While airlines around the world are competing with each other on updates to their in-flight entertainment systems, rolling out on-demand selections and ever larger seat-back screens for their customers there is one carrier bucking the trend, and they’re doing it with gusto. Air AsiaX has announced updates to their longhaul wide-body fleet. Not only will the plane be a bit more crowded than previously, the in-flight experience doesn’t look to be all that great.
The carrier will be converting their fleet of aircraft from their current 8-abreast 2-4-2 arrangement to a 3-3-3 configuration. This will allow the carrier to squeeze an extra 53 passengers into the economy section of the airplane, a 20% increase. The carrier will keep a 31”-32” pitch in the economy cabin as they decrease the seat width. And they aren’t going to be adding AVOD anytime soon.
The carrier stated that, in addition to packing in passengers more tightly than any other carrier on an Airbus A330 and A340, they will not be providing any in-flight entertainment systems at the passengers’ seats. The systems are too expensive and complicated according to CEO Azran Osman Rani.
We’ve decided to move away from IFE screens on the seat backs. Demand simply isn’t there to cover the massive cost of the system, the Hollywood content and the extra weight and complexity of the wiring. We think portable units [these will be available for rental] are the way forward and we are hoping to debut these by mid-year.
Not a huge vote of confidence in the selling power of movies on board the plane. Of course, the “portable for rent” units do suggest that is some value in having the systems available, so long as the customer is willing to pay for it. The carrier also expects that customers will be bringing their own IFE on-board. Says Tim Claydon, commercial advisor for Air AsiaX:
In years to come we also feel that there will be an increase in customers bringing their own entertainment devices on board.
On the plus side, Air AsiaX does plan to keep the fares low and also upgrade the business class cabin to an angled lie-flat product. Which is great for the 18 folks up there during the flight. The lack of any IFE on flights up to 12 hours long seems to be a significant step backwards in time, but Claydon is probably right that passengers will be bringing their own more and more – I know I do – and that should help mitigate the issue.
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