Jetstar Plans iPad Inflight Entertainment Plan; Do We Really Need That?

Jetstar, the low fare unit of Qantas, has announced that it will roll out iPads iPadto provide inflight entertainment. This may sound like a great idea to you Apple-lovers, but there are a couple of flaws with this plan.

The idea makes sense theoretically. You have a device with 10 hours of battery life that can play all kinds of content from movies to tv and games. It doesn’t have any of the hassles of a built-in inflight entertainment system, and since it’s one of the hottest devices on the planet, a lot of people are likely to shell out the $10 it’ll cost to rent. But there are problems, and they all boil down to one issue – this isn’t likely to be cheap for the airline.

Yes, an iPad is going to be cheaper than installing something in the seat, but that’s hardly the only option. A DigEPlayer, for example, has built-in content and can be rented just as the iPad can. It’s not nearly as versatile as an iPad, but do people really care that much? Both provide hours of good entertainment.

But the iPad is soooo cool, right? That’s the problem. People are really going to steal this every chance they get. Seriously. Wouldn’t you? It’s not going to be tied down because not everyone will want one. So it needs to be able to roam to the person who decides to rent it. The company that put this together, BlueBox, says that it has a “proprietary bluebox security solution.” Unless it’s a solution that tasers someone for trying to sneak it off the plane, it’s unlikely to stop them.

Sure, you can add security that makes it worthless on the ground, but that won’t stop people. When I was at United, the airline started handing out personal DVD players to people traveling in First and Business class on the new p.s. flights from New York to LA and San Francisco. Those DVD players only played the mysterious “region 8″ DVDs, a region that is really just for airplanes, cruise ships, etc. In other words, you couldn’t play any regular DVD on it so it was no good.

That didn’t stop anyone. They disappeared faster than an airline employee’s pension.

Now, United uses a system that has a built-in drive with pre-programmed content. I don’t know if people still steal these things, but the fact that it’s pretty clear that there’s no external application for the device keeps people from taking it.

You don’t think that the second the iPad takes to the skies, someone will have a webpage up on how to disable the security system so that you can use it? You know they will.

Sure, it can be policed. If they find one missing that you rented, they can charge you for it, unlike at United where the players were given complimentary. But you know people are pretty savvy about getting around those things as well. And what happens when the flight attendants start trying to get in the game and make a little money for themselves?

There are ways around all of this, but it requires complexity that may not be warranted. If airlines need to provide inflight entertainment (and Jetstar does, because it needs something to make people forget that their knees are smashed in their chests) go for something simpler, cheaper, and less likely to be stolen. Or just skip this phase entirely. Simply provide content people can access from their own devices. Then you don’t have to worry about the device disappearing at all.


31 Responses to Jetstar Plans iPad Inflight Entertainment Plan; Do We Really Need That?

  1. Cranky, the way they currently get around the thievery issues is that Jetstar makes you hand over your credit card/passport or other form of important ID before they hand over the player, and they hand it back when they collect the players at top of descent. True, some have still gone missing, but it’s a fairly effective solution methinks, short of the airline equipping its fleet with Ku band antennas.

    The other thing to think about are the weight and size savings, which are potentially huge. The Airvods currently used by JQ are about the thickness of two iPads, and with two batteries fitted weight about 2kg each. So for the same space and less weight you can carry more iPads than Airvods, which means more of that juicy, tasty ancillary revenue.

    It will be interesting to see how it all works out. My guess is that JQ want this particularly for their A330s which have space issues carrying the Airvods and it’s too darn expensive to fit embedded IFE, while the A320s will be cream on the cake.

    • CF says:

      Yes, they can make you hand over a credit card, but they have no ability to actually process that card inflight. So, you can hand over any old card if you so choose and they won’t know it.

      Ku band antennas aren’t the only solution. Just install a server with pre-loaded content and then throw up a wireless access point. Then anyone can access it on the plane.

  2. lance says:

    CF, Actually don’t Jetstar require a driving licence and credit card as security? If people want to take it, Jetstar can charge it!

  3. Tony says:

    1. I’m not a
    big Apple man, but I think think the iPad is the PERFECT IFE.
    2. On most airlines, I know the one I work for, the Purser is ultimately responsible for the the final reciept of all IFE players, as well as signing them off. Missing players are a “personal foul” that no Purser in his/her right mind would want to deal with. The iPads will come back.
    3. Flight Attendants steal?? I’ve seen folks take a few mini’s, but large class c felony items, (i.e., duty free, jewlery, IFE’s) I’ve yet to see that happen.

    You’re about one F/A insult away from me not recommending your concierge service any longer! ;-) (which I actually do refer folks to your site).

    • CF says:

      It’s simply human nature and has nothing to do with being a flight attendant. When presented the opportunity, some will take advantage of it. That’s just the way it is.

  4. frank says:

    What about damage? I can see passengers hap-hazardly dropping them as they get out or return to their seats.

  5. Eric says:

    I just flew on a United 777 from LHR and was thinking about how pathetic the in-seat displays were compared to my iPad sitting on the tray table (not to mention the irritation of the a/v boxes under the seat in front of me). I couldn’t even bring myself to watch a movie I hadn’t seen, for fear of ruining it when I could watch it properly! So I think this is a great idea, and that more should do it.

  6. Interesting idea, but just how many do you plan for on each flight? It seems easy to me to thing if you give one to Mr Smith in 19A, then it would be easy to use a list and go back to Mr Smith in 19A to get it.

    They could have some device inside and use portable detectors in the jetway or near the exit doors and anyone taking one would set off an alarm. But would you want to sit there holding one for hours to use instead of sitting back and looking at a screen on the seat back?

    I would hate to be on one of those flights and hit turbulance and have all those iPads flying around the cabin hitting people on the head.

    • Oliver says:

      Don’t have to hold it. Put it in a case that props it up on your tray table. Need a case anyway for protection or they each will last two trips max. Interesting question though regarding turbulence and resulting damage (who pays for it).

    • I read it somewhere yesterday, but I answered my own question that they had purchased thousands of iPads and would have about 30 on each flight. That may normally be enough, but I thing since the iPad is still so new that 30 may not be enough at the start. I’m sure lots of people would want to try it and see what it’s about before they buy one for themselves. Even it you will not be able to connect to the internet, people would still get to handle it and get the feel for what it can do.

  7. Oh and I forgot to add……

    “””””People are really going to steal this every chance they get. Seriously. Wouldn’t you?”””””

    No I wouldn’t since I am not a thief!

  8. james says:

    quote: Simply provide content people can access from their own devices. Then you don’t have to worry about the device disappearing at all.

    Or power ports. My number one wish for all seating cabins in all airlines.

    • Oliver says:

      My iPad needs no power port, battery life gets me through pretty much any flight. Of course you have to be prepared (with a full battery).

  9. Alex says:

    Put an RFID tag inside each of the ipad. easy to track.

    • CF says:

      An RFID tag only works if there’s something to read it. So they could put a reader at the door but then they wouldn’t know where else it went after that. I can just see people getting frisked on the plane. That’ll slow things down!

  10. Oliver says:

    So, CF, are you saying (admitting) *you* would steal the iPad if it was available on your flight? Or do you only think your readers would?!?

    I’d rewrite that part of your post, because I for one would seriously not steal it, and I’d that’s true for most of your readers.

    That said, they only need to have an occasional loss to make the whole program prohibitively expensive.

    Personally, I have for YEARS brought my own IFE onboard. Nowadays it is – tada! – my own iPad (should I now worry about my seat mates pinching it while I am in the lav?).

    • CF says:

      No, I don’t steal. (And even if I did, I wouldn’t steal an Apple product.) This again goes back to human nature. When presented with the opportunity, some people will take advantage.

      • From CF : “””””No, I don’t steal. (And even if I did, I wouldn’t steal an Apple product.) This again goes back to human nature. When presented with the opportunity, some people will take advantage.””””””

        Very true, prisons are full of people who have taken advantage of something. Some teenager to impress his friends may well be the first to swipe one.

        “People are really going to steal this every chance they get. Seriously. Wouldn’t you?” I’m sure we all know you didn’t mean to make it sound like we were all thieves, but that could have been put a better way I think. Remember Brett you’re married now and husbands are not allowed to do things on their own, so ask the wife to proof read next time…..lol (just kidding, well the wives will agree on that). I know, to make up for that remark I think you should send us all a new iPad. :-)

  11. Oliver says:

    Cranky, I think you’ve gone over the deep end on this one. It’s a fair concept to employ the wildly popular iPad as IFE. There will always be thieves and people who scheme, but it sounds like the iPads that Jetstar will use are modified/locked and won’t have all the capabilities a “real” iPad will have. Why would someone want to steal something that has been modified?
    Plus if someone really wanted to steal an iPad, there are better ways to do that than pay a plane ticket to fly and maybe get the chance to hop on a flight with the test service.

    • CF says:

      I have no idea why someone would want to steal something that has been modified/locked, but as I mentioned in the post, people did it all the time on United. I’m not suggesting that people will buy a plane ticket simply to steal an iPad. I’m just saying that of those who are flying, some will steal it.

  12. Ben says:

    The stealing factor isn’t a huge deal if passengers are going to pay by credit card for use of the device. No different than renting a car. The expense of dealing with theft/damage to the devices would have to be accounted for.

    I do like the idea of having streaming digital media that pax could watch on their own devices. A cached version of Hulu would be wildly popular and wouldn’t strain the aircraft’s limited air to ground bandwidth.

    • CF says:

      There are a couple big differences between this an renting a car. The biggest is that they run your credit card right away at a rental agency and they get your address, signature, and all that so they can find you for the most part. With this, airlines can’t run cards at altitude, so they just cache it until you land and they can download. You can give them any old card.

      Also, for the car rental business, security of their assets is their primary business. For an airline, it’s more of a distraction than anything else. Is this going to get more people to fly Jetstar? I doubt it, so it doesn’t deserve the kind of attention that’s necessary.

      • Oliver says:

        So do those prospective iPad stealers use “any old card” when they fly United (or for that matter, any airline) and buy food/drinks or duty free goods?

        Frankly, swiping an iPad and handing the airline an old credit card of mine doesn’t sound like a brilliant idea — the airline should still be able to track me down. And I presumably paid with a valid credit card for the ticket. Granted, it’s not what they want to spend their time on, but it should still help as a deterrent.

        Another solution: pre-pay your iPad rental at check-in, so the credit card can be processed ahead of time.

        How does Alaska deal with the loss prevention problem with their digEplayers?

        http://www.alaskaair.com/as/www2/Flights/digEplayer.asp

        • CF says:

          When it comes to food or drink, it’s such a small purchase amount that I’m sure it’s not as big of an issue when compared to a bit ticket item like an iPad.

          As for the DigEPlayers, I think it’s a different issue. While the iPad can be modified so that it will lock down, people won’t really know that and will take what’s the hottest electronic item on the planet. The DigEPlayer is different in that it’s pretty clear that it’s a specially-made product that wouldn’t really have an application outside of the aircraft environment.

  13. David says:

    I resent the comment about Flight Attendants “getting in on the game and making a little money for themselves” Despite what YOU may think, MOST Flight Attendants that I know are honorable, educated, trusting people-not stealing whores! We don’t get respect from management and now it seems from you either-shame on you Cranky!

  14. Alex says:

    Cranky, I fear you may have just fallen through the large trap door marked “Jetstar Publicity Stunt”.

  15. Jim says:

    IFE. And I’m expected to pay for the facility to watch mindless hours of violent movies? Couldn’t care less. Just give me a safe, reasonably on-schedule flight, and give me a window to view the miracle of flight while my mind wanders (no screen needed). OK, if you have to have a screen, put a moving map on it, and give me earphones for Channel 9. That’s it.
    The whole IFE thing is crazy. Grrrumph.

  16. Axelsarkis says:

    They could use the iPed, the chinese rip-off look-alike.
    http://mashable.com/2010/05/31/iped/

  17. frank says:

    IPADS???……….are they super-absorbent?

  18. I wouldn’t mind actually. I am scared of flying so everything is good to keep me busy, the more I do the less I think about the flight.

  19. Kate says:

    If I’m going to be holding something for hours to look at, it’s going to be a book. To each his own.

Join the Conversation

*