Airlines at ITB argue over inflight entertainment

Lufthansa to offer streaming to passengers’ devices

Lufthansa has announced plans to offer wirelessly streamed movies to passengers’ own portable devices on trans-European flights, the news agency Reuters reports, sparking a clash at ITB Berlin over the future of traditional seat-back inflight entertainment systems.

Passengers on a number of medium-haul flights will be able to stream movies, TV, music or games from an onboard server direct to their own tablets or smartphones from this summer. The scheme will be available on 20 Airbus A321s, on routes to Russia, the Middle East and North Africa.

Jens Bischof, Lufthansa’s chief commercial officer, dismissed concerns that some passengers would be left out.

“Everyone travels with a tablet or smartphone these days,” he said at an ITB Berlin press conference.

Airlines are competing in a race to offer the best IFE systems. The BoardConnect system has been developed by Lufthansa Systems, while France’s Thales and Japan’s Panasonic Avionics are leading manufacturers of the traditional seat-back systems.

Lufthansa rival Qatar Airways will stick with embedded systems, dismissing streaming. “This system is in its infancy and we would not like to introduce something that is not properly tested,” its chief executive Akbar Al Baker said. “Imagine in an airplane you have 200 passengers all switching on tablets. What interference that would provide to aircraft communications and avionics is still not proven.”


[pictured: HP ElitePad 900; courtesy HP]

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