With Virgin Australia now extending its wifi inflight entertainment system to travellers' own tablets, laptops and smartphones, Australian Business Traveller contributor Liam Rasmussen grabbed his iPad and went for a test-drive test-flight from Melbourne to Sydney to pen this report.
Virgin Australia officially launches its new wireless in-flight entertainment system today, although it's been operational in more than a dozen aircraft since the middle of last month.
The airline has now outfitted almost 40 aircraft with the new technology and extended it to selected flights to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and promises that the remainder of Virgin's Boeing 737 and Embraer E190 fleet will be upgraded by the end of the year.
The night before my Melbourne-Sydney flight I received an automated text message from Virgin to advise that I'd be travelling on one of the newly fitted-out aircraft.
This also included a link so I could download the software required to use the system inflight. It's a very smart move by Virgin to encourage travellers to try the system out.
In my case all that was needed was an iPad app although it had to be activated over an Internet connection before getting onto the plane.
At the airport the flight's gate and cabin crew made several announcements during boarding inviting passengers to download and activate the necessary apps prior to departure.
Many passengers were quick to take advantage of this, the most popular devices being used were iPads and laptops, although quite a few kids were also using an iPod Touch.
Once in the air and the seatbelt sign is switched off, we were free to connect and start using the app.
The system contains a considerably broader of content compared to the Samsung Galaxy tabs Virgin previously used. For example, rather than two or three episodes of a TV show, an entire season is available for viewing.
I'd estimate the flight was half full, and it looked like half of the passengers were using the wireless entertainment system during the flight. But it didn’t skip a beat, with no lagging or buffering of the video.
Unless you're in business class there is nowhere to charge your devices onboard, so if there's a long trip ahead of you or your device is already running low on battery, charge it up in the lounge before the flight.
The system also features a high quality inflight map, allowing you to zoom in on areas you’d like to explore.
It will also automatically pause during inflight announcements by the crew.
Just remember to bring your own good-quality earphones. (I find headphones are too big for carry-on so I use the Beats by Dre inner earbuds.)
Overall, I'm impressed. Virgin Australia has delivered a world-class an entertainment system for its Boeing 737s and I can’t wait to see it fully rolled out right across the fleet.
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