Air Transport World

Expansion of inflight entertainment nears.

Expansion of inflight entertainment nears

The incredible advances in electronics technology are in evidence throughout modern aircraft with one notable exception--the passenger cabin.

Passengers still plug their pneumatic-tube headsets, if available, into armrest passenger service units. They can listen to a limited number of audio programs and perhaps watch a movie. While video projectors are replacing film for movies, and some airlines offer electronic headsets for business-class and first-class passengers, the only substantially new technology available to passengers is the inflight telephone, and this only in limited areas.

All this is about to change, and change dramatically, if plans discussed here at the annual meeting of the World Airline Entertainment Association are any indication.

The most consistent request that airlines put to their inflight entertainment directors is that ways be found to allow passengers to have more control over their environment while in the cabin, reported Dr. Denzler Von Botha, general manager-marketing communications for Alitalia and chairman of WAEA's technical committee.

May airline travelers, particularly business travelers, are resourceful, energetic people used to having a great deal of control over how they spend their time, Von Botha said. When they get on an airliner, their choices are narrowed to whether their reading lights are on or off, how far to recline their seats, what channel of music to listen to, and, sometimes, what entree to eat. Everything else, occasionally including access to lavatories, is decided by the airline, leading to a dissatisfaction that grows in proportion to the length of the trip.

For this reason, airlines are strongly interested in the development of individual entertainment systems, most featuring flat-panel video displays in the back of each seat. A WAEA technical committee report outlined general specifications of what airlines want. …

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