American Airlines Gogo Entertainment On Demand In-Flight Streaming Video Review
This summer, American Airlines became the first airline in North America to offer Entertainment On Demand in-flight streaming video. The new technology, powered by Gogo, enables customers to wirelessly stream content such as movies and TV shows from an in-flight library to select Wi-Fi-enabled laptops during flights. I recently tested American Airlines Entertainment on Demand in-flight streaming video on AA flight 179 from New York’s JFK airport to San Francisco (SFO). It was not working on my return flight from SFO to JFK however.
Entertainment on Demand is currently available onboard American Airlines flights on 15 767-200 aircraft – primarily transcontinental flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles and JFK and San Francisco. In addition, it is to be installed on more than 90 MD-80 aircraft before the end of 2011. The remainder of the Wi-Fi-enabled fleet, including additional MD-80 aircraft and Boeing 737-800 aircraft, will be equipped with streaming video by the end of 2012.
Seated in economy class on this flight’s Boeing 767-200 aircraft, I found that there was no outlet at my seat to charge my laptop. The passenger sitting in the closest seat with an outlet declined the flight attendant’s request to share hers with me. Although the flight attendant persuaded a more accommodating passenger to switch seats with me, the outlet at my new seat wasn’t working. Fortunately, my laptop had enough juice for the task at hand.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Currently, American Airlines’ in-flight streaming video supports recent versions of popular Web browsers on Windows and Mac platforms including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Gogo will be adding support for certain Android Tablets on December 1, and for the iPad shortly thereafter.
After we reached cruising altitude, I powered up my laptop and accessed the service. After clicking on Gogo’s Entertainment on Demand banner, I was able to browse movie selections and view trailers quickly and easily before renting a title. I then selected a movie, set up an account, entered payment info, and installed the required browser plug-in.
The more than 100 TV shows ($0.99 cents each) and movies ($3.99 each) available included current shows and films, as well as classics such as “Vertigo” and “Psycho.” After setting Chrome as my default browser, I chose “The Interpreter,” with Nicole Kidman, and followed Gogo’s instructions to download the Widevine Media Transformer Chrome plug-in, which took only seconds.
The Gogo system allows passengers to watch rentals in full-screen mode, and although I found the picture quality to be so clear and sharp that I was immediately engrossed in the film, the audio was quite low and tinny, even when I cranked up the volume. However, this was probably due to the fact that I was using standard earphones, rather than noise-canceling headphones.
Passengers can switch between multiple film rentals (storing selections in Gogo’s My Library section) and finish watching film selections on the ground within 24 hours of purchase, and TV selections within 72 hours of purchase.
Although I was very pleased with the in-flight streaming video experience, when I tried to view the film on the ground, within 24 hours of rental, I couldn’t. While in-flight, even though I clicked on Gogo’s link to ground-viewing instructions, I couldn’t find them.
After my flight, a Gogo representative explained that the resumption of play on the ground is accessed from a link on the bottom of the customer’s email receipt, provided, of course, that there is an Internet connection and that the customer is within the U.S. territories. (Customers should not clear browser cookies prior to playing.)
Although most at-home broadband connections support playback of TV or video, some Wi-Fi hot spots, such as airport terminals, may have insufficient bandwidth to support playback.
Gogo’s FAQ has a couple of entries regarding this feature, but the Gogo rep agreed that the feature is not accessible enough, and noted that Gogo will be adding a more prominent link to resume play of unexpired rentals on its ground portal in the near future.
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