In an interesting move, Cathay Pacific is considering the removal of seat-back in-flight entertainment systems from its entire fleet.
Why? To save weight and fuel
IFE Systems add between one to two tonnes of weight on-board a plane. That weight has to be carried around where the plane goes, so more fuel is required. Multiply that over a fleet of planes, and the savings go from tiny to significant allowing for extra cargo to be carried, or lighter (and cheaper) fuel loading
John Slosar, CEO of the Hong Kong-based airline told HK Finance that:
“Given the popularity of tablet PCs, passengers no longer need some of the onboard entertainment facilities, like for example, the seat back personal TV screens”
There’s not need to panic just yet as John Slossar also stresses:
“it remains an idea at the present time. The carrier would wait for another five or six years before tablet PCs became more popular with the travelling public at large before taking action.”
Cathay Pacific’s idea is simple: Bring Your Own Device, and they’ll provide a power socket at seat so you can power it, be it a Laptop, Tablet or GhettoIFE Device.
The really clever move would be to introduce some sort of Wireless IFE device, so you use your own device, connect to a server on the plane, and stream content from it.
However, there are obstacles to overcome – not everyone has a tablet (I don’t amazingly and I’m a geek by trade – hence why I have a GhettoIFE device) and there will always be a portion of people who don’t want or need a tablet.
Certainly wattage and draw will be a big issue if everyone on the plane after the bongs go plugs in 200 electrical devices at once, as well as the monitoring of such devices at critical phases of the flight.
Then there are those of us who love inflight maps. Again – this could be delivered over a WiFi portal, but for those without the device… they’re lost. This could be mitigated with a cart of tablets available for hire on the plane.
Any precedents for this? We need only look to Malaysia where Air Asia X (the long haul subsidiary of Air Asia) abandoned IFE units from the planes for their long haul fleet, and switched to renting PlayStation Portables. Similarly, the recent Singapore Airlines upstart Scoot has no IFE installed in it’s 777 fleet, but has chosen to hire iPads out instead.
I doubt this will be the end of IFE as we know it currently, but with IFE content varying between mediocre and dull, and the march towards personal devices, in five years time, I could be spending a lot of time reviewing tablet holders for whilst you’re in the plane….