Qantas’ Q Streaming in-flight entertainment option provides an iPad for every passenger to watch a selection of TV shows and movies, streamed to the device via a special on-board Wi-Fi network. Be warned, however — unless you supply your own headphones, you’re not going to get anything resembling decent audio. Here’s why.
While the iPad has a standard single 3.5mm audio jack, Qantas’ existing in-flight entertainment systems utilise a two-pronged model. That means the headphones which Qantas supplies to passengers for use on its other flights (the ones with seatback or overhead screens) can’t be connected to the iPad.
When Q Streaming launched earlier this year, Qantas initially solved the problem by handing out earbuds to passengers to connect to the iPad. I imagine there was one significant downside there — customers were far more likely to take them at the end of the flight. A two-pronged headset isn’t worth taking, because you can only use it on flights, but the temptation for a spare set of earbuds would be hard for many people to resist. It’s also less efficient to have multiple headphone options being supplied.
So the solution Qantas came up with was a modification of its existing two-pin headphones. The second pin can now be rotated 90 degrees so you can utilise the single pin in the iPad. That means the same headphones can be used for both the iPad and the in-arm earphone socket (which you might want access to if you prefer the Q Radio audio programs).
The huge problem with this solution? On the two-pin device, each pin carries a single stereo channel. So if you plug the single pin into the iPad, you only hear audio in one ear. Even at maximum volume, it’s only just audible. Effectively, despite the design modification, the headphones are useless for their intended purpose. It’s a waste of time plugging them into the iPad.
The lesson? Make sure you have a set of headphones (earbuds or otherwise) with you when flying Qantas, and also grab a headset as you board. That way, you’ll be equipped no matter what the in-flight options are. Given Qantas’ current financial woes, it seems unlikely the problem will be fixed by the airline.