The Future of In Flight Entertainment Is Streaming

In-flight entertainment system architecture

Earlier this month, Indian airline company Jet Airways launched a new inflight entertainment system that allows passengers access to 220 hours of streaming digital content, including movies, television shows, music, and games, directly to their own personal mobile devices. Oh, and it’s free.

How is that possible, you might ask, when here in the Western hemisphere most flight passengers feel #blessed just to be able to pay $12 for a slow, painful crawl through their Facebook feed?

The wireless IFE systems, now called JetStream, use an onboard wireless streaming technology licensed from an American company, Global Eagle Entertainment. But make no mistake: this is not broadband. That type of access is still not allowed by the government.

Flight passengers need to bring their own WiFi-enabled devices to serve as “IFE monitors,” but that shouldn’t be much of an issue since 37% of travelers already consider their iPad or tablet a necessary carry-on essential. Users then simply have to download the JetStream app — and bam, streaming at your fingertips. Just like your couch at home, but, you know, on a small seat miles up in the sky.

“It’s part of our service and delivers on our commitment to offer enhanced full-service experience to our guests,” said Jet Airways senior vice-president for sales and marketing, Colin Neubronner.

The direct-to-device streaming is the first of its kind in global aircraft interiors, although other airlines have experimented with similar streaming services using built-in IFE monitors. Many planes also offer in seat power, which is a bonus considering how much battery juice all of that streaming might use up.

Ready to schedule a flight to India just to check out the latest Bollywood titles through free streaming? Don’t book your seat just yet. So far, JetScreen is only available on six aircrafts — all of them narrow body, the kind more likely used for shorter, domestic flights. They should roll out onto all narrow body planes by March, Nuebronner said, but there are no plans to take them into wide body planes usually used for international flights. Those, he said, already have plenty of in flight entertainment options.

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