Tea, coffee, IFE? A history of movies in the sky

Published on 8th April 2016 at 15:20

Upper deck QF B747 circa 1970sBack in the day, inflight entertainment usually consisted of a game of cards in the confines of a cigarette filled cabin.

On the early flying boats, books and magazines were kept onboard and most journeys consisted of several fuel stops along the way helping break the monotony of a long haul flight.

smokingToday, it’s a one stop flight from Sydney to London  with passengers having access to thousands of hours of entertainment all viewed on their own individual screen.

In a happy coincidence the early days of flight coincided with the birth of the film industry. So some enterprising folks more than 80 years ago showed the first inflight movie on an Imperial Airlines flight from London to Europe.

We can’t imagine that it would have been an enjoyable experience with the projector display bouncing around, but at least the noise of the propellers wouldn’t have drowned out the sound as it was a silent movie.

So what about us here at Qantas?

Our inflight entertainment really took off in 1971 with the introduction of the Boeing 747-200B. We had a whopping seven channels of audio for your listening pleasure including three in stereo sound (raise the roof!)as well as projectors at the front of every cabin to screen the latest movies. That was the same year that Three Dog Night reached the top spot on the Billboard Music Charts bumping Rod Stewart to number 2.

And remember those delightfully weird headsets which looked like a doctor’s stethoscope?


Fast forward 45 years and today we offer IFE on all of our jet aircraft through personal seat back screens or using Q Streaming which allows you to watch content from your own personal device.

The majority of your inflight entertainment is downloaded onto the aircraft computer system, but on some of our older aircraft our Inflight Entertainment Engineers (yep – that’s their official title) make sure content is delivered to the aircraft.

By the end of this year our 67 strong Boeing 737 fleet will offer either seatback IFE or Q Streaming watched on your own device via the free Qantas Entertainment App. Plus, we’re really excited to be rolling out Wi-Fi on our aircraft from next year, fast enough for you to stream content.

And for your own personal viewing – check out what is reported to be the first ever in flight movie below.