Ryanair brings curtain down on IFE

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Irish budget carrier Ryanair has brought down the curtain on its in-flight entertainment (IFE) system experiment after disappointing levels of take-up proved to be the ultimate showstopper.

Ryanair became the first European low-cost carrier to abandon its no-frills policy when it trumpeted the launch of IFE on services last September.

The airline said it expected the move to have an immediate impact on its bottom line, with at least €14 million ($17 million) in first-year earnings.

Known as the DigEplayer 5500, the hand-held system was developed by US in-flight entertainment manufacturer Aircraft Protective Systems. Ryanair says it hoped for a fleetwide roll-out from March after testing the take up of several hundred hand-held units on five Boeing 737s from its London Stansted base.

Web Barth, sales director of California-based APS, says: "The primary issue is not one of Ryanair being a low-cost carrier. We have 20 customers and most of them are low-cost carriers. The length of flight is the real issue for Ryanair."

Barth adds: "If your flight is around 2.5h to 3h in length and you are handing out these units at 10,000ft [3,000m] and then taking them back at 10,000ft, you are clipping 45min off the potential usage time. That's a difficult environment for any in-flight entertainment system."

AIMEE TURNER/LONDON