircraft to be done will be the 330s. Although they've got a very good (IFE) system in place, for product consistency we want to make sure they too have the WiFi."
Upgrading each aircraft with the necessary hardware, including a content server and a handful of wifi hotspots, is a relatively quick task, Borghetti explained.
"When the aircraft's parked at night you do the work, and within two or three nights you've done an aeroplane. So effectively you can move very quickly and do the whole fleet... within 12 to 18 months."
For more on Virgin Australia's inflight entertainment streaming trial, visit the airline's What is Wireless In-flight Entertainment? page
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.