13 May 2013 | Airlines around the world are responding to the large number of passengers carrying smartphones, notebooks, tablets and e-readers by equipping seats with power ports and introducing onboard Wi-Fi and/or wireless inflight entertainment portals. Meanwhile, most airlines also still offer passengers paper newspapers and magazines in their lounges, boarding areas and on board, which is relatively costly and not too eco-friendly service.
In an effort to offer passengers a much wider variety of news, instead of the rather obligatory bunch of newspapers and magazines currently available, as well as to save on distribution costs, airlines such as Air France, airberlin, Virgin Australia and ANA have started to provide passengers with access to digital newspapers and magazines before their flight leaves. This allows airlines to save costs and offer passengers. Comments David Flynn, editor of Australian Business Traveller, “Being able to grab a digital copy of your favourite newspaper, especially ones from overseas, is a great pre-flight and even post-flight perk.”
An overview of the latest initiatives.
Air France ‘Press’
For some time, Air France has been offering a digital press service on iPads available for passengers to use in its lounges at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. The airline has now expanded this service and has launched a new ‘AF Press’ app that lets passengers download their preferred publications up to 24 hours before their flight until the time of departure to read them before, during and after their trip.
At the moment, there are 13 newspapers and 12 magazines available via the app and the offer will be gradually supplemented with French and international publications. Air France inflight magazines are available for download free of charge, with or without a flight reservation, by all ‘AF Press’ users.
As for now, all Air France ‘Travel Saver’ cardholders carrying an iPad or Android device are able to download a selection of magazines and newspapers onto their tablet free of charge. Later during 2013 the ‘AF Press’ service will become available to all passengers.
Air France Hop!
On a similar note, passengers on Air France’s new regional carrier, HOP! (which launched on March 31, 2013), have been able to download – on the day of their trip – the digital version of their local daily newspaper, as well as the local newspaper of another city of their choice. Sixty regional daily newspapers – with a total of 420 different editions – are available. Passengers who are travelling on more expensive ‘Maxi Flex’ tickets can use the service free of charge, while those with cheaper tickets have to pay a fee. At boarding, a selection of local newspapers is still be available in print for all passengers.
Gate area: airberlin
Since early 2012, airberlin has offered Silver and Gold members of its topbonus frequent flyer program free downloads of newspapers and magazines to their own devices while waiting at Berlin Tegel Airport’s ‘exclusive waiting areas’. The offer is free of charge and includes publications in German and English such as the Financial Times Deutschland or Frankfurter Allgemeine.
To provide the service, airberlin has partnered with a company called Media Carrier, whose Media Box ‘virtual library’ service is provided via the free Wi-Fi network in airberlin’s premium waiting areas. To save and read the newspapers and magazines passengers do not have to register for or install any software.
Airport lounge: Virgin Australia, ANA
Australian Business Traveller reports that members of Virgin Australia’s frequent flyr programme – and the rest of passengers with access to Virgin Australia’s lounges – recently got free access to 2,300 newspaper and magazine publications from 97 countries in 55 languages, as a result of a partnership between the Australian carrier and ‘same day news’ provider NewspaperDirect.
Newspapers and magazines can be downloaded to tablets or smartphones for free when done over Virgin’s airport lounge wi-fi network – as long as passenger have the PressReader app. NewspaperDirect usually charges AUD1 for each publication (or AUD 30 a month for unlimited access).
All Nippon Airways
On a related note, All Nippon Airlines (ANA) earlier this year began offering digital content to passengers in its domestic lounges at 14 airports across Japan. Passengers can connect their device to access digital content ranging from magazines to comics, information on Japanese culture and inside tips from ANA cabin crews. Most of the content can only be accessed inside the ANA lounge but select titles can be viewed outside the lounge as well.
Airport terminal: Peach
Japanese low-cost carrier Peach – which is partly owned by ANA – is currently trialling a service that lets passengers download movies, TV shows, music, magazines, games and other content to their personal devices through the wi-fi network at Osaka Kansai Airport’s new budget terminal.
The service is called ‘high!’ entertainment and is available on domestic flights departing from Kansai. There are around 30 titles available during the initial trial period and the new service will be fully up and running in June 2013, when it will offer over 1,000 titles comprising free and pay-to-download content.
To access the ‘high!” inflight entertainment content, passengers will have to download an Apple iOS or Google Android app. Compatibility with Windows 8 is planned for a later date.