Ask Cranky: When Will Continental Airplanes Have LiveTV Installed?

Several months ago, Continental announced a partnership with LiveTV that would bring the company’s next generation entertainment system onboard much of Continental’s narrowbody fleet. But there hasn’t been anything to show for it yet, and one reader came looking for answers. Fortunately, I have some.

I fly Continental cross country to get to and from USC, and when I heard they were going to begin offering LiveTV and wifi I was pretty excited. Have you heard when this service will actually start, versus their January 2009 “trial” date?

For this, I went straight to Continental. The first airplane (a 737-900) has received the system and it’s now going Ask Crankythrough the FAA certification process. Right now, it looks like the first regular flight for passengers will be in mid-March.

After that, they will try to install the system on “more than 10 aircraft each month.” This will go on to all 737-700/800/900 aircraft as well as the 757-300, and the install will be completed by mid 2010.

Once it’s done, only the older 737-300/500 fleets that fly shorter routes will be without in seat video (along with Express aircraft, of course). The 757-200 aircraft are used primarily for international, so while those won’t have television, they do have on-demand video in each seat.

I tried to follow up with Continental to ask whether they would outfit one fleet first or if it would simply be a mix, but they did not respond.


13 Responses to Ask Cranky: When Will Continental Airplanes Have LiveTV Installed?

  1. Skinny says:

    I flew CO a couple months ago and ended up on a flight with the Video OnDemand. I don’t fly too terribly often and this was my first experience with it. While LiveTV provides a little more in terms of options (as people always have their favorite channel) the large movie selection and the availability of games on the OnDemand console was welcomed. I’ve flown JetBlue plenty of times and love the LiveTV, but I really enjoyed the touch screen system on CO.

  2. Oliver says:

    This upgrade will make Continental’s product even more competitive!
    I hope you can test and review this system when it rolls out CF!

  3. CF says:

    Oliver – I did get a chance to check it out at the LiveTV lab and it’s an impressive system. Check it out: http://crankyflier.com/2008/11/04/continental-to-have-80-tv-channels-program-guide-onboard/

  4. Avi says:

    The VOD system CO is using is great… as long as you don’t fly them too often. Just going to/from Europe once was enough to watch all the content on the system I was interested in. This isn’t intended as a complaint (seriously, free movies, TV, games on demand is wonderful!) but as a way of highlighting why live TV is, in some ways, better – the content is constantly changing.

  5. Joe says:

    I so not understand why folks are not going with a VOD system like virgin. I much prefer watching an on demand movie than whatever is on tv. Maybe I am spoiled by my dvr, but I can barely tolerate commercials. The jet blue movies are annoying in that you cant watch them on demand, and also the choice of them tends to really suck.

  6. Kathy says:

    I flew LAX to LHR and return on Virgin recently, and had VOD outbound. It was nice. On return, it wasn’t on demand. You had to wait for the next movie cycle to start, which was kind of a pain. I agree with Joe. I can’t remember the last time I watched a TV show ‘live’ instead of TiVo’ed. I’d probably find the commercials annoying.

    I’d much rather have ubiquitous power ports to handle recharging my iPod Touch on long flights. Then I’d just watch my own content. The problem with my iPod with video, is that the battery only lasts for about 1 and 1/2 movies.

  7. The Virgin VOD system isn’t fool proof. I hear about it not working like it should many times. Cranky even mentioned it once in a trip report if I recall. Kind of sucks when it’s a long haul and you got nothing to do. My insider at LiveTV told me that Continental was rolling out 8 planes with the new system January 5th if I recall. Gotta check my email to verify. So I got excited when I was gonna fly a 757 home in early Feb. Turns out it was a plane with the system. Then I read this and find out no planes in service have the system. Boooo….. I thought all that test and certification was done all of last year after they signed the contract back in April I think?

  8. CORRECTION
    ****sorry a plane WITHOUT the system**

  9. CF says:

    Insider Knowledge – I have heard that the Red system can be buggy on Virgin America, but I didn’t have a problem. The only problem I had was that I was on the dark plane which didn’t have any inflight entertainment. That plane has since been fixed.

    As for CO, you can’t do a lot of the testing until it’s actually installed on the aircraft and running. So that’s what they’ve been working on now.

  10. Yes I am aware of that. But after the contracts were done, there were talks already that they were getting certifications and approvals from the FAA to begin installs due to the LIVE date of Jan 2009. I had assumed all the testing and installation was done by this time bc a former co-worker said CO was rolling out 8 planes in early Jan 09 with the system reading to go. So this is all news to me.

  11. They have to certify each of the four types of aircraft that are getting the systems. Right now it is a 739 (not sure if it is ER or not or even if that is considered a separate type) in Orlando getting fitted so those are going to be converted first once approved. I’d also expect that they will pull a 73G and a 738 out of the rotation sooner than not as there is a 30-day waiting period with the FAA once they are actually fitted out.

    And, yes, they expect to have the 280ish planes all fit out in ~14 months, so possible more like 20 planes per month once they get moving on the conversions.

    As for the value of AVOD versus LiveTV, I agree that AVOD is my preference, but I also understand shifting the cost burden to LiveTV under this deal’s structure to provide the benefit to the customers without the cash outlay or risks.

  12. Jason says:

    Continental’s system will be a mix of both live tv and stored content. If you don’t want to watch live tv, you will have to option to watch VOD programming.

  13. FAA test says:

    I do think that the other major airlines will need to follow Continental’s lead to stay competitive and offer those types of services.

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