United Airlines to launch free inflight video streaming service for iOS devices, laptops

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2014
In April, United Airlines will begin rolling out a new inflight entertainment service that streams over 150 movies and almost 200 TV shows to passengers' iOS devices for free.

United


According to United, the system will be rolling out in stages starting next month, though the basic hardware is already on board much of the airline's fleet. At launch, the system will be limited to iOS devices and laptops, though support for Android is expected sometime in the future.

The service's hardware backbone, to be installed in United's Airbus A319, Airbus A320, Boeing 747-400 and certain 777-200 aircraft, will stream content from an on-board media server over Wi-Fi. By the end of 2014, the airline plans to have the setup running in most of its domestic fleet.

To view the various media, which is sponsored in part by the MileagePlus Explorer Card, users must first download the United Airlines iOS app, which will presumably stream content over United Wi-Fi. Users who do not have the app installed may do so for free while in the air.

As noted in the release, two types of media will be available for consumption. Laptop users may need to install a browser plug-in, while iOS device owners can simply watch content via the United app. Other programs will also be available through the United Portal without plug-in or app requirements.

It appears that the video offerings will act much like any other streaming app, complete with controls to start, stop, pause and rewind a movie or TV show at anytime.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    schlackschlack Posts: 708member
    cool, so airlines are getting away from the entertainment device in the seat model. great for weight, fuel, cost, and usability
  • Reply 2 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by schlack View Post



    great for weight, fuel, cost, and usability

     

    Don't doubt the first factors, but it's not very usable. The iPad isn't at eye level like the TV screens. Instant neck cramp after a movie.

     

    No battery is going to last a 15 hour international flight. Even a transcon with a connection in between is pushing it. Now they're going to have to install in-seat power in every seat (as AA has done) losing a lot of the weight, fuel and cost benefit.

  • Reply 3 of 36
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member

    Airlines started doing that several years ago, starting with iPods with preloaded content, followed by iPads. Well, at least in business and first class, maybe not coach.

     

    This is a logical progression of the model, to stream content to a passenger's personal device from an on-board media server, rather than preload everything on a number of devices owned and operated by the airline (which takes a lot of time and resources at the gate).

     

    This doesn't eliminate the in-seat entertainment systems yet, it just complements them. In a few years, we may see some of the in-seat systems vanish, but not today.

     

    In-seat power isn't a big deal, plenty of jets already have this (I know Virgin America does, most first/business class cabins have had it for years). My guess is that Apple can design a more power-efficient tablet than United's seat equipment vendors anyhow.

  • Reply 4 of 36
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

     

    This doesn't eliminate the in-seat entertainment systems yet, it just complements them. In a few years, we may see some of the in-seat systems vanish, but not today.


     

    The weight of the in-seat entertainment systems requires a lot of fuel to fly around.  I'm willing to bet that United will strip out all the in-seat video, at least from Economy and Business classes (it might possibly remain in First class) at the same time that they install the streaming system.

     

    I agree with the other posters that in-seat power is both important and easy to provide.

  • Reply 5 of 36
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,732member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by konqerror View Post

     

     

    Don't doubt the first factors, but it's not very usable. The iPad isn't at eye level like the TV screens. Instant neck cramp after a movie.

     

    No battery is going to last a 15 hour international flight. Even a transcon with a connection in between is pushing it. Now they're going to have to install in-seat power in every seat (as AA has done) losing a lot of the weight, fuel and cost benefit.




    Each seat already has power going into it on some level to operate things like the TV control panel and the monitor.  They can remove all that hardware, and simply add a USB port on the armrest instead using the same wiring that was powering the display.  So yes, it will save considerable weight, fuel, etc...

  • Reply 6 of 36
    neiltc13neiltc13 Posts: 182member

    This is really just to cover up the fact that United's long haul planes are some of the oldest and least equipped in the business.

     

    Their 747 flies routes up to 12 hours long but in Economy there are no seatback TVs!

  • Reply 7 of 36
    chabigchabig Posts: 640member

    Most of United's fleet will have in-seat power by the end of 2014. (https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/inflight/connectivity/default.aspx)

  • Reply 8 of 36
    ????poor Android users
  • Reply 9 of 36
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,381member
    mcarling wrote: »
    The weight of the in-seat entertainment systems requires a lot of fuel to fly around.  I'm willing to bet that United will strip out all the in-seat video, at least from Economy and Business classes (it might possibly remain in First class) at the same time that they install the streaming system.

    I agree with the other posters that in-seat power is both important and easy to provide.

    I agree about the power outlets, but in service streaming isn't the same as internet connection which I'd prefer even more. I have a lot of flights this year and I see Delta are pushing a $20 surcharge on each leg to have wifi. Hopefully, one day soon, with savings from eliminating in seat entertainment systems airlines can offer the wifi at a lower cost or even including it for free where possible as well as streaming options. I assume wifi is limited to areas with satellite coverage. Watching the terrible news about the lost airline you realize how little electronic connection planes have with the outside world in many parts of the world.
  • Reply 10 of 36
    I think this is awesome! Makes whole lot of sense. Glad to see those Android users comes later :-) For people who do not have any devices - they can rent it for $2. Amazing, isn't it - from charging $2 for headset ages ago they can bring it back for charging for devices itself. At end of the day, it is a win situation for them. Maybe with loss of weight they can stop charging us the fuel surplus charges.
  • Reply 11 of 36
    dnd0psdnd0ps Posts: 253member
    But... Samsung!
  • Reply 12 of 36
    kibitzerkibitzer Posts: 1,114member
    Let's see if I got this right. An airline that charges you extra to check a bag ... extra for enough legroom that your knees aren't jammed up around your ears ... is going to entertain you for free? Think about it.

    "Charge 'em for the lice, extra for the mice
    Two percent for looking in the mirror twice
    Here a little slice, there a little cut
    Three percent for sleeping with the window shut
    When it comes to fixing prices
    There are a lot of tricks I knows
    How it all increases, all them bits and pieces
    Jesus! It's amazing how it grows!"

    - M. Thenardier singing "Master of the House" in the musical [I]Les Miserables[/I]
  • Reply 13 of 36

    Really good way for NSA to track you, as they have been frustrated by "airplane mode" and people turning off their smartphones during flight.

    My advice, before you get on the plane, wrap your cellphone in aluminium foil.  It works, try it!  This creates a "Faraday shield", where no radio emissions can get in or out of it (aka, "Security").  Or you can buy a protective sheath to put it in, which also work, usually (test it) from eBay or Amazon for 5-6 bucks.

  • Reply 14 of 36
    kibitzerkibitzer Posts: 1,114member
    sofianitz wrote: »
    Really good way for NSA to track you, as they have been frustrated by "airplane mode" and people turning off their smartphones during flight.
    My advice, before you get on the plane, wrap your cellphone in aluminium foil.  It works, try it!  This creates a "Faraday shield", where no radio emissions can get in or out of it (aka, "Security").  Or you can buy a protective sheath to put it in, which also work, usually (test it) from eBay or Amazon for 5-6 bucks.

    And have you made it through TSA screening wearing your tinfoil hat? Inquiring minds want to know.:rolleyes:
  • Reply 15 of 36
    cletuscletus Posts: 54member
    Oh man that'll be so great when they rip out those seatback systems and I'll get to enjoy a flight without some idiot stabbing me in the back for hours on end.
  • Reply 16 of 36

    I usually put the tinfoil hat in the  basket with my shoes.

  • Reply 17 of 36
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    konqerror wrote: »
    Don't doubt the first factors, but it's not very usable. The iPad isn't at eye level like the TV screens. Instant neck cramp after a movie.

    No battery is going to last a 15 hour international flight. Even a transcon with a connection in between is pushing it. Now they're going to have to install in-seat power in every seat (as AA has done) losing a lot of the weight, fuel and cost benefit.

    Are you saying you can sit on your rear end for 15 hours straight, watching movies? That never happens. People get up, walk around, go to the bathroom, chat with other passengers, etc. No one just sits for 15 hours unless they're severely disabled or dead.
  • Reply 18 of 36
    d4njvrzfd4njvrzf Posts: 797member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post





    As noted in the release, two types of media will be available for consumption. Laptop users may need to install a browser plug-in, while iOS device owners can simply watch content via the United app. Other programs will also be available through the United Portal without plug-in or app requirements.

     

    Why, as this statement seems to imply, is installing a browser plugin any harder than installing any other software?

  • Reply 19 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by d4NjvRzf View Post

     

    Why, as this statement seems to imply, is installing a browser plugin any harder than installing any other software?


     

    iOS users are actually competent to use the app store to install stuff, whereas droid users apparently can't even figure out how to install a plug-in?  Or are so afraid of malware that they won't?

  • Reply 20 of 36
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mcarling View Post

     

    The weight of the in-seat entertainment systems requires a lot of fuel to fly around.  I'm willing to bet that United will strip out all the in-seat video, at least from Economy and Business classes (it might possibly remain in First class) at the same time that they install the streaming system.


    That's possible, but only if United strips out all the seat-back entertainment systems and revert to a cabin-based projection system for those flyers without a portable device (or who choose not to use one), at least for the economy cabin. They could also offer rental iPads for people who want the streaming content selection which might be free of charge in first and business class.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

     

    Each seat already has power going into it on some level to operate things like the TV control panel and the monitor.  They can remove all that hardware, and simply add a USB port on the armrest instead using the same wiring that was powering the display.  So yes, it will save considerable weight, fuel, etc...


    It would be an AC plug, not USB. You can't power notebook computers off of USB.

     

    Virgin America has had AC plugs between each pair of seats from the beginning.

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