12 years. Consecutive.
For more than the past decade Emirates (EK) has won ‘Best Inflight Entertainment’ awards from essentially all the major and reputable airline rankings organizations and publications. Emirates comes out top in this category in Conde Naste Traveler, Skytrax, Business Traveler, Forbes, Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor and London Telegraph Traveler are just to name a few.
The key we suppose to the continual success of Emirates in this regard is the fact that they are continuously innovating their ICE offering (ICE stands for Information, Communication, Entertainment). Indeed, while Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to install personal televisions on their aircraft, EK was the first to do it in all classes – something unheard of in the early to mid 1990s. The airline’s Chief Executive, Sir Tim Clark was indeed a visionary in this regard – he saw the advent of the technology and the next step from the dated projector screens we were enthralled with back in the day. He invested heavily in R&D, collaborated with all the major vendors such as Panasonic, Sony and Thales and as such has kept EK ahead of the pack in this regard for nigh on two decades at this point.
The last update to the system was when EK’s second batch of A380s started arriving about two years ago with larger screens (largest in the sky in Economy at 13.5 inches), better high definition resolution and more options at 2,500 movie options alone, live streaming of football matches of teams that Emirates sponsors, free WiFi and mobile phone connectivity.
While Singapore Airlines’ KrisWorld, Cathay Pacific’s studioCX and Qatar Airways’ Oryx systems are all very good, they are still held to the standard of ICE. And it just got stiffer for the competition, as Emirates has just announced another upgrade to their ICE system, which will be featured on their new 777X deliveries (150 to arrive) starting in 2020.
Per an Emirates press release:
– Emirates today announced it has signed an agreement with Thales to equip its Boeing 777X fleet with Thales AVANT inflight entertainment system. The airline will work in partnership with Thales to develop and enhance the state-of-the-art inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system to be fitted on its new Boeing 777X aircraft due for delivery starting in mid-2020.
The Executive Vice President and Chief Operations of Emirates Adel Al Redha went on to affirm EK’s continued strong investment in their entertainment product and how sticking to tradition, it not only benefits Emirates passengers but the industry as a whole and passengers flying on other major carriers:
“In addition to customers, the size and long-term nature of this deal also benefits the broader aviation industry, and we are pleased that this new partnership will help support thousands of highly skilled jobs across the Thales ecosystem – in France and elsewhere around the world.”
Thales was effusive in their selection as the vendor for the introduction of the next generation 777X fleet at EK – CEO Dominique Gianonni said this:
Thales is proud to be selected by Emirates to provide the award winning AVANT inflight entertainment solution for their future B777X fleet. Emirates is at the forefront of innovation in passenger experience delivering remarkable services to its customers and Thales is honoured to support this continued success. We are committed to delivering excellence in customer satisfaction and driving the highest standards in passenger engagement, now and into the future”
So details are sparse at the moment – it’s probably a combination of holding their cards close to their chest (as Emirates is known to do) and the fact that will a four year lead in time they are still working out the details and additional options they can offer with this new product. This is the only hint that both the airline and Thales have released:
The deal covers IFEC systems for Emirates’ first 50 Boeing 777X aircraft. The airline has a firm order of 150 Boeing 777X aircraft. The new Thales AVANT system will feature an innovative and highly customisable user experience, providing a further boost to Emirates’ award winning inflight entertainment system, ice.
Emirates has said that they will release further details ‘when the time is right’.
So an educated (albeit of the shot on a dartboard mold) guess would be that the screen size will be further increased as will resolution. More options for movies – though past 2,500 it starts to get a bit moot. Given the ‘highly customization’ part of that quote, we’re thinking and hoping that it’ll be something game changing – something that we can’t really even deduce at the moment. EK has always blown it out of the water when progressing to the ‘next generation’ of ICE and we’re expecting something of the same ilk with this one. Given their track record and the fact that they bothered to do a press release on this makes us optimistic, and we can’t wait what they have in store for us.
What radical advancement do you think is in store for the new ICE system to be introduced?