Qantas frequent flyers are eagerly awaiting the December debut of the new Airbus A330 Business Suite, and with it comes a completely new seatback and iPad inflight entertainment system.
Each passenger at the pointy end on domestic and international flights will have a 16 inch high definition Panasonic touchscreen, along with access to a newly-revamped Q Streaming service from gate to gate.
Economy travellers on the A330 aren’t left out either, with 9 inch interactive touchscreens on domestic hops and 11 inch HD monitors when heading abroad.
From mid-2015, 38 of The Flying Kangaroo's older Boeing 737s will also be retrofitted with Q Streaming, using the same modern design as planned for the A330s.
"The last time we redid our graphic user interface was in 2008 with the A380s," Qantas' Head of Digital and Entertainment Jo Boundy told Australian Business Traveller.
However, "there hasn’t been any authority for us to roll (the new entertainment system) out on every aircraft" as a replacement for the existing 2008 model, although Boundy imagines "that with the feedback from this... it will eventually appear on every aircraft," including the Airbus A380s and the subset of Boeing 737s that currently have seatback screens.
Australian Business Traveller had the chance to give a pre-release version of Qantas’ new Q Entertainment system a hands-on test – here’s what jetsetters can expect when it all goes live.
1. Faster, easier menu navigation
Gone are the days of double-tapping ‘movies’ and then having to slowly wade across the screen to all of the available categories. Instead, a single touch opens up a full, easy-to-browse menu, and puts genres within easy reach.
Scrolling between options on the seatback system – such as the list of genres above – is also made simple, with the responsiveness of the screen emulating that found on an iPad.
If you’ve honed in on a particular content type such as dramatic television shows, your various options are served up in a new tile-based layout…
… and failing that, you can also hit the A-Z index to find your favourite show or to see everything in one spot.
For the visually impaired, Q Entertainment also supports text-to-speech navigation.
2. Plan your flight and see what’s coming up
If you’re hoping to work during the flight, or even catch up on a little shuteye, you’ll be able to plan that around meal times and other services using the ‘my flight’ screen, accessed by tapping the aircraft icon at the bottom of the monitor.
The aircraft icon can be dragged from left to right, which allows passengers to view the menus and timings of any further meal services, when arrival cards will be delivered and when the cabin lights will be dimmed or illuminated.
It also flags if the aircraft will be flying near anything that’s worth opening your windowblind for, such as Uluru when jetting from Sydney to Singapore.
By tapping the knife and fork icon at the top right from any screen, you can also quickly browse the food and beverage menus, and can show or hide the full ingredients list.
That’s particularly great if you’re allergic to certain foods, as every ingredient is listed under each dish, or can be hidden to make the menu clearer.
3. Create a customised playlist
Spotted a few different movies and want to watch them all? Queue them up on your playlist at the beginning of your journey and relax throughout the rest of the flight.
Once you’ve lined up your movies, TV shows and music, the entertainment system can then assess your tastes and interests through the ‘suggest iQ playlist’ feature.
That saves you from aimlessly browsing to try and find something interesting when there are still a few hours to kill in the air, which could mean the difference between watching a full movie and being cut short 10 minutes before the credits roll.
4. See how a movie rates and score it yourself
Want to see what the experts think before investing a couple of hours in a movie? That’s easy: just select a title, tap the ‘reviews’ tab and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
When you’re finished watching, you can also provide your own star rating, with the Qantas passenger average displayed alongside the critics’ ratings.
5. Watch full box sets of TV shows
Tired of finding your favourite TV show on board, only to discover a mere handful of episodes available to watch?
On Qantas’ new system, you’ll be able to watch entire box sets from start to finish – and you can easily start your viewing from where you left off on the last flight with episode selection by name and number within easy reach.
And if you’re stuck for ideas, you can use the ‘more like this’ option to keep the picture flowing.
6. Shop from the seatback
You’ll find the obligatory fragrances and tipple available for purchase via the seatback or your iPad on international flights…
… and once you’re happy with your selections, the order can be sent to the crew and delivered directly to your seat.
When it first goes live, passengers will need to make payments directly to the crew as they do today, although we’re told that the software will eventually be upgraded to accept credit card payments directly, making the shopping experience more seamless.
7. Choose what to wear before you touch down
The latest weather information for Qantas’ major Australian destinations and international world cities is at your fingertips…
… so if you boarded a Sydney-Tokyo flight all rugged up in the Australian winter and forgot that you’ll be landing in the Japanese summer, that’s your cue to hide your jacket in your carry-on bag before stepping off the plane.
8. There’s more to watch
Through the Red Roo’s new partnership with Sky News, Foxtel, Fox Sports and MCN, travellers will enjoy a new wave of news, sport, entertainment and lifestyle programs normally found on pay TV.
Qantas Group Executive Brand, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Olivia Wirth said the new channels will include "multiple daily news updates seven days a week, 100 hours more TV and movie content, 160 hours of box set viewing, triple the number of new release albums and double the number of blockbusters.”
Those news bulletins will be uploaded to the aircraft automatically when it’s on the ground, which means that the latest news will always be available on the transcontinental trek from Sydney to Perth, and before every international A330 flight leaves the gate.
9. There’s something for kids too…
A dedicated kid zone comes standard on Q Entertainment – similar to the existing child option available on Qantas’ current generation of entertainment.
As the seatback screens on the reconfigured A330s are also much more responsive to a gentle touch, we imagine there will be fewer cases of a child making your economy flight uncomfortable by continually bashing on the screen behind your seat.
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