Up next for in-flight iPads: multiplayer games and live TV channels

By David Flynn, May 21 2013

Tablets are already gaining traction as the new wave of in-flight entertainment, but there’s a ‘next wave’ beyond the conventional content such as movies and music.

How about thumbing through the latest copy of your favourite newspaper or magazine? Or taking on your fellow passengers in a multi-player game?

It’s all on the to-do list for Lufthansa Systems, creators of the BoardConnect digital in-flight system.

“Every week I get a new idea for BoardConnect from my team and from the customers” says Lufthansa Systems’ senior vice-president Olivier Krüger. “There’s a lot to come.”

“Games is something we are looking into, it’s on the road map” Krüger tells Australian Business Traveller.

“At the end of the day, we are building an Internet in the aircraft. You can have a chat room where people can come together and agree to play a game, then you simply log on with your seat number.”

"You might have Platinum status, Mr 3A, but I've got 100% health, stealth mode and a shoulder-mounted grenade launcher!"

“Then, there’s shopping in all shapes and forms, from classic duty free into movie shopping, for instance. You watch a movie on the plane, you like it, you might want to buy it and bring it home to show to your family.”

The same would apply to TV series, Krüger says – watch some episodes in flight, then buy the rest of the season, possibly as a digital copy downloaded to your device or by ordering DVDs.

“Newspapers are a big interest from consumers as well as airlines” Krüger says, along with eBooks and digital editions of magazines.

“Other stuff people are thinking about is live TV, to watch a big sports events or something like that.” Also on the to-do list: the ability to order your meals directly from the tablet.

Five of these compact boxes can deliver wifi to every seat in a Boeing or Airbus jet

Qantas used BoardConnect for its trial of inflight Q Streaming earlier this year: we've got a full video and review of the system plus a deeper dive into the technology itself.

However, the seemingly unstoppable march of tablets doesn’t spell the end for in-seat video screens.

While Virgin Australia has also followed the tablet-only route on selected flights, Virgin America's BoardConnect system will have both in-seat screens and iPads, Krüger says.

“They will have custom-developed screens which we designed, but they will also allow their passengers to bring their own device and use that if they feel more comfortable than using the seat screen.”

Krüger also believes that a rethink of IFE design to create a more modern and more intuitive interface, especially to take advantage of touchscreen technology, will encourage passengers to fully explore and enjoy the content on offer.

“It’s very, very simple for the passenger to browse through the menus, and we even have a search function in there” Krüger says.

“It’s much better compared to a classic IFE system, where it’s quite cumbersome to browse through the categories and you always have to wait for a response.”


David Flynn

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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