Remember when flying used to be boring — when your diversions were limited to the in-flight magazine, the SkyMall catalogue, and a third-rate movie on a tiny ceiling screen several rows ahead of you?
Nowadays, thanks to the proliferation of personal electronic devices, new storage technology, Wi-Fi, and streaming video, passengers are enjoying a bewildering array of content choices for keeping themselves entertained from gate to gate. And the number of choices just keeps growing.
This week, Virgin America fired the latest salvo, announcing new in-flight content partnerships with the Spotify online music service and with The New York Times. On Virgin aircraft equipped with the new ViaSat Wi-Fi, Spotify users will have free streaming access to the service’s entire catalogue of more than 30 million songs. (Virgin and Spotify even pulled together dozens of playlists themed to various destination cities; you can see them at www.virginamerica.com/spotify) .
At the same time, The New York Times partnership will provide passengers with a selection of articles including breaking news, business news, travel, technology, and a list of “most viewed” stories, available for reading through any Wi-Fi linked device on ViaSat-equipped flights. The new content partnerships come on the heels of Virgin America’s recent announcement that flyers on those ViaSat aircraft will also be able to stream shows from the Netflix programming roster at no cost through March 2.
(Currently, there are only two Virgin planes outfitted with ViaSat, but it should have 10 by next summer.)
Content options continue to proliferate at other airlines as well. For instance:
JetBlue, which just finished installing high-speed “Fly-Fi” Wi-Fi service on its A320/321 fleet, has a new partnership with Amazon that will let Amazon Prime members stream movies and TV shows in-flight — as well as audio from a million songs in the Amazon Prime Music service. JetBlue also recently inked a contract with Major League Baseball that lets passengers stream live, real time game broadcasts from all 30 teams at their seats.
United recently announced expanded content from HBO for in-flight streaming to personal electronic devices (PEDs), with full seasons of top-rated shows like Entourage, Game of Thrones and True Detective. The carrier also said it has teamed up with Vevo to give passengers free access to hundreds of music videos and concert performances. And it has started deploying PED streaming entertainment on its fleet of 120 Wi-Fi equipped regional jets (E170s, E175s and CRJ700s). (Me, Earl and the Dying Girl had seatmate and I all weepy last night on a United ATL-SFO transcon)
Rather read than watch or listen? Global Eagle Entertainment, a packager of in-flight content for dozens of airline customers (like Southwest), recently announced it is teaming up with Zinio to make 3,000 magazine titles in 50 languages available to flyers, either by streaming or through seatback systems. The company has also joined with the folks at Lonely Planet to bring 30 of the publisher’s packet travel guides to its in-flight entertainment platform.
And today we’ve learned that Uber plans to offer seat back entertainment, too! Under a new partnership, ten Chevrolet Tahoe cars with AT&T wireless connectivity will do the rounds on four Saturdays in Detroit, Nashville, Houston and Atlanta in October and November. The vehicles will have four tablets in the back of headrests, wireless headsets and phone chargers. Riders can watch a livestream of football games through AT&T’s U-verse TV app on tablets connected to its 4G LTE network. Details here.
Which airline has the best inflight entertainment? Why do you think so? Please leave your comments below!
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Uber gaining on taxis + Spectacular Hong Kong hotels + World’s longest flight + On-time stats useless? #1 Dreamliner hub in US