Emma Kelly/LONDON

In-flight entertainment (IFE) hardware supplier IEC International has secured a launch customer for its in-flight digital video/versatile disk (DVD) player and is close to finalising a deal with a second carrier. IEC is the first manufacturer to develop a DVD player specifically for the in-flight market.


The unnamed Middle Eastern launch carrier is initially equipping up to 11 Airbus A320s with the in-seat DVD player, with possible extension to other aircraft types, Flight International understands. The system will be installed in the premium cabin of the A320s, with deliveries to start in July, says Neil Morgan, business development manager at UK-based company IEC. Certification on the A320 is expected in "the next couple of months", says Morgan. The second prospective customer, thought to be an Asian airline, is looking to equip three Boeing 747s in first and business classes.

DVD is one of the latest consumer technologies to be explored by the IFE industry due to its benefits over other IFE storage technologies. Compared with tapes, DVD offers increased reliability and storage capacity, requires less space and weighs less. DVD also provides improved picture and sound quality than tape-delivered IFE. A dual-layer DVD is capable of carrying 270min of video or 1,000min of audio programming, while the quality is as good on the 1000th showing as it is on the first. DVD is "simple, it works and you can't beat the quality", says Morgan.

IEC sees "enormous potential" in the in-flight DVD market, particularly following the completion of a DVD specification for in-flight use by industry body the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) late last year.

The WAEA specification resulted in the creation of a new Region 8 coding especially for the in-flight market. In addition, film studios require in-flight DVDs to be encrypted as a security measure to prevent piracy, with the airline market the second to receive new-release films after theatrical release in the USA.

IEC is the first IFE manufacturer to field DVD equipment and is aiming to capitalise on the considerable airline interest in the technology. A number of carriers have already tested DVD in flight, using handheld consumer players. Virgin pioneered the in-flight use of the technology in a six-week trial in early 1999.

Since then, American Airlines, Swissair and Kuwait Airways have followed. American introduced consumer Panasonic DVD players to its first class cabins on selected flights in September 1999 and continues to use it today, with first and business class passengers offered a library of 20 DVDs on its Boeing 767ERs and MD-11 services.

Source: Flight International