Airlines increasingly make iPads available to passengers in the air and on the ground

Latvian national airline airBaltic is the first airline in Europe (and the second airline worldwide) to introduce the Apple iPad for inflight entertainment. The airline has teamed up with Bluebox Avionics to make the devices available to airBaltic passengers in the coming winter season, which starts in December 2010. The fee to rent an iPad inflight is expected to be a bit more (EUR9) than the amount airBaltic currently charges for its portable IFE device. The announcement by airBaltic is the latest in a series of introductions by airlines of the popular iPad device which was launched in January 2010. An overview of the initiatives sofar.

Jetstar
In June 2010, Qantas low-cost subsidiary Jetstar became the first airline in the world to offer the iPad for rent in a month-long trial on the Melbourne-Gold Coast and Melbourne-Cairns routes. Passengers could rent the device for AUD10 (USD8.50, EUR7.00) for the duration of the flight. The carrier at that time said it had bought several hundred iPad devices, with thirty units available on each test aircraft. Jetstar recently revealed the test was a success and that it is negotiating with Apple for ”thousands” of the devices for its fleet. The carrier is reportedly planning to begin roll-out of the device on 55 aircraft later this month and says that, based on the popularity of the trial, the number of iPads allocated to each aircraft has substantially increased.

Malaysia Airlines
According to Flight International, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) also plans to introduce iPads onboardwithin the next six months. The carrier plans to initially introduce iPads on its A330s, which only offer main-screen entertainment, and MAS is also considering bringing iPads on board some of its B737s. Despite being a full-service carrier, MAS has not ruled out charging passengers a fee or deposit to use the iPad. One option could be for passengers to book an iPad with their ticket purchase.

MAS also recently developed the world’s first airline kiosk that makes use of the Apple iPad, in cooperation with SITA. So-called ‘MHkiosks’ have been placed in the airline’s ticket office at Kuala Lumpur Central station. Customers can use the kiosk to search and book flights and check-in online.

Lounge: KLM, Cathay Pacific, ANA
Since July 2010, KLM offers 8 iPads in each of its two lounges at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Lounge guests can use the device to access the Internet, watch content from the airlines’s IFE programming, play games, view KLM images and use a series of pre-installed apps. Cathay Pacific, meanwhile, offers 21 Wi-Fi enabled iPads in its new ‘The Cabin’ lounge, which opened in early October 2010. The devices come pre-loaded with apps such as newspapers, magazines and games. Later this month, when Tokyo Haneda’s new international terminal opens, ANA will make iPads available upon requests to lounge guests at the airport.

Apps: Cathay Pacific, Malaysian Airlines, Lufthansa
A large number of airlines (nearly 30 at last count) have rolled out apps for the iPhone, and Cathay Pacific in July 2010 was the first airline to launch a customized app for the iPad. In addition to the functionality of the existing ‘CX Mobile’ app for smartphones, Cathay’s iPad app also allows users to make bookings for Cathay Pacific flights. MAS in early October made its ‘MHmobile for iPad’ app publicly available, the same one it uses for its iPad-based kiosk. American Airlines also launched an optimized version of its iPhone app for the iPad. The iPad version does not contain extra features. And the latest version of Lufthansa’s Memberscout app, a mobile social network for the airline’s frequent flyers, is now also optimized for the iPad.

Inflight magazines: TAP, Ink Publishers
Portugal’s national airline, TAP, in August launched an iPad version of its inflight magazine, UP. The app contains the full inflight magazine and is available for free. Inflight magazine publisher Ink, meanwhile, has teamed up with digital publisher PixelMags to make a select number of inflight magazines (Ryanair, bmibaby, Jet2.com, Brussels Airlines, and Airtran) available for iPhones and iPads. A subscription to each magazine costs EUR 0.79 and requires users to register with Pixel Mags.

Air New Zealand, meanwhile, since August makes its KiaOra inflight magazine available on the iPad, but charges NZD 5.29 (EUR 2.99, USD 3.99) per issue. But as one frequent flyer rightfully commented: “[This] looks like a nice sustainable way of delivering the magazine, however as someone that travels frequently on AirNZ, and is about to be a Gold Elite member – I see absolutely no reason why I should pay for the electronic issues when I can get them free on the plane.”

Update 3 December 2010 Lufthansa has just made its in-flight magazine available for free on the iPad. Compared with the paper version of the Lufthansa Magazine, the iPad app also features videos, photo galleries and animations.

Related articles:
Jetstar first airline to test iPad as in-flight entertainment device
Cathay Pacific customizes iPhone app for the iPad

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