Flydubai seat back screens await update after supplier suspends operations

Flydubai passengers may be jabbing their seat back entertainment screens a little harder after the company supplying them was forced to suspend operations.

The Dubai budget carrier was the launch customer for an entertainment system supplied by US-based Lumexis Corporation, which hit a cash crisis this summer and has since axed most of its staff.

Still, the airline said it was committed to the system and is planning a software update with new features. It added while it was aware of some technical issues, these were not representative across its fleet.


Passengers pay about Dh30 for full access to the system, which includes movies and TV shows that can be pre-ordered or bought onboard.

“The system, which offers state-of-the-art communication and entertainment on board for all passengers, remains an integral part of our onboard offering,” said a flydubai spokesperson. “In instances where there is a technical issue with one of the screens we will reset the display, where possible offer the passenger another seat or where this isn’t possible provide a refund.”

The low-cost carrier set up in 2008 operates a fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft and will have 100 planes by the end of 2023.

Flydubai was the launch customer for the Lumexis Fiber To The Screen system. One of its selling points was that it was fibre-optic rather than copper based and so made it lighter than some competing systems offering fuel savings.

Lumexis also supplied the system to Indonesia’s Lion Air. The Asian airline did not respond to a request for comment.

Such multifunctional entertainment screens are especially important for the revenue model of low-cost carriers because they also automate the ordering of snacks and food with the aim of relieving crew workloads.

Lumexis, headquartered in California, released a statement on June 22 saying that due to “liquidity constraints” it had suspended many aspects of its business operations and was forced to terminate the majority of its personnel. Calls to the company went unanswered.

Flydubai relaunched its in-flight entertainment system in 2012 with more content.

The US$3 billion global in-flight entertainment market is expanding rapidly as carriers seek competitive advantage over rivals by offering more functionality, greater bandwidth and a bigger choice of media.

“In-flight entertainment is considered to be a definite must-have now by the airline industry; a way to differentiate their service offerings and to foster brand loyalty,” said Nitin Bhas, head of research at UK-based Juniper Research. “Although the take-up rate of paid in-flight entertainment services currently remains low, passenger surveys continually show growing demand for connectivity and more entertainment options in the cabin.”

scronin@thenational.ae

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