British Airways' new Inflight Entertainment

7 Sep 2010 by Tom Otley

The new Inflight Entertainment system on BA’s B777-300ER will gradually be introduced to some 24 aircraft over the next couple of years. It will appear on both the new B777-300ER deliveries (six of these) as well as being retrofitted to 18 of the GMIS B777-200ER fleet (ie: the ones currently without Audio and Video On Demand - AVOD).

The i5000 system from Thales is a definite improvement on the Rockwell Collins system most BA passengers will be familiar with. It has more than 230 TV programmes, 70 films and 400 CDs on demand, as well as new handsets allowing for easier gaming (these do not double up as a phone anymore). The screens in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus are larger, and are touch sensitive, though in Club World I found it easier to use the handset to navigate around the system.

There is a new paper guide onboard to the system and to see a copy of the front cover of this, click here.

There’s lots to like about the new system. The games are improved, and you can play against other passengers on the flight. There is a greater choice than before and the screens, even when the same size as the existing screens as is the case in Club World seem clearer and of a higher definition.

The plug points at the seat take UK plugs (as well as US and Euro style) and so enable charging of devices, and it is possible to plug in your camera or device and view pictures for instance on the screen, although there are file size issues with this, and certainly when I plugged in my own camera the system was not able to show the photos.

With so much content the Quickfind number is useful, since all programmes are listed with their respective number in the guide, and the help menu is detailed so it’s difficult to get lost with the system. There are several amusing and informative documentaries about BA’s histories, and lots of documentaries on sport, popular culture etc...

The Audio function has a wide choice of music, including a Top 100 albums, although you cannot presently compile your own playlist, something I have enjoyed on Emirates and Qatar Airways flights, to name just two. When flying in a dimmed cabin, there is also the option of partially dimming the screen for night mode.

The navigation is easy to understand, and the coloured buttons on the handset act like short cuts, with the green button navigating right, blue left, yellow back and red help. For those flying with children, a parental lock can be set (and once set, has to be released by the CSD).

The new B777-300ER has cameras fitted both underneath the aircraft and at the tail, and on some IFE systems such as the Emirates A380, the views from these cameras can be shown on the IFE system, but Conlon says that some people don’t want to look at those views, and so BA has decided to not include them in the new IFE offering.

The new system will also be retrofitted to the GMIS fleet, starting in Autumn 2011 in a “double line”, meaning two at a time, with a possible completion date of only 6 months after the start.

So what of the Rockwell Collins system which remains on the majority of the long haul fleet?

Gemma Conlon, BA’s Customer Experience Development Manager says that Rockwell will continue to support the system, despite temporarily withdrawing from the market, and BA is talking with the company to try and improve the system, both in terms of reliability and new features. Conlon says that reliability has improved, as shown by the thousands of detailed customer surveys that BA conducts with passengers each month.

Conlon also pointed out that the Thales system will have features added in coming months such as live text news, the ability to listen to CDs while playing one of the video games (ie: not listening to the noise of the game), and a more advanced moving map. Further development and additional functionality will come with each new release (ie: when new aircraft such as the B787 are introduced).

The Thales system being used, the i5000, can support connectivity, but BA is waiting to see whether there is a customer demand for it. Conlon says that BA has had “very little demand for voice communication” on the A318 flying out of London City, despite the OnAir system being capable.

Tom Otley

For more pieces on IFE click here, and for more on the new World Traveller and World Traveller Plus products, click here.


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