First Look: Testing the US Airways In-Seat Video System

They’ve been talking about it for awhile, but it wasn’t until yesterday that US Airways turned on the screens for a two month test of a new in-seat entertainment system. The system, made by Lumexis, will only be on one aircraft (N680AW) that is scheduled to spend each night in Orange County. Why Orange County? Well Lumexis is based right next to the runway, and since they’re close, I was able to stop down last week and take the new system for a spin.

Why bother describing it when I can just show you. I took a 1 minute 58 second video of me playing with the system, and here it is:


As you can tell it’s fast. That’s thanks to the fiber optic cable they’ve decided to use, a first for the world of inflight entertainment. But this unit isn’t even the best they’ve got; it’s just the test system. The actual production units have the same 8.9 inch screen with 16:9 aspect ratio, but they’re lighter by half (weighing only 2.2 pounds each). Oh, and the production units are capable of full HD broadcasts. They showed me a sample video from Discovery Channel in HD and it was impressive. No, you won’t see that on US Airways at this point, and as you can imagine, a video of an HD broadcast doesn’t come out very well. So you’ll just have to imagine it for now.

Do I have any complaints? Really, just a couple. My biggest complaint is that the headset jack is in the screen instead of in the armrest. That may save on maintenance, but it will be extremely annoying. Just imagine sitting on the aisle and having to unplug every time someone wants to pass over you to go to the lav. Not a great experience, but I suppose if the cord is long enough, it might be not be as bad.

The other complaint is about the sensitivity of the screen. It’s not sensitive enough, and that means people will start tapping hard on the seat to make it work. That’s not pleasant for anyone. The good news is that the sensitivity can be changed easily – they’re just testing it out now to see what will work best.

So will US Airways roll this out across the fleet? It’s tough to say, especially in this economic climate. Installing a system like this isn’t cheap, and US Airways would have to be comfortable that it could make the cost back and more by selling the entertainment to customers. There are other players in the space as well, so we’ll just have to see how things go.

Without question, Lumexis has created a very impressive system that is sure to find a home with some carriers in the future, even if it for the more traditional long haul aircraft. Assuming installation and service is handled well, these guys could be serious contenders in the inflight entertainment world in the future.

If you’d like to try to get onboard, the plane is supposed to fly the following schedule every day for the next two months (no guarantees, of course):

US Airways 610 Lv Orange County 646a Arr Phoenix 814a (later on Sunday)
US Airways 610 Lv Phoenix 909a Arr Atlanta 347p (later on Sunday)
US Airways 656 Lv Atlanta 535p Arr Phoenix 656p
US Airways 656 Lv Phoenix 808p Arr Orange County 929p

For more information on Lumexis itself, see my post on BNET with much more.

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16 Comments on "First Look: Testing the US Airways In-Seat Video System"

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Oliver
Guest

US Airways? Isn’t that the company that just recently started ripping the IFE systems out of their domestic fleet?

As far as the cord plug-in is concerned, I always get up when someone wants to get out of the seat next to me (assuming I am in the aisle seat in economy). But the cord hanging down into my food/drink might be a problem. Then again, what food? :)

A
Guest
System looks nice I guess. Any idea what they charge for this? Are they charging on their “test” plane? Last time I flew US Airways they had a movie on the bulkhead screens. If I recall correctly they charged for headsets but I had my own that worked fine. That had to be a money maker as all they did was push play and sell some headsets. The cost of refitting a whole plane with in-seat entertainment has to be huge…probably requiring a hefty charge to offset that cost. Is it really worth it? Why not just keep the old… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

This looks pretty sweet. I wonder how much they need to make to fly the extra 500 lbs around?

Plus this seems a whole lot simpler and more logical.

Oliver
Guest

The link back to this post over on the BNET site is broken. Wrong date.

(I’d have posted it there if I didn’t have to register there… and I really can’t be bothered).

Dave
Guest

CF – I understand that USAirways is paying zero to have these installed. It’s a revenue sharing model between them, Lumexis and the content providers. And, since USAirways is the launch customer for this specific system, it’s a win-win for the airline.

james
Guest
Wait a minute. This screen is in installed in the seat back, (like any other screens,) and it’s a TOUCH SCREEN? Without experiencing this in person it sounds like a terrible idea. Just imagine when the IFE starts and everyone starts poking and jabbing the screen- and YOUR seat back. I try and be as sensitive as possible when pushing in my tray table, and I can’t stand it when people yank on my seat back to raise themselves up (although I understand some less than nimble folks need to for balance,) — so the thought of everyone poking each… Read more »
rerjohnson
Member

Say I’m flying through to Atlanta. Will the system, and retain where I am in the movies for the second hop?
I am also a bit concerned about the touch-screen aspect. Sounds to me like a great idea for the manufacturer, and a lot less great for the airline and the user. I suspect
would be problems there with the cabin-cleaning between flights and ham-fisted passengers.

David SF eastbay
Member

A system like that at every seat is much better then the old fashion movie and music options. How east is it to use and see when people lean their seat back? Seats should only recline an inch or less and that’s it.

With a touch screen it will sure be dirty with greasy finger prints, I wonder how many people will start asking the FA’s to clean it for them. After all, if you are paying for the service they need to maintain it which includes cleaning the screen for you. That should tick off the cabin crew.

gobluetwo
Guest

I’ve used the touchscreens plenty on other airlines and have had no issues whatsoever with the passengers in front of and behind me. I would hope that US would provide some basic free content along with premium paid content – is that asking too much?

botamern
Member
I’ve used the touch screen system that Delta has installed in their 757s and 737s and never noticed any problems. I’ve mostly used the system on flights to Hawaii and longer flights from the west coast and didn’t notice much of an issue with the back of my seat being tapped by the person behind me. Most people are considerate enough to be gentle and I have found that most of the heavy tappers get frustrated as most touch screens don’t respond well to heavy hitting. I use touch screens every day at work (and wish I had a mouse… Read more »
The Boarding Pass
Guest

Should be AA as they bring more 737s into the fleet, as they are badly in need of some updated IFE and they may think they can charge for the privilege.

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[…] Paine Field in Everett where it would have the inflight entertainment system installed. You might remember Lumexis from my post a long time ago. That’s the company that introduced a fiber optic system that goes direct to the screen […]

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