Road Worrier Tests Q Streaming

Road Worrier Tests Q Streaming

Qantas’ Q Streaming service offers movies and TV shows streamed via wireless to an iPad supplied at every seat by the kangaroo-wielding airline. That sounds impressive, but is it really better than a seatback screen? Road Worrier investigates with an in-flight test.

Q Streaming was launched as a pilot back in January 2012, and is gradually being extended to all 767-338 aircraft. I fly Qantas with some regularity, but it wasn’t until a recent trip from Canberra to Melbourne that I actually found myself on a plane which actually offered the service. I’ve since encountered it one more time on a flight from Sydney to Adelaide.

The Q Streaming option effectively represents a halfway point between Qantas’ older planes, which only offer fixed programming on a handful of overhead screens, and the better-equipped A330s which have a version of the seatback entertainment systems first deployed on the A380. Like that system, you can choose your own shows, but you can’t access other features such as games, and you don’t get the same breadth of content.

Unlike the iPad offering from Qantas’ bargain-priced sibling Jetstar, there’s no fee to use the iPads and one is placed in every seat pocket. A sticker on the attached Smart Cover notes “security technology installed” and an RFID chip is attached to each device to prevent theft.

A special attachment on the headrest lets you mount the iPad for hands-free viewing. Staff on the flight hand out earbuds for use with the system (the ones you can grab at the gate are dual-pronged and hence won’t work with the iPad). Navigating through the system is simple (access to other iPad apps is blocked), and it didn’t take long for me to track down an episode of 30 Rock I wanted to watch.

One minor limitation with watching TV shows is that if there’s a bundle of episodes, you have to start with the first one. Unlike the seatback system, you can’t select individual episodes. That’s obviously less of an issue if you choose to watch movies. I didn’t experience any broadcast glitches either time I used the service, which is good going for a Wi-Fi-based system.

By far the biggest downside of Q Streaming is that you can’t use it throughout the flight. The same somewhat questionable electronic device bans which stop you reading on a Kindle during take-off and landing also means the Wi-Fi entertainment service only operates in the middle part of the flight. On a brief sector such as Melbourne-Canberra, that means you barely have enough time to view a 22-minute sitcom episode. It also means that you can’t use the service if you get stuck on the ground before take-off due to fog or other issues. That disadvantage doesn’t apply to the seatback option, which you can use from the moment you board until the moment you land.

I’d certainly prefer the iPad option to the older planes with overhead TVs — on flights where that happens, I’ll usually ignore the entertainment options altogether. Nonetheless, I’d still rather have a proper seatback system for a lengthier flight.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman has watched the 30 Rock episode with Weird Al more times than is strictly sensible. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


  • It annoys me that people are so unwilling to consider a crash that the message is phrased incorrectly.

    Rather than say “If we crash, the device will kill” we say “if you use the device, we will die”.

    I am sure everyone knows how dangerous it to hold a baby in your arms whilst travelling in a car. The obvious and clear reason being that during the shock deceleration of the car during a crash the baby becomes so heavy they fly through the windscreen?

    Same goes for a 700g iPad or 440g mobile phone if the plane crashes.

    Please think of those passengers in front of you. Secure all tray tables and stow all loose luggage, including your electronic devices during take off and landing, and they won’t have an iPad shaped hole in their head when the plane crashes.

    Mind you, outside those 10 minutes up and 10 minutes down where you are more likely to kill the mother of 5 sitting in front of you, why not use it?

    • someone isn’t familiar with a branch of mathematics called statistics. Or probability.

    • Believe me from experience Jayed

      If you have a landing hard enough to dislodge handheld devices that are propelled hard enough to cause injury, then this is the least of your problems – many of the overhead lockers will spring open and dump 10kg bags out which will be hitting you with much more momentum.

    • If the concern was really about the mass of potential projectiles there would be restrictions around reading hardback novels.
      I flew the day after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows launched and saw at least 30-40 copies on board (noticeable since they didn’t fit in the seat pockets as I found out the hard way). That sucker had to weigh almost 1.5kg, so I think it’d be more of a concern than a tiny phone or tablet.

  • You can definitely choose which episode you watch – on the left is the ‘watch all’ option, and on the right you just click which individual episode you want. The text is quite small so it’s a bit difficult to get the right episode first try. Also, it doesn’t explicitly say that this is possible, but it’s pretty obvious that it would be the case.

    Source: I flew return from Melbourne to Sydney over the weekend and did this on both flights

  • having used q streaming on a couple of flights now I have discovered that because I wear multi-focal glasses all it takes is for the person in front of you to fully or partially recline their seat to make it near impossible to watch, either hanging from the seat back or standing on the tray which can be a bitch on a long flight from Perth to Brisbane.

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