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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Jet Screen inflight entertainment by Jet Airways-Critical Review

I learnt about #JetScreen, the inflight entertainment solution from Jet Airways sometime in October 2016, but had to wait till December to accidentally get a chance to try it. On my way to Bikaner via Mumbai and Jodhpur, I got to try Jetscreen on the Mumbai-Jodhpur leg for about half an hour. This post is a critical review of this service, based on one limited exposure I had. Please note that the facility is being rolled out in a phased manner and some of the drawbacks I have listed are likely to be resolved over time.

What is JetScreen?
It is a WiFi based entertainment content streaming service. Instead of conventional entertainment systems that involve a screen attached to the back of the headrest in-front of you, Jetscreen streams entertainment over WiFi right into your smartphone/tablet or laptop- eliminating the need for expensive hardware (mini display screens) and electrical wiring all around the plane. With one streaming device (and may be some WiFi signal boosters), entertainment can be delivered to all interested passengers-almost all of whom would anyway have a smartphone.

JetScreen currently claims to have 220 hours worth digital content including TV shows, movies, audio and games(I calculate you will need about 100-150 domestic flights to watch all those content)
How is JetScreen different from traditional inflight entertainment systems?
Refer below table for detailed comparison
#
Function
Traditional In-flight Entertainment System
Jet Screen
Remarks
1
Display
Mounted on back of seat headrest
Screen clarity moderate
-NA-
Use your smartphone
Usually better display quality
Carry tablets for better experience than smartphone
2
Start using from
As soon as you board the plane/boarding complete
Only after take-off and seat belt sign switched off, usually about 20-30 min after boarding
Jetscreen can’t be used for first 20-30 mins (boarding till seat belt sign turn off
3
Start using till
Till you leave the plane/Door opens
Till original scheduled landing time of your flight
Even if there’s a delay, Jetscreen switches off as per original time
4
During inflight announcement
Auto Pause, entertainment resumes after public address ends
No interruptions
Uninterrupted usage is good, but you will miss key announcements- dangerous in case of emergency.
5
Setup cost for airline
Very high (physical devices and wiring needed for each seat
Very Low (minimum physical hardware)

6
Additional Accessory needed
None (headphone needed, usually supplied by airline)
Smartphone with enough charge, head phone, App should be pre-installed

7
Key features
Live external cameras (in some airlines), Movies, Music, Games, Flight info etc
Movies, Music, Games, Flight info
Almost all IFE features are available on jetscreen
8
Mobility
Fixed to seat
Can be used anywhere on the plane including toilets
Jetscreen wins!
9
Service availability on domestic flights
Usually most domestic flights in India, even on full service airlines do not have entertainment system. Air India turns off entertainment on domestic leg even if aircraft is equipped with screens behind headrest.

In flight entertainment is a Standard feature on most long haul full service international flights.
Select domestic flights of Jet Airways have JetScreen now-usually long distance sectors operated by 737, but not all.
Need to wait- I guess 3-6 months approx while this service gets more common/standard across Jet Airways domestic fleet
10
Pros
No need to carry anything

Screen size usually bigger than mobile (but quality will be poorer)
Viewing from your own tab/mobile is far more convenient that fixed screen

No Hygiene issues

Can take screenshots

Very cost effective compared to traditional options

11
Usual issues (Cons)
Touch-screen/controls sometimes not working properly

Takes few moments to get used to
Adjusting brightness

Need custom headphones

Hygiene issues
Need to carry earphones

Can’t start using soon after boarding

Shuts off as per original time, even if there was a delay

Risk missing important in-flight announcements

Phone should have charge, Airtime player app

No easy way yet to know if your flight has JetScreen






How would you know if your Jet airways flight has JetScreen?
Answer: You won’t, until the previous night. As I said earlier, Jetscreen facility is being rolled out in a phased manner- only few aircrafts have it at present and over time more and more aircrafts will have it. At this moment I am told a few 737s have it. But more than half of JetAirways Fleet (which is about 130+ aircrafts strong) is made up of 737-700 and 737-800. Among these you should be lucky to have the aircraft with Jetscreen assigned to your flight. But that probability will be lot higher if you’re flying top metros like Mumbai-Delhi, Delhi-Chennai, Bengaluru- Delhi etc. (My flight was Mumbai-Jodhpur 9W 412)

Once I got my ticket, I checked with Jet Airways call centre to check if my flight will have jetscreen- They couldn’t confirm. But the night before departure, I got an email from Jet Airways indicating that my Mumbai-Jodhpur flight is Jetscreen equipped.

My Jet screen experience:
As I entered the aircraft, I was greeted with a sticker that said the aircraft is JetScreen enabled. (The first photo of this post) I had the airtime player app installed and thought of trying the JetScreen right away. But it couldn't be located. As I checked with the air hostess (Shreya was her name- I read it from her name badge and called her by name- she was surprised) said it will be turned On after take off. So I went back to JetWings to keep me busy- it takes 15-20 mins approx from the moment you board till the boarding completes, aircraft taxis, takes off, reaches some decent altitude and captain switches off  seat belt sign. Conventional IFE systems function usually soon after boarding or at least once doors are closed.

What all are there in JetScreen?
Some 20 min later, an announcement was made that JetScreen is now available. I could connect to it without any issue. I could chose from flight information, songs. movie/tv shows and games.


Above: Flight information- Real time position
Below: Altitude, Heading and Speed

Heading, Altitude and Speed are the 3 vectors extremely critical for aircraft navigation. As a passenger, I can't do much with this information, but it is nevertheless fun to view these info. When you watch aircraft shows (like aircrash investigations on Nat Geo) you can understand a situation much better if you're familiar with these things.

Above left- Games option on JetScreen, Right- landing page of Jetscreen on airtime player
Below: A still from the TV show I watched- London-Venice Orient express heritage train- very impressive how they are maintaining world war time heritage wagons and running a commercial business. The head of this train company reminded me of Karan Singh sir who heads Suryagarh group
You can't hear inflight announcements
Traditional IFE systems pause if there's a cabin announcement in progress and program resumes only after announcement ends. JetScreen system is not connected to cabin announcement setup and doesn't care if there's any announcement. This is usually good- most announcements are routine and boring - such as safety demo, announcement that meals will begin now, you can donate to charity, inflight sale, request to return to seat etc -, we don't need them. But the down-side is that if there's a real emergency- say you're a doctor and cabin crew are asking if there's any doctor among the passengers, or emergency things like that- you will be oblivious to such announcements if you're lost in your Jet-Screen entertainment.

Abrupt Switch off:
I was expecting JetScreen to run till the plane lands. But it switched off mid way. My Mumbai-Jodhpur flight (9W-412) was about 1 hour and 40 minutes duration, gate to gate, about 1 hour and 5 min in air. But our flight was delayed by about 20 minutes, due to late arrival of incoming aircraft- it came from Bengaluru, carrying Sankara. We boarded at about 11.40 and took off few minutes past 12 noon. It was about 12.20 PM by the time we were airborne and seat belt sign was switched off. Jetscreen came to life only after that. After browsing around for few mins, I took my first screenshot of Jetscreen at about 12.28 PM

I was expecting it to run till we land, but at about 1 PM, Original landing time, Jetscreen turned itself off. In reality we were still in the air and the descent had just begun. Effectively I got just about 30-35 min out of the total gate to gate time of 100 minutes. I am not sure what happens if the flight is delayed by say 2 hours- by the time aircraft is airborne it would be landing time as per original schedule, so you can't use Jetscreen at all. I hope there is some control on-board for the staff to reset it or turn it on again in such cases.

In Summary:
Pros
1. Something entertainment is better than no entertainment at all, so it is definitely good initiative. There're a few drawbacks, I hope airline will improvise overtime, based on feedback and data.
2. Content collection is decent to keep all kind of passengers busy for an hour or two
3. Good marketing strategy, puts pressure on other airline to offer something similar or better.
4. A lot cheaper to implement than traditional IFE system
5. Move convenient to use than traditional In flight entertainment systems.

Cons:
1) Effective usage is for very short duration - from actual post take off seat belt sign turn off till original landing time, irrespective of delay. Will be great if they can enable it from door close after boarding till door open after landing. I don't know if this WiFi based system affects any aircraft communication/navigation, because of which it can't be offered when plane is on ground.

2) If Take off is delayed, Jet Screen shouldn't be turned off as per original landing time. Is availability should be adjusted for actual flying time that day, that flight. On a 2 hour flight, usually it takes about 20-40 mins depending on airport, congestion etc for the flight to take off and seat belt sign is switched off. Another 20-30 min is needed at destination for descent, taxi etc till aircraft door opens. So effective playtime is about an hour. If there is a delay- it reduces even further. For example today same flight is delayed by 2 hours +. I am not very sure for how long JetScreen was available in this case, if at all. I asked another friend who got to try JetScreen- he also confirmed that it stops as per original time even if there's a delay.

Mobile battery will drain fast if you use it non-stop for few hours to watch videos/play games etc

Will take some time for this facility to be available across most of the Jet Airways fleet. Till then it is a hit or miss without a sure shot way of knowing if you'll get it on your flight or not at the time of booking.

Possible improvement suggestions for JetScreen:
1) Many international airlines now offer free/charged in-flight Wi-Fi. Jet should try to offer the same, along with JetScreen- then the experience will be complete. But I think there's some issue with government regulations that is preventing airlines from providing this service.

2) Having to download Airtime Player prior to boarding makes it tricky. If this can work with any browser/more popular apps then those who forgot to download airtime player also can enjoy.

3) Over time, once Jetscreen is available in most of the flights and passengers are aware of it, Jetairways can also consider discontinuing printed version of JetWings and make it accessible online- saving lots of money and going green.

Overall it is a great idea and initiative. Wish it was available longer. Purpose of this post is not to criticize  JetScreen for its drawbacks, but to help them improve this innovative feature for its maximum potential. Of course it is in its initial phase right now and over time I am sure service will improve on various aspects. I was not invited by JetAirway to try this- I accidentally got it one of my flights and as you see, have ended up doing a complete detailed review.

I understand Vistara also has a similar facility (Vistara world) but I have not been fortunate enough to try Vistara till date.

Similar: Air Asia inflight WiFi service review *  Mumbai airport interesting artworks * Air France premium economy experience * My review of Srilankan airline experience * Comparison of 7 European airlines
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6 comments :

Ami said...

seems like a lot of kinks to be ironed out. But on the whole a useful service for long flights.

Tales of Travelling Sisters said...

Quite an interesting service! :)

divsi said...

This looks fabulous. The mobility function and no interruptions are a definite pro. I am flying JET soon, I really hope I get to try this!:)

Thanks for the detailed review Shrini!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Ami

Thanks. Yes, I am sure they will refine it over time.

@Hema- Yes. Innovative

@Divsi- Hope you get to try this- All the best.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for detailed summary of JetScreen.
As far as I know, Jet Airways team is working to pause the system for important announcements to be heard,so that drawback will be removed in future most likely.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Anon- yes, JetScreen is a bold initiative, but with lots of scope for improvement. Let us wait n see how it evolves...