Tag Archives: in-flight entertainment

Listen Up: The Story Behind Bose Headphones

In The Architecture Issue author Jordan Yerman looks at the high-tech advances in headphones, but the history behind these advances is interesting too. 

In 1978, professor and electrical engineer Amar Bose was so disatisfied by the headphones supplied during his flight he immediately started designing a set that would prevent him from going berserk due to the dull roar of ambient noise.

The Bose Corporation has partnered with several airlines since that fateful day. First up was American Airlines in 1999 – if you didn’t notice, it’s because you’ve been flying coach. Since then, carriers such as American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Korean Air have all partnered with the headphone giant.

This is in line with the hospitality-industry mentality, which is rapidly becoming the norm in the airline world. It’s the little things that build brand loyalty, like tuning out the hours-long rumbling that’s part and parcel of air travel.

Bose's QuietComfort® 25 headphones. Photo courtesy of Bose.

Bose’s QuietComfort® 25 headphones. Photo courtesy of Bose.

If you’re flying with an airline that’s not spoiling your eardrums (in a good way), there are plenty of options available at your nearest electronics shop. However, those options aren’t cheap: A passable set of noise-canceling headphones will run you $100 USD, and as much as $400 for a set of Beats. The Bose QC headphones, a perennial favorite, go for roughly $300. So, if your knees can’t get a first-class upgrade, perhaps your ears can.

Read about Soundchip and Panasonic’s HD-AUDIO headphones, here.

APEX IN PROFILE: Brian Richardson

Brian Richardson
Director of Inflight Entertainment & Connectivity
American Airlines

Where do you see the entertainment industry headed in one year?
Things will continue to move fast. I expect there to be an increased proliferation of content, including improved quality of original content from new sources. We’re already seeing this today.

I also expect there to be an increased expectation among viewers to be able to watch everything, everywhere.

With this, I do think the viewing windows and rules around the broadcast of media will continue to change and evolve. The customer is king.

What can the airline industry learn from the entertainment industry?
I think the constant pursuit by studios to develop and enhance a product to match the needs of customers is something the airline industry can learn from. Additionally, the entertainment industry is able to capture the imagination of their customers – making them into passionate fans, which is another thing the airline industry can learn from.

Something that never ceases to amaze you in your industry?
The one thing that is always constant is that things are going to change. My team and I have to stay flexible and we’ve learned how to react and adjust quickly when we have to detour from our original plans.

What’s the one item you can’t travel without?
I’m going to cheat and name two. The first is TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry. I’m always cutting it close with my flights and I love not having to take my shoes off. The second is my set of Bose QC25 noise-cancelling headphones – the same models we will loan our premium passengers. With the new electronics rules in place, I’m tuned-in gate-to-gate.

Favorite airport lounge and why?
I’m a fan of the Las Vegas airport because there is nothing better than winning some money while waiting for your flight… and taking off before you have a chance to lose it. I do also love the arrival lounge showers at the Admirals Club in London’s Heathrow Airport. After a long flight, it hits the spot. Breakfast tacos and BBQ at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and at Terminal A at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is hard to beat.

Three things about where you live that make you want to live there.
I live in an area of Dallas called the “M Streets” because almost all the streets there begin with that letter. It’s known for being the largest concentration of Tudor-style homes in the American Southwest. I happen to love it because it’s in walking distance to several great local restaurants, bars and live music venues. It’s also a very eclectic neighborhood in terms of who lives there and I love the friendly, independent vibe.

What’s the best seat on the plane?
Next to me, of course! Just kidding. It’s up front with a drink in hand. Preferably on our new 777-300s or A321Ts. But if I’m in my normal spot in the main cabin, it’s near the front with a bit of extra legroom on the aisle.

Old television shows you can tolerate endless re-runs of?
I will always stop and watch an episode of Arrested Development, Seinfeld, Magnum P.I., original Star Trek and CHiPs.

The career path you considered but never followed?
There are several. At one point, I actually thought I might play professionally in a symphony orchestra.

Reading Rights: Digital VS. Print

As connectivity becomes the norm on airlines and access to the outside world begins to erode the captive onboard audience, what will become of the humble in-flight magazine?

According to a Deloitte report on the future of in-flight entertainment, the in-flight magazine will soon be digitized and viewed via seatback screens or personal electronic devices. From a cost-savings point of view, this makes sense: Consulting firm Infosys estimated that by doing away with the print edition of in-flight magazines and replacing them with tablets, airlines could save up to $3.3 million a year in fuel alone, in addition to thousands in printing costs and distribution.

Most in-flight magazines already provide content on digital platforms. Many have companion websites and iPad apps, as well as Twitter profiles, Facebook pages and Pinterest boards. Companies like Delta, which recently redesigned their magazine Sky, are emphasizing exclusive digital content to better extend the magazine’s reach beyond the cabin. Inside the cabin, technology like DTI’s eReader allows in-flight publications to be part of the seatback screen experience – Air Canada’s enRoute recently began uploading its city guides and list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants to the AVOD of its new 787s. For connected planes, the airline can also stream content directly to passengers’ devices.

When you bring the in-flight magazine to the screen, new advertising opportunities and ways to satisfy your customers open up. For frequent flyers, a monthly print magazine may lose its lustre, but with digital versions of the publication at her fingertips, she’ll never have to see the same article twice. Airlines can also build passenger profiles to deliver revenue-generating content that’s tailored to passenger interests and activity. For the leisure traveler, who is less likely to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi, airlines can offer their magazine’s website or digital versions of their magazine for free on their devices. That way, passengers will still feel “online” while remaining within an airline’s content ecosystem.

What about the value – let along revenue generation – that the printed page brings to the table? According to two recent studies penned by Norway’s University of Stravanger, people are less likely to comprehend information read on screen than in print. In one of these studies, principle researcher Anne Mangen divided a group of 10th grade students in two and asked half to read fiction and non-fiction pieces in print and the other half to read the same texts on a computer screen. The latter group understood less than those who had read the pieces on paper. In another study conducted on adults, Mangen tested how they would retain information read on a Kindle versus in a book. Again, her findings showed that the Kindle group had a harder time reconstructing the plot of the mystery novel than those who had sat down with the paper version. Mangen hypothesizes that the disparity is likely due to the tactile nature of the printed page.

“When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,” Mangen told The Guardian newspaper in August. “You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual… [the differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”

According to APEX’s 2014 Passenger Insights survey, 4 out of 5 passengers read the in-flight magazine. For airlines that use magazine content to support a brand narrative and to promote new routes, destinations and other revenue opportunities, print may be more effective at delivering that message meaningfully to clients.

Are you a diehard print-reader or are you onboard with the digital revolution? Tell us in our poll! See this story print in The Architecture Issue.

Another In-flight Sob Story

Illustrator: Ricardo Polo

Illustration: Ricardo Polo

“I’ve never heard of anyone crying inappropriately on trains, on buses or on boats, or cars.”
– Brett Martin, This American Life.

Feature article “The Crying Plane” from our recent Journey Issue has spurred much conversation and a few confessions surrounding the tears we shed when 30,000 feet in the clouds. Our discussion led us to an episode of This American Life in which Brett Martin reveals his tendency to cry in-flight. He states he is not an on-land crier and is a confident, experienced air traveler. Martin also maintains he is not alone. His This American Life piece includes comments from other in-flight criers including one professional film critic who admits to crying during an emotional American Express commercial, before the plane had even left the runway.

Martin’s theory is such that the happy scenes, focused on relationships, success or achievement during in-flight entertainment cause us tears due to relief and the understanding things will turn out okay. This makes sense. Every time we fly we take a risk, same as when we drive a car, but the difference is that during air travel we are unable to participate in or tangibly see the progress of the journey.

Our fate is in the hands of the airline crew. Between take off and destination, Martin likens passengers to children, sitting in their seats and doing as they’re told, which is essentially true. Especially as misbehaving on a flight results in more than a time out.  So the resolution a film can provide when things turn out alright emulates the anticipation of the wheels hitting the runway once we’re safely at our destination.

Martin’s opinion supports our recent article that crying on the plane is a common practice and not one to fret about. Due to anonymity among travel neighbors, generally what happens in the air, stays in the air and you’re free to get weepy. Except when you agree to be interviewed on the radio and admit an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond had you welling up – then, there may be consequences.