Recently on a return flight from Melbourne back to Sydney I boarded the aircraft and noted a flash new interior, and overheard one of the crew tell a passenger “yes we’ve got WiFi on this aircraft” – it reminded me of Virgin Australia’s recent announcement of in-flight entertainment delivered by WiFi to your own device – and I jumped at the chance to check it out.
Fortunately I was one of the first to board, so I had the time to get into the App store on my iPad mini and search for the Virgin Australia in-flight entertainment app. You see, without that app, it’s just an idea to you, and something you can’t access.
Once you have the app, and once the plane has hit the right altitude and the seatbelt sign is switched off you are free to fire up your device.
Here’s where the confusion started for me. Knowing I wanted to use the service, before switching to airplane mode, I switched off mobile data because I didn’t want my device searching for mobile service at altitude. Little did I realise and remember that when you switch to Airplane mode, you can then switch on WiFi without exiting Airplane mode – thus keeping the mobile service shut down.
Having sorted that, it was time to find the plane’s own WiFi network. This was easy. Connecting was easy. However, you are then immediately redirected to a page – akin to a sign in page at a public WiFi network. Problem is, it’s confusing. Accessing the flight map was fine, but a separate link on the page made me feel like I had to “register” in some way prior to boarding.
What it turns out to be is a default page, you hit cancel and your device (in my case iOS devices) will ask you to “continue without internet” – that’s what you need. This page is trying to get online – which is not possible up in the air (yet), so once you cancel and step forward you are ready to go.
Launch the Virgin Australia app and you’ll connect to the in-flight system. What you get now is very similar to any in-flight system you might be used to in the back of a plane seat.
A reasonable range of content, set out in easy to find and follow categories. At times the display format was different, going from horizontal tiles to a carousel format with no reason for the difference.
That aside, your content streams fast, in a reasonable quality and without any buffering or delays. In fact navigating the menus and entire system to me seems faster than many in-built systems I’ve used before.
Overall, it’s a fantastic system, no doubt it could do with some slightly better and more clear instructions but I suspect the average traveller who has issues will get all the help they need from the on-board crew.
Check it out soon on selected Virgin Australia flights with the roll-out across Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737-800 and Embraer E190 fleet due to be complete before the end of the year.
The wireless in-flight entertainment system supports Wi-Fi-enabled Apple iOS devices (iPad®; iPhone®; iPod touch®), Android devices (phone or tablet) and Windows laptops. To access the system, download the free “In-flight Entertainment by Virgin Australia” App to your phone or tablet, or have the latest version of Microsoft Silverlight downloaded on your laptop.
Check out the entire gallery of screenshots below: