Virgin Australia will begin fitting out the majority of its aircraft with Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablets for in-flight entertainment this month, ahead of Qantas' own rollout of Apple iPads on a limited number of its older Boeing 767s.
Virgin trialled the devices over a one-week period in April, with the Android-powered tablets handed out in the business class cabin of selected Boeing 737 and Embraer E190 flights.
"Following the successful completion of this trial, Virgin Australia is now rolling out the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 across the majority of its domestic and short-haul international network, including trans-Tasman flights" a Virgin Australia spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller.
The tablets will be offered free for business class travellers "and, on flights over three hours, flexi fare guests, subject to availability", although the spokesperson was unable to advise if economy passengers would need to pay a rental free.
Up next: inflight entertainment over wifi
Although they'll initially come preloaded with a range of movies, TV shows and music, Virgin will later this year move to a wireless streaming system to beam the content over wifi to these tablets along with passengers' own devices.
"The second phase of Virgin Australia's inflight entertainment plans is the launch of the leading Lufthansa Systems Wi-Fi streaming technology, which will allow guests to stream video and audio directly to their own personal electronic devices and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tabs" Virgin says. "This will begin rolling-out before the end of this year."
The full roster of BYO devices is expected to include iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and smartphones, all of which will use a free app to play the content, along with Windows and Mac notebooks.
This second stage will see Virgin adopting the same Lufthansa BoardConnect technology as used by Qantas in its initial Q Streaming trial, although Qantas subsequently chose Panasonic's eXW system for its wider rollout.
Borghetti: tablets for A330s as well as Boeing 737s
Speaking with Australian Business Traveller earlier this year, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti said he expected the wifi roll-out to happen "very quickly", as the process for installing Lufthansa BoardConnect in each aircraft isn't especially time-consuming.
"To fit an aircraft, you can do it overnight and it only takes two to three nights" Borghetti explained. "So 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."
"And when I say the whole fleet," Borghetti emphasises, "I don't just mean the 737-800s, I mean the whole fleet, and I include the A330s on that, very quickly, within 12 to 18 months."
Borghetti is also bullish on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 versus Apple's iPad 2, telling Australian Business Traveller that "the Samsung tablet is being recognised as a better product than Apple."
"The [Android-based] system is a plus," he adds, along with the larger 10.1 inch display. "It's (also) much thinner... overall it's a better product."
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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.