Philippine Airlines Banks on Wireless In-Flight Entertainment for 2015

In-flight entertainment (IFE) and wireless connectivity are two key aspects of air travel that define the on-board experience for passengers. With more guests bringing their own personal devices on-board, Philippine Airlines is banking on new wireless technology that enables guests to stream media such as movies, television programs, and music directly to their tablets and smart phones as opposed to traditional embedded in-flight entertainment systems. The new system enables Philippine Airlines to offer entertainment in the skies for their guests but at a considerably lower price.

Officials from PAL, Airbus, CAAP and On-Air / The New PAL Business Class Seat
Copyright Photo: Philippine Airlines
Philippine Airlines first introduced the service in the middle of last year with the arrival of one of its brand new Airbus A330-300 HGW aircraft. The carrier recently announced that it will also be installing the service on its A340-300 aircraft, which ply important long-haul routes to London and Sydney. In March, the aircraft will also begin flying to New York.

A partnership with Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) was formed last year to introduce the Wireless In-flight Services and Entertainment (WISE™) on select Middle Eastern routes operated by Philippine Airlines. The release of this unique technological platform was executed using OnAir’s new wireless in-flight entertainment solution, OnAir Play, which is known on-board as PAL InAir Wireless Entertainment.

Global Eagle Entertainment has earned a reputation in the industry for delivering vast content and connectivity for airlines around the world. Launching WISE™ on Philippine Airlines is a major achievement as the carrier becomes the first legacy carrier in Asia to adopt a purely wireless entertainment solution aboard its aircraft. Global Eagle Entertainment enjoys established relationships with studios and distributors worldwide that allows them to deliver the latest media content to passengers' personal devices including the latest movies, shows, music, games, and digital publications.

The Wireless In-flight Services and Entertainment software platform offered on board Philippine Airlines supports laptops, major Internet browsers, tablets, and mobile devices that run Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems. It is a powerful tool that supports the backbone of OnAir play. One thing that distinguishes the software from competitors is its Digital Rights Management (DRM) solution that allows them to stream content that is approved by Hollywood studios. It also offers revenue opportunities for airlines through ancillary offerings, which allow payment and purchasing options in-flight.

According to the Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for Global Eagle Entertainment, Wale Adepoju, the wireless entertainment product is the key to enabling Philippine Airlines to deliver a more enjoyable travel experience for its passengers. “We're delighted to have launched WISE™ on Philippine Airlines with OnAir. We are partnering with several leading hardware providers, including OnAir, with whom we share the vision for the future development of the wireless IFE market," said Adepoju. "We believe that the integrated software and content model that we have created for WISE™ provides airlines with a powerful portal to offer passengers an interactive and more enjoyable travel experience."

OnAir's Director of Strategy and Marketing, Fran├žois Rodriguez, reaffirmed Adepoju's comments suggesting that this technology was the way of the future. “OnAir Play is the obvious choice for Philippine Airlines," said Rodriguez. "It is the right product for today's passengers who increasingly want the choice of accessing entertainment content on their own personal devices.”


Passengers are currently accustomed to watching content on their television, smartphones, and tablets. Consequently, airlines are now needing to adapt to the changing demands of air travellers. According to Mary Kirby, Editor-in-Chief of Airline Passenger Experience magazine, the passenger wants to be able to do in-flight what they can do on the ground, which is why wireless connectivity and in-flight television is now more important to travellers than ever before.

Copyright: Philippine Airlines
The premium economy seats of PAL
Though wireless connectivity is part of the future of in-flight entertainment, the traditional embedded seat back IFE remains important to the passenger experience. According to Kirby, there is an important outstanding issue that prevents the industry from shifting to a completely wireless IFE model. “A key point is that the Hollywood studios do not permit early-window content streaming through personal devices," said Kirby. "Therefore, watching movies during that ‘early window’ – just after they have been in the theatre – can still only be done through embedded IFE systems or airline-distributed portable IFE units if approved by the studios, not passengers’ own devices. That’s critical. Until it changes, wireless will not replace embedded IFE.”

The existence of wireless connectivity is not seen as a threat to embedded in-flight entertainment in the immediate future. Most carriers have chosen to adopt a hybrid system that incorporates traditional embedded entertainment but also provides wireless connectivity options. In other cases, such as Qantas, some aircraft have been shifted to a completely wireless model, but each passenger has been provided with a tablet at their seat to access the content.

At this point, the only expectation of passengers seems to be the desire to have more screens, more content, and better quality in-flight entertainment on board aircraft. While the technology may not be of great significance to legacy carriers at this point, it does provide an opportunity for low-cost carriers to offer entertainment on board for a fee at a relatively feasible cost. According to Kirby, the trend in wireless IFE can be observed on low-cost carriers, that previously overlooked offering IFE on their short to medium-haul flights. The new technology now provides an option to improve the in-flight experience for passengers travelling on low-cost carriers, while creating a new revenue stream.

Cebu Pacific currently offers wireless internet on board its long-haul fleet of Airbus A330 aircraft. The carrier stated earlier this year that it would explore providing a wireless in-flight entertainment option on its long-haul flights, but not on its short to medium-haul narrow body services. AirAsia Philippines does not currently have any plans to offer wireless entertainment on its short to medium haul services either. Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines is currently extending its wireless entertainment only to long-haul aircraft. Narrow-body aircraft that operate domestic and short to medium haul international flights presently do not offer any wireless entertainment.


Have you experienced flying with Philippine Airlines using the new wireless in-flight entertainment? Send your Flight Review to


  1. In economy, its IFE for a fee.

    1. Nope its not. The inflight wifi is for a fee. You just need to download the onair app on your mobile device before flying. I've tried it on their A330

  2. Wireless IFE is just another example of the "cost first, passenger second" mentality that is causing passengers such as me (a Mabuhay Elite) to shift away from PAL whenever possible.
    There are a lot of benefits to seat-back IFE, not least of which are (1) you can watch it while you eat your meals, and (2) you don't get arm-ache holding a tablet for the duration of a 2-hour movie (maybe three of them if you're flying Manila > London or one of PAL's other long-hauls).
    But since when did PAL, the king of 9-across midget seating in A330 Economy and "in your neighbor's face" inverted herringbone tiny Business seats in the same A330s, ever worry much about its passengers' comfort?

    1. So, is the issue the wireless IFE or the lack of good system to hold your tablet that would allow you to rest your arm and eat while watching? Perhpas that would be the suggestion to make!

  3. PAL should atop all the talking and launch their wireless IFE product! It's only after experiencing it will customers either accept or reject the wireless IFE.

    I flew on a PAL 414-seat A330 and found out that the InAir wifi did not work, there are no power or USB ports, and there is no internet service for sale.

    Hey PAL, stop talking and show us what you have to offer! I have moved on to other frequent flier programs after 6 years as a Mabuhay Premier Elite member. I am sure I just one of many who have moved on.

  4. PAL should just cease operations. Who wants to fly an airline that does not offer passenger comfort specially on long-haul flights? PAL has a jeepney mentality.

  5. PAL, please go back to personal screens with AVOD and quit with this wireless crap.

    1. The BAE intellicabin solution looks rather promising for a wireless solution.

  6. Nobody except PAL employees ever posts nice comments about PAL.....
    ....I can't think why.
    It could be a great airline but it needs to refit all those A330s (and A340s) with 2-4-2 Economy and 1-2-1 Business (in similar to Cathay Pacific). I flew Premium Economy Manila > Narita yesterday and it was a humiliating experience. I am NOT overweight and yet the seat width was almost a glove fit for my hips and I needed to spend 5 hours half leaning into the aisle so as not to be pressing shoulders with the unfortunate woman "squashed" into the center seat.
    I fly Tokyo <> Manila every month and Manila <> London three times a year. For my next trip I'm considering Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong even if it does take almost twice the time. At least they give passengers space to breath!

    1. One added point.....
      It took numerous attempts to connect to the IFE yesterday and then the streaming was abysmal.
      The only benefit of IFE is my laptop screen is bigger and clearer than any seat-back screen would be....the disadvantage is that even in Premium Economy there is not enough space to place my laptop and there's no way I'm holding a tablet to watch a 2 hour movie!
      It was kind of fun to see a passenger in Business Class using sticky-tape to fix his iPad to the seatback in front of him and then needing to bend forward for the duration to watch his video.....he would have had less spine stress ion Economy!

    2. wow! that is a jeepney mentality. "you got a ride -what more do you want!?!?"

  7. I hope PAL will also offer power banks for rent just in case our ipads ran out of batteries during long haul flights.

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