Airlines to Offer iPad In-Flight Entertainment Systems?

Bluexbox Avionics is planning to roll out an in-flight entertainment system in the form of an iPad this summer. According to the company, one international airline has already signed up and it will begin selling the system to others this summer.

The company is calling the system Bluebox Ai, which will presumably be centered around some kind of fancy iPad app. According to CNET, passengers would be able to stream content to iPads throughout the flight, not just when jets reach a desired altitude. Current movies, games and apps could be loaded up on demand rather than having to watch the handful of flicks usually offered by airlines.

In theory Bluebox Ai sounds pretty cool, but I’d be very surprised if airlines started handing out hundreds of iPads on each flight. The devices are expensive and I’m not sure how airlines would keep them from being stolen. Then there’s the whole problem of them being damaged in-flight. Other personal In-flight entertainment system, such as Virgin America’s RED, are secured to seat-backs for good reason. Passengers wouldn’t get the full iPad experience if they couldn’t hold them. Maybe they’ll be tethered?

Regardless if Bluebox Ai is a hit or not, I hope more airlines start paying attention to passengers’ digital needs when traveling. Flying on a carrier that has a good in-flight entertainment system, in-flight Wi-Fi and AC outlets is more enjoyable and can make the dash to the airport less stressful. In my experience, Virgin America has the best in-flight system of any domestic airline I’ve flown on. Cathay Pacific has a similar entertainment system and its planes are well-equipped for geeks.

3 Comments

  1. Drnkusv

    05/17/2010 at 10:44 am

    United gives out Archos media players with touchscreens (and noise canceling headphones) on its premium service flights from JFK to SFO and LAX. They just make a record of how many they distribute and then are careful to collect them before the end of the fight. They put heavy duty cases on them to protect them from harm — I assume they would do the same with the iPad. The logistics do not seem all that difficult.

    Reply

    • Xavier Lanier

      05/17/2010 at 10:55 am

      First I’ve heard about the Archos devices on United. Are there enough to go around? Or is it first come, first served? I think the airlines would have a lot more demand for the iPad than any other media device at the moment.

      Reply

      • Drnkusv

        05/17/2010 at 1:55 pm

        To be fair, it’s only in first and business classes (though, on these flights, business class is quite large), and I believe they have one on board for every seat. I have never seen a case in which someone wanted one but they ran out.

        They are quite strict about collecting them back. They keep a list of everyone who accepted one, and they insist on collecting them about 45 minutes before landing, to make sure they have time to double check that they all came back.

        I should add that the Archos is relatively new — past year. United used to provide portable DVD players on these fligts, with a selection of special DVDs. The portable DVD players were modified — and only played the special discs provided by the airline — and the disks also would only play in those players.

        As far as I can tell, the Archos devices are stock devices. There is a custom United software layer, but it looks like it is only skin deep, as I can see the Archos UI when I go into the menus.

        Reply

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