The in-flight entertainment on your next vacation might be the same entertainment you enjoy on your couch at home. On Monday, September 25, at the 2017 Airline Passengers Experience (APEX) Expo — an event which involves many of the world’s leading airlines — Netflix announced that it would be extending bandwidth-efficient technology originally built for mobile devices to airlines the world over.
It’s not a totally selfless move, of course. In return, Netflix hopes that more air carriers will partner with the service (which is to say, give it money) in order to give passengers low-cost or free Wi-Fi entertainment, likely in the form of a Netflix catalog.
Back in 2015, Netflix announced a deal with Virgin America that brought free, in-flight Wi-Fi to select flights. In the last couple years, the streaming service has also partnered with Aeromexico, Qantas, and Virgin Australia on similar initiatives. But now, it’s hoping to go even bigger.
But wait, you say — doesn’t it require a lot of data, or in this case bandwidth, to stream from Netflix? While the answer has historically been “yes,” part of Netflix’s announcement includes the news that it’s coming closer to having a viable low-bandwidth option for folks who want to stream movies from just about anywhere. In fact, on a mobile device, a DVD-quality stream requires just 250Kbps, which means that it won’t weigh down an airplane’s Wi-Fi network. In fact, Netflix claims that airlines can save up to 75 percent in bandwidth costs by way of a partnership.
For airlines that choose to work with Netflix, passengers will be able to stream movies or television shows from their smartphones or laptops, and watch Netflix at no extra charge. If you don’t have a Netflix account, you can sign up while on your flight for a free 30-day trial, which means that long flights could prove to be valuable customer acquisition channels for Netflix.
Netflix claims that such a partnership this will allow airlines to create a “sustainable model” surrounding low-cost or free in-flight Wi-Fi. Moreover, as Variety reports, the service notes that airlines who choose to work with Netflix could be seen as making an “investment in next-generation Wi-Fi and potentially improving customer satisfaction.”