In-flight entertainment is increasingly becoming a factor while choosing an airline
It’s not clear if the Wright Brothers took any entertainment devices along on their first flights, but it can be safely said that they wouldn’t have felt the need for them.
However, with the growth of aviation and the novelty of flying wearing off, airlines’ found that passengers began to get restive just sitting in their seats. And so was born the idea of in-flight entertainment.
Among the Indian players, only Jet Airways and Air India currently offer in-flight entertainment. But soon Indian fliers will have another option in Vistara, which is going to launch its own in-flight entertainment system. Experts say the longer the flight, the more that in-flight entertainment becomes a factor in choosing an airline. “In-flight entertainment today is not just a necessity on a long-distance flight, but a key differentiator,” said Amber Dubey, Partner and India Head of Aerospace and Defence at global consultancy KPMG.
Jet Airways first introduced in-flight entertainment on its international flights in 2005, which it has now extended to domestic flights as well. “Our content is updated and refreshed a minimum of six times a year. It takes a week to 10 days for uploading content across the network,” a spokesperson for the airline said. The airline considers feedback from its guests while taking a call on what content to feature.
Air India did not respond to questions on its in-flight entertainment systems.
Vistara’s Chief Commercial Officer Giam Ming Toh promised that the entertainment on the airline will be integrated with world-class technology and be “refreshingly different”.
“We are currently evaluating a few novel ideas that we should be able to deploy within a short period of time,” Toh said.
While all this may sound impressive, Indian carriers have a lot of catching up to do with their foreign rivals.
“While some do have basic in-flight entertainment systems, those available in some of the top international airlines are far ahead,” said Sharat Dhall, President of online travel portal Yatra.com.
Dhall has a point. Dubai-based Emirates, for instance, has ICE (Information, Communication and Entertainment). Through the ‘information’ feature, a passenger can catch up on news, follow the flight on a moving map or see the world from 40,000 ft above through the aircraft’s external cameras.
The ‘communication’ feature allows a passenger to stay connected with friends, family or colleagues on the ground.
And, for entertainment, the airline has over 2,000 channels, offering both Hollywood and Bollywood movies, music and top TV shows.
In its quest to take in-flight entertainment to another level, British Airways has committed to investing more than £5 billion in its products and services until 2017.
A long journey
In-flight entertainment has indeed come a long way since 1961, when David Flexer of Inflight Motion Pictures developed the 16 mm film for a wide variety of commercial aircraft. “The advent of new technology has enabled Etihad, Emirates and Turkish Airlines, among others, to introduce services such as free Wi-Fi on board,” said John Nair, Head of Business Travel at Cox & Kings. “Live television is another feature which many airlines have now introduced.”
Dhall said in-flight entertainment plays a key role in selecting the airline to fly on longer flights. “During the football World Cup, we received queries if the match was going to be telecast live on a flight and choices were made by customers on the basis of that,” he said.