One year after JetBlue Airways began rolling out its high-speed Ka-band Fly-Fi inflight Internet, the airline has started to incorporate a streaming entertainment platform it calls ‘Fly-Fi Hub’ into the system. Now available on all aircraft offering Internet, the Fly-Fi Hub represents JetBlue’s foray into offering on-demand entertainment beyond its existing seat-back LiveTV system.
JetBlue’s Fly-Fi Hub comes alive after the aircraft reaches 10,000 feet, offering up a few menu of choices from TV shows to e-books. While the Fly-Fi Hub performed quite well throughout my testing, it does show signs of being an early product. Text didn’t always align properly and some menu navigation was a tad slow.
The available content, at least right now, is also lacking. TV shows are limited to only a few episodes of various shows from National Geographic, but I expect this content problem will be solved as the service matures and is brought to more aircraft.
Importantly, video playback did not seem to suffer from any of the buffering or low quality issues that plague some other streaming services. Video playback was crisp and clear and a pleasure to watch.
One of the major benefits of the Fly-Fi Hub is that it works even when the aircraft leaves the ViaSat-powered Ka satellite coverage area, as content is stored locally on an onboard server. On a recent flight from St. Maarten to New York, the Fly-Fi Hub performed well for the entire flight, while the DirecTV system did not kick in until only about 30 minutes before landing. I would, however, like to see the live map continue to function outside of the satellite coverage area.
Because it’s nearly impossible to offer a cabin full of passengers the speeds necessary to enjoy movies and streaming music all the time without spending serious bank, airlines are augmenting connectivity with wireless IFE, which allows them to stream content to their own devices, and pull eyeballs away from the precious connectivity pipe.
JetBlue is off to a good start with its Fly-Fi Hub, and with a bit of improvement on the content side is poised to offer a fantastic compliment to its long-standing (and aging) LiveTV system. Now JetBlue just needs to start that cabin refurbishment on the A320s so I can plug in while streaming from the hub. See my video review of the service below.