Road Worrier Tests Jetstar's iPad Rental Service

I was interested to read Angus' writeup of the Qantas Q Streaming service a few weeks back, because it's somewhat mirrored by the iPad-based rental service offered on Jetstar flights, except that Jetstar do not offer it for free. That doesn't mean it can't be good value for money, however.

A few weeks ago I was on a Jetstar flight that offered the iPad rental service, and more than a little curious to see how its value proposal stacked up. So, despite the fact that I had a perfectly serviceable iPad sitting in my bag, I opted to rent one for the duration of the flight, in order to see if it would offer enough value for money to make it worthwhile. Jetstar's whole business model is built around added charges for everything that doesn't involve plopping you into a seat and getting you to your destination, and iPad rental is no different.

Jetstar offers iPads in-flight at three different price points. $8 is the entry level price point for short domestic flights, $12 for longer domestic and finally $18 for International flights. The different price tiers do in theory buy you slightly more content, with movies added to the offerings of music, TV, games, eBooks and eMags.

Unlike the Q service, it's not secured with RFID tags; instead you're required to pay upfront and surrender your driver's license (or, I guess, passport) until it's returned. Not that you'd easily be able to steal the iPad, because the battery case that it sits in is seriously hefty. I'd hate to be in a plane that struck serious turbulence if these things go flying around.

The interface is quite basic, and if I've got one particular criticism, it's that in some areas the choice of content is somewhat lacking. The TV selection is OK, and while the games are on the older side, everyone should play The Settlers at least once in their lives. But the magazine selection when I tested was limited to six titles, with a strong accent on women's magazines. If you were looking at the $8 rental price and figuring that's what a mag from the airport newsagency would cost you, it's worth bearing in mind that you'd get more choice in a paper mag, and you could also read it during takeoff and landing, where the use of an iPad is still a no-no.

Jetstar provides standard earbuds, but I really didn't fancy the look of mine, as they were weirdly gritty on the actual bud parts. I couldn't quite tell if they were always collected post-flight and replaced, and didn't fancy picking up somebody else's ear infection. They didn't collect them (or at least not my pair), but I wasn't feeling brave, so used my own headphones intstead.

One slight added bonus; movies are meant to be an extra for longer flights, which makes sense because you've got time to watch them, but at least on my short flight they were all available. Something tells me the cabin staff doesn't care much, and in any case it's not like I had time to watch all of The Hobbit — but it was there.

So does it offer value for money? It can do, but obviously only if you don't have your own tablet or other electronic diversionary device to travel with, because the rules for electronic devices remain the same no matter whether you're renting or carrying them. I'd be more concerned for longer hop flights if you weren't planning to watch a movie, because the range of magazines is limited, and the eBooks offerings are kids-only fare.

Lifehacker Australia contributor Alex Kidman often travels with more technology than is strictly speaking sensible, and has had to explain this to airport security staff more times than he'd really like. The Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


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