Last week, Qantas announced that it was going to ditch the existing in-flight entertainment from its fleet of Boeing 767s and just give everyone an Ipad instead. That’s laudable, you might think, especially when you consider that the Qantas Boeing 767s usually have a few overhead screens spread along the aisle, all showing a terrible movie that you’ve had no say in the choice of.
It is, essentially, out with the old and in with the new, isn’t it? An Ipad gives everyone the choice of what they want to watch – it’s like the seatback screens you get on proper planes but more up-to-date, yes?
There’s also the argument that it might make flights cheaper, saving on those fuel costs that airlines are so keen to add surcharges for when they go up and not so keen to reduce when they go down. Instead of adding heavy seatback technology to every seat, which increases the weight of the plane, the light Ipads will essentially float weightlessly around the cabin.
Well I hope this idea doesn’t catch on. The key bonus of seatback screens is that you can choose what you want to watch from a big menu of films and TV shows, but the other major factor is that it is mounted at eye-level.
That doesn’t happen with Ipads. You have to hold them, or at least flip your tray table down and try to prop them up between tray and seatback. It’s a one-way passport to neck pain.
If there’s one thing passengers don’t need, it’s more junk that they’re supposed to keep neatly stored in their already too-limited area of personal space. With the headphones, blankets, pillows, in-flight magazines, sickbags and safety cards already there, an Ipad is going to make each passenger look like an overloaded South-East Asian motorbike with huge bags and tethered pigs sprawled over the back.
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Then there’s mealtime. Where on earth do you store the Ipad when meal service comes round? Essentially, you have to stop watching whatever you’re watching until the trays are finally cleared away, whilst finding somewhere to balance the Ipad.
Then there’s also the factor that all of the content is to be streamed to the Ipads by Wifi. I know what it’s like trying to stream one film to one computer on my generally rather good Wifi at home. It’s rubbish. Multiply that by hundreds of people and put them at the mercy of an inflight Wifi system and I think we all know what’s going to happen. A two hour movie will be seen in four second snippets stretched over a day-and-a-half.
Please, other airlines, don’t follow Qantas’ lead here.