BA in-flight entertainment scales new heights

David Phelan takes flight with the latest entertainment on-board BA

British Airways has a new in-flight entertainment system for its longhaul fleet. It’s not on every plane – 747s are exempt – but if you’re on a 777 or the forthcoming Airbus 380s and Boeing Dreamliners, you’re in luck, because this is seriously improved kit.

On a recent flight to New Delhi, in the name of research, I tried the facilities in First, Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller seats. I should add I did it with the co-operation of the crew on-board, and yes, I did have to go back to my seat at the back of the plane.

The older-but-still-current system, called AVOD, is decent enough, though if you’re a frequent flyer, chances are you’ve had to endure the system being reset at least once, or heard the announcer warn that things can get a bit hectic at the start of the flight when everyone’s going on to the system at the same time.

British Airways has partially solved this issue in a rather civilised way: on many flights you can now start watching films the second you get into your seat instead of having to wait for wheels up.

But the newer system ‘Thales’ is excellent, and- so the BA crew tell me- a lot more reliable.

British Airways has better screens to watch them on in every cabin – though all of them are resistive rather than capacitive touchscreens.

As you may know, capacitive screens are the classier, better-looking kind found on upscale mobile phones and tablets. Resistive screens are pressure-sensitive, cheaper and mostly look less impressive, but here, you wouldn’t know it.

All the displays look pin-sharp and detail-rich. And resistive screens respond to any touch, not just fingers, so you can poke it with your pen, toothbrush or High Life magazine. The screens are hugely improved in all cabins, look excellent and are a substantial upgrade.

The new Thales system is nippy enough to make pause, rewind and fast forward both efficient and effective – on some systems the hard drive can’t keep up with what’s on screen so rewinding seems to lurch from slow to lightning-fast and makes navigation frustrating. In fact, the whole system is refreshingly simple and effective and the touchscreen responsive.

And there’s more. Recognising that we now have gadgets like phones and iPods with us all the time, BA has installed electrical sockets. Beneath each screen in every class there’s a USB socket so you can charge your smartphone. Every class except First, where there are two USB chargers.

What’s more, there are multi-national power sockets all around the plane: a couple across three seats in Economy and more in other cabins. So, at last, you don’t need to get off the plane with your phone or laptop gasping for power. Though remember to activate the in-flight mode.

If you have photos on your camera that you want to show your friends, family, though (please) not complete strangers, the RCA connectors will help you achieve this end. Assuming the appropriate cable isn’t at home or in your checked luggage.

The maps feature is also enhanced with plentiful points of views and available stats and there’s a section of recommendations for movies, some of which have trailers built in.

Overall, the Thales system is slick, easy and enjoyable to operate and it puts BA’s in-flight entertainment at the forefront in terms of usability, range of content and excellence of screens to view it all on. And the extra power options and USB socket are the icing on the cake.

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