Photos: Qantas

Photos: Qantas

Qantas frequent flyers are eagerly awaiting the December debut of the new Airbus A330 Business Suite, and with it comes a completely new seatback and iPad inflight entertainment system.

Each passenger at the pointy end on domestic and international flights will have a 16 inch high definition Panasonic touchscreen, along with access to a newly-revamped Q Streaming service from gate to gate.

Economy travellers on the A330 aren’t left out either, with 9 inch interactive touchscreens on domestic hops and 11 inch HD monitors when heading abroad.

From mid-2015, 38 of The Flying Kangaroo's older Boeing 737s will also be retrofitted with Q Streaming, using the same modern design as planned for the A330s.

"The last time we redid our graphic user interface was in 2008 with the A380s," Qantas' Head of Digital and Entertainment Jo Boundy told Australian Business Traveller.

However, "there hasn’t been any authority for us to roll (the new entertainment system) out on every aircraft" as a replacement for the existing 2008 model, although Boundy imagines "that with the feedback from this... it will eventually appear on every aircraft," including the Airbus A380s and the subset of Boeing 737s that currently have seatback screens.

Australian Business Traveller had the chance to give a pre-release version of Qantas’ new Q Entertainment system a hands-on test – here’s what jetsetters can expect when it all goes live.

1. Faster, easier menu navigation

Gone are the days of double-tapping ‘movies’ and then having to slowly wade across the screen to all of the available categories. Instead, a single touch opens up a full, easy-to-browse menu, and puts genres within easy reach.

Scrolling between options on the seatback system – such as the list of genres above – is also made simple, with the responsiveness of the screen emulating that found on an iPad.

If you’ve honed in on a particular content type such as dramatic television shows, your various options are served up in a new tile-based layout…

… and failing that, you can also hit the A-Z index to find your favourite show or to see everything in one spot.

For the visually impaired, Q Entertainment also supports text-to-speech navigation.

2. Plan your flight and see what’s coming up

If you’re hoping to work during the flight, or even catch up on a little shuteye, you’ll be able to plan that around meal times and other services using the ‘my flight’ screen, accessed by tapping the aircraft icon at the bottom of the monitor.

The aircraft icon can be dragged from left to right, which allows passengers to view the menus and timings of any further meal services, when arrival cards will be delivered and when the cabin lights will be dimmed or illuminated.

It also flags if the aircraft will be flying near anything that’s worth opening your windowblind for, such as Uluru when jetting from Sydney to Singapore.

By tapping the knife and fork icon at the top right from any screen, you can also quickly browse the food and beverage menus, and can show or hide the full ingredients list.

That’s particularly great if you’re allergic to certain foods, as every ingredient is listed under each dish, or can be hidden to make the menu clearer.

3. Create a customised playlist

Spotted a few different movies and want to watch them all? Queue them up on your playlist at the beginning of your journey and relax throughout the rest of the flight.

Once you’ve lined up your movies, TV shows and music, the entertainment system can then assess your tastes and interests through the ‘suggest iQ playlist’ feature.

That saves you from aimlessly browsing to try and find something interesting when there are still a few hours to kill in the air, which could mean the difference between watching a full movie and being cut short 10 minutes before the credits roll.

4. See how a movie rates and score it yourself

Want to see what the experts think before investing a couple of hours in a movie? That’s easy: just select a title, tap the ‘reviews’ tab and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

When you’re finished watching, you can also provide your own star rating, with the Qantas passenger average displayed alongside the critics’ ratings.

5. Watch full box sets of TV shows

Tired of finding your favourite TV show on board, only to discover a mere handful of episodes available to watch?

On Qantas’ new system, you’ll be able to watch entire box sets from start to finish – and you can easily start your viewing from where you left off on the last flight with episode selection by name and number within easy reach.

And if you’re stuck for ideas, you can use the ‘more like this’ option to keep the picture flowing.

6. Shop from the seatback

You’ll find the obligatory fragrances and tipple available for purchase via the seatback or your iPad on international flights…

… and once you’re happy with your selections, the order can be sent to the crew and delivered directly to your seat.

When it first goes live, passengers will need to make payments directly to the crew as they do today, although we’re told that the software will eventually be upgraded to accept credit card payments directly, making the shopping experience more seamless.

7. Choose what to wear before you touch down

The latest weather information for Qantas’ major Australian destinations and international world cities is at your fingertips…

… so if you boarded a Sydney-Tokyo flight all rugged up in the Australian winter and forgot that you’ll be landing in the Japanese summer, that’s your cue to hide your jacket in your carry-on bag before stepping off the plane.

8. There’s more to watch

Through the Red Roo’s new partnership with Sky News, Foxtel, Fox Sports and MCN, travellers will enjoy a new wave of news, sport, entertainment and lifestyle programs normally found on pay TV.

Qantas Group Executive Brand, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Olivia Wirth said the new channels will include "multiple daily news updates seven days a week, 100 hours more TV and movie content, 160 hours of box set viewing, triple the number of new release albums and double the number of blockbusters.”

Those news bulletins will be uploaded to the aircraft automatically when it’s on the ground, which means that the latest news will always be available on the transcontinental trek from Sydney to Perth, and before every international A330 flight leaves the gate.

9. There’s something for kids too…

A dedicated kid zone comes standard on Q Entertainment – similar to the existing child option available on Qantas’ current generation of entertainment.

As the seatback screens on the reconfigured A330s are also much more responsive to a gentle touch, we imagine there will be fewer cases of a child making your economy flight uncomfortable by continually bashing on the screen behind your seat.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

21 comments

  • Moff

    Moff

    6 Nov, 2014 12:21 pm

    It would be good if you could order drinks/food from the entertainment system.

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  • Gian

    Gian

    6 Nov, 2014 12:37 pm

    Yes a good point, Air NZ does that well. but I must say this new system looks really really good!!! I give cudo's to Qantas here!

    No member give thanks

  • undertheradar

    undertheradar
    Banned

    6 Nov, 2014 12:48 pm

    seems the F/As 'role' is being diminished and likened to robots...the less 'contact' wih them the better??? call me old fashioned, but when I would like a drink/snack etc, I enjoy human interaction..." would you like ice with that"..."sorry but we have run out of that alternative..would you like to choose another option"? ...much like the human interaction involved when in a cafe/restaurant... does the ANZ 'ordering system' allow for 'out of the ordinary' scenarios??

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  • Gian

    Gian

    6 Nov, 2014 01:50 pm

    I agree with this somewhat, however, think about this scenario, you're stuck in Y, without the fully attentive service of the J cabin, its a long 13+ hour transpacific flight, middle of the night, and your'e in the window seat or god forbid, the middle seat.

    You can't sleep but would love a drink/snack, using your seat back screen to quietly browse and order from a list of whats on offer without waking the passengers next to you by talking to a F/A, and then suddenly, out of the darkness, a F/A pops out with that drink/snack just as you ordered!

    You don't HAVE to use the system, but its very good that the option is there.

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  • gippsflyer

    gippsflyer

    6 Nov, 2014 05:02 pm

    I agree with Gian - it's an addition to the existing service rather than a replacement/subtraction, as there seems no evidence that Qantas or any other airline is doing away with call bell service as a result of any functionality through the ICE system.

    It's just more choice - you can have face to face and/or ICE ordering under such functionality, and it'll still have a human dropping it off and checking if there is anything else you need. Worry not, the FAs are not disappearing, and their role remains the same. People can choose the ordering method that suits them, as their needs demand at that time.

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  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    6 Nov, 2014 12:36 pm

    Regardless of how good the hardware is, without good aoftware support it is useless.

    Problem with Qantas is their movie selection is usually very boring! Mostly drama movies, hardly any blockbusters. They should learn a thing or two from Singapore or Emirates.

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    6 Nov, 2014 02:23 pm

    On the contrary Michael.

    I find the content on SQ and EK bland, full of crappy new hollywood films. Blockbusters does not equate to good films.

    I like to think Qantas also caters for the non-shallow types.

    And that is the key: Good and balanced coverage.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    6 Nov, 2014 05:09 pm

    Ew, Hollywood. I don't think I've watched a Western movie on a flight in years, apart from the one time I gave in to Up In The Air.

    I think there has to be the correct balance between depth and breadth of coverage. Sure, have a few blockbuster movies for the insipid unwashed, but also spare us a few documentaries and some good music.

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  • gippsflyer

    gippsflyer

    6 Nov, 2014 05:37 pm

    I've always found at least a couple of movies of interest when flying Qantas overseas, and I'm picky. I guess where Qantas hasn't always been so competitive is on non-A380 flights (their library is much larger), where what's on offer is a much shorter list than some of the huge libraries carried by some of the younger airlines. Something that this new ICE system looks to be rectifying.

    In case anyone from Qantas' relevant area is reading this article though, please try and expand English subtitle support for those of us who are hard of hearing/deaf. With modern day releases, such subtitles are readily available, so it can easily be achieved. There are always a few latest releases on the current Qantas system that provide English [Hard of Hearing/Deaf] subtitles, but for whatever reason a large number go without.

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  • AusFlyer

    AusFlyer

    6 Nov, 2014 12:36 pm

    Looks great! Can't wait to give it all a go!

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  • RK

    Ryan K

    6 Nov, 2014 12:40 pm

    Looks great, but I can't believe that on the 'Welcome Aboard' video tab (bottom of the MY FLIGHT screen), they show a picture of a Qantas A380 in the OLD Qantas livery. The A380 never even wore this livery!

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    6 Nov, 2014 01:42 pm

    Looks good! Can't wait to try it out!

    No member give thanks

  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    6 Nov, 2014 03:02 pm

    Layout and functionality look great, increased content (particularly the full box sets!) and touchscreen response that mimics that of an iPad should make for a great entertainment and user experience! Love the idea of being able to read the ingredient list for the food on offer, hopefully the next version will show nutrition information too. Looking forward to experiencing the new product on my next hop into Asia.

    No member give thanks

  • _bj

    _bj

    6 Nov, 2014 03:03 pm

    Is Game of Thrones really going to be an entertainment option? While an undeniably awesome show ... it's a little inappropriate for packed plane. Heck, I watched a woman 'tut tut' a lad watching Archer on a flight ... and that's a cartoon!

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  • undertheradar

    undertheradar
    Banned

    6 Nov, 2014 03:24 pm

    if you dont wanna watch it... dont look at someone elses screen or dont select it... has political correctness gone that mad?? the simpsons and many other 'cartoons' manage to be 'politically incorrect' ....i would have turned to the woman and said..."well stop watching my screen"

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  • RK

    Ryan K

    6 Nov, 2014 03:24 pm

    I know what you mean. I was watching some episodes on my iPad on a flight recently and felt myself almost shielding the screen during some scenes!

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  • eminere

    eminere

    6 Nov, 2014 03:25 pm

    Wow, this all looks really slick. Colour me impressed.

    Now for a smooth execution...

    No member give thanks

  • gippsflyer

    gippsflyer

    6 Nov, 2014 05:15 pm

    The new skin and interface look much improved, and the new elements look great. I'm all for creating more box set series too - perfect for discovering a new favourite. As long as it's stable and as bug free as possible, Qantas is onto a winner here. Vast improvement.

    No member give thanks

  • henrus

    henrus

    6 Nov, 2014 07:08 pm

    With your point number 8 about the news service 

    I have been on several 737 and 767 services domestically with Qantas and have always found that the smaller 737's on the shorter domestic hops ie BNE - SYD are updated several times a day where as the 767's have not been updated since yesterday

    The same happens on the 747 and A330 internationally where the news service is only updated when the aircraft is in Australia at a home base ie SYD, MEL, BNE

    The idea is great but they are not always able to update it in time

    No member give thanks

  • Ron N

    juantrak

    7 Nov, 2014 06:21 pm

    Well, I'm glad QF is finally doing something about entertainment on their tired ex-JQ A330's.

    The Captain regularly apologising for the lack of entertainment is getting a bit old.

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  • Nicholas Nic

    Nicbulley

    25 Jun, 2015 08:41 pm

    Does anyone know if Qantas will be using this entertainment on the A380's? If so, when?

    No member give thanks

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21 May, 2019 09:10 pm

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