Qantas Airways will introduce a new in-flight entertainment system on its fleet of domestic and international A330 aircraft to provide passengers with more blockbuster film, television box sets and flight information.
The touch-screen system, to be rolled out as Qantas refurbishes the seating on its A330 aircraft, will be augmented by a Wi-Fi-based system that can be used on passengers own mobile phones and tablets.
"We see a lot of changes in terms of how consumers are actually taking part in entertainment, Qantas head of branding and corporate affairs Olivia Wirth said at a launch event on Thursday. "Our challenge is how do we make the entertainment in the sky as good as the entertainment you get on the ground?"
The new installed in-flight entertainment system will feature a more intuitive interface similar to that used by Air New Zealand on its newer long-haul fleet. A "my flight" feature will offer access to maps, playlists and a service timeline showing when drinks and meals will be served and the best time for a rest. For international flights, passengers will be able to submit duty free orders through the entertainment system.
The screen size will rise to 16 inches (40 centimetres) for business class and from 6.4 inches to 11 inches for international economy and 9 inches for domestic economy.
The Wi-Fi based system to be installed will be similar to that used by Virgin Australia on its fleet of Boeing 737s and Embraer E190s, although Ms Wirth said it was likely to feature more blockbuster content.
It is being trialled on five Boeing 717 aircraft and it will also be rolled out to the Qantas 737 fleet from mid-next year, when the airline also increases the number of economy-class seats in the aircraft.
Ms Wirth said Qantas was committed to adding more new releases, blockbuster films and family content based on customer data.
"This is not Big Brother, but we absolutely know what you are watching on board," she said.
To date this year, the most popular film on board has been Divergent, followed by Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Lego Movie. The most popular television comedy is Modern Family and the most popular television drama is House of Cards.
Ms Wirth said Qantas was also monitoring broader trends, such as "binge watching" of television shows, as it updated its in-flight entertainment.
"We also know that just like people on the ground are binge-watching [television] – they are not just watching one episode, they are watching the entire series - so we have moved to a box set approach," she said. "Hopefully that will satisfy this move to binge watching not only in the lounge room but in the air, so stay tuned for that."
Qantas is also working to provide more up-to-date news bulletins through a new partnership with Sky News, which began last Friday and replaced an old contract with Channel Nine. For now, three bulletins a day are being prepared for domestic and international flights, but eventually the latest bulletins will be uploaded to the aircraft just before each flight.
"People, as we have discovered over the years, want news immediately," Sky News presenter David Speers said. "They want to know what is happening now. They want to be able to access it in their way. I think it is going to be a great fit between Qantas and Sky News. We are really excited about it."