Saturday, February 11, 2006

ICE Cool!

This blog comes from the deck of our beach bungalow where we are relaxing for a couple of weeks. It's two years since we were last here and there have been a number of impressive changes to the island in that time. Among them is the fact that wireless internet is now available so I can post a blog and get sunburn at the same time.

As always, we travelled out here with Emirates from Manchester via Dubai. The flight to Dubai was on one of the airlines new Boeing 777-300ERs (previously it was always a 777-200). The aircraft seating configuration (in steerage) has changed from 2-4-2 to 3-4-3, so we finished up with a window and centre seat instead of a window and aisle seat (I always try to get an aisle seat for my longish legs). This only became apparent after boarding so I wasn't looking forward to 6 1/2 hours stuck in a window seat. However, the 300ER variant has a greater seat pitch and width to the 200 version and it makes all the difference, so it was a much more comfortable experience than previously.

But that's not what I wanted to tell you about. On that leg of the flight we experienced Emirates award winning ICE in-flight entertainment system. This is surely the gold standard by which all other airline in-flight entertainment systems will be judged for some time to come. Each seat is equipped wit a 10-inch touch sensitive screen + a remote controller that allows access to over 500 different channels of entertainment. Films on ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) include 45 of the latest, and I do mean latest, Hollywood releases and 28 all time classic movies. For younger flyers there are 25 Disney films including most of the classics. There are also nearly 25 films from Arabia, Asia and the Far East. With over 50 TV channels to choose from, including fourteen comedy channels alone, passengers are kept entertained throughout their journey. In the Sport TV section, Emirates has recently added channels dedicated to horseracing and sailing - to mark the airline's sponsorship of these sports. The audio section offers music from around the world - over 6,000 tracks of almost every genre imaginable. Categories also include recent CD releases, essential albums and audio books. You can, if you want, listen to every UK number in a particular year, from the 50s to the current year.

Now here's the neat bit. Unlike most other in-flight systems you can start any movie you want at anytime, you can pause it if you want to stretch your legs, and you can rewind or fast forward to any point. In other words you have total control over what you watch and when you watch it.

Other features I didn't personally try were e-mail, air to ground telephone, seat to seat telephone (if your partner or friend is sitting at a distance from you it's possible to chat), and a wide range of games you can play against the computer or against fellow passengers. All this in an economy seat - fabulous!

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