Don't hold your breath for the iPod inflight experience as announced by Apple a couple of days ago: one of the airlines in the deal that flies to Australia -- United -- has poured some cold water on Apple's enthusiasm.
Apple's announcement that a fistful of airlines are teaming up to provide "seamless integration" between iPods and in-flight entertainment systems won't have too much benefit to Australians in the near future.
Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United Airlines make up the iPod-friendly consortium which plans, Apple says, to offer their customers "iPod seat connections which power and charge their iPods during flight and allow the video content on their iPods to be viewed on the seat back displays."
However, Apple Australia was unable to give any details on how the technology would work.
The photos to the right are from the outfitter's web site and give some indication.
United Airlines, which is the only airline apart from Qantas allowed to travel the important Sydney to San Francisco direct route, was unable to confirm when the connections would be available for Australian patrons.
Although Apple's press release suggests the service will be ready "from mid 2007", a spokesperson for United said that the refit of its planes would take two to three years and that "United is unable to confirm when Australian passengers will have access to the service."
The planes that service Australian routes are not at the top of the queue.
In a further disappointment to many flyers, the iPod connections will only be available to United's First and Business Class customers as part of the airline's commitment "to enhance the premium travel experience".
Damn it, those seats already had power adaptors!
All the airlines mentioned in the Apple press release are part of the international Star Alliance airline group and all of them have their planes outfitted by Panasonic Avionics Corporation which seems to have a monopoly on the iPod technology.
A Qantas spokesperson said that the company is "definitely interested in the technology" but was unable to say if any conversations with Apple or Panasonic Avionics had taken place or if it will ever actually happen on its planes.
Qantas is in the middle of a major refresh of its fleet, though, and has already promised inflight internet in its long-delayed Airbus A380s.
Asked if there were any plans to make iTunes Store content available for purchase in-flight, a spokesperson for Apple Australia was not optimistic. "The price of air-borne broadband is just too prohibitive," she said.
United holds out more hope, saying that it "is possibly something that will be evaluated for use in the future".
UPDATE: Emirates Airlines will make the iPod connections available to more customers than United. A spokesperson for the company said all passengers will benefit except for some older aircraft, where it will be restricted to First and Business Class "due to technical imitations with available inputs on some in seat IFE equipment.
Like United, Emirates will not be charging customers who the service extra.
However, the wait will be just as long. "Our intent is to eventually equip all our aircraft with this feature, but at present we have not yet determined on which routes the service will be first deployed in Australia," the Emirates spokesperson said.
iTMS content will not be available for purchase in-flight. The existing 600 onboard entertainment channels provide enough options already in the company's view.