Finnair to ditch in-seat entertainment screens for iPads

By David Flynn, August 24 2011
Finnair to ditch in-seat entertainment screens for iPads

Finnair is considering replacing expensive in-seat video screens with tablets like the iPad, with a system which may debut when its next-gen Airbus A350 jetliners take to the skies in 2014.

On top of this, the Finnish flag-carrier wants to personalise the devices so that each passenger’s iPad would come preloaded with content chosen before they board the plane.

Finnair CEO Mr Mika Vehviläinen is no fan of rapidly outdated, fixed inflight entertainment systems.
Finnair CEO Mr Mika Vehviläinen is no fan of rapidly outdated, fixed inflight entertainment systems.

“Built-in entertainment systems are quite cumbersome and expensive, and they tend to get outdated very quickly” says Finnair CEO Mr Mika Vehviläinen. “And the lifecycle of aircraft is very different to the lifecycle of electronics, especially consumer electronics, so it’s not a very good combination.”

Vehviläinen’s solution? Ditch the hard-wired screens and make tablets available to all passengers.

“I think this should be a future direction (of Finnair) and I think that all airlines would see the benefits of this” he told Australian Business Traveller.

“There would be central servers with wireless so you could download and stream movies and music to the devices. We are seeing more and more people carrying their own devices too, so the capability to connect those devices to the aircraft system is of very high interest.”

“We are starting to do the first specification for our upcoming Airbus 350 this year and this is one area we are absolutely looking at.”

Vehviläinen believes that uncoupling the in-flight entertainment system from the plane will not only save money and boost fuel efficiency by reducing overall weight, but allow for more frequent upgrades as tablet technology continues to march forward.

“Once the technology allows better or larger screens for example, it would be a lot cheaper and easier to change than change something which is fixed into the plane.”

Finnair is already trialling a service under which business class passengers flying from Helsinki to Hong Kong can borrow an iPad in the lounge at Helsinki and take it on board their flight to Hong Kong. LINK

BA has also trialled iPads in lieu of personal DVD players on selected flights, while Jetstar still hopes to be the world’s first airline to introduce a commercial iPad rental service later this year.

Finnair’s point of difference would be to allow passengers to specify the movies, TV shows, music, magazines, ebooks and even games which would be installed onto their iPad – before they even get to the airport.

“Ultimately I would like to be in a situation where you could personalise your music and movies, for example” Vehviläinen says. “The device you get from us would greet you your name and have all the movies you would like to watch during your flight.”

Regular travellers would have their genre tastes and previous choices stored in their Finnair frequent flyer profile, with additional content requested such as specific latest-release movies selected through the Finnair website.

“The ideal solution would be similar to Amazon, when you buy one movie it recommends others to you” Vehviläinen says. The system would know what movies you’ve already watched and suggest others you might also enjoy.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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