Monday, September 21, 2009

Continental's New Video System

Two Sundays ago, I finally got on a Continental plane, 737, with the new video system. Notice that I said video system and not audio-video system.

My return flight had the old audio/video system. Of course, I sat in the row that had the monitor right on top of the seats in front of me and the other monitor was just too far away. It's a good thing I was not interested in it. I had an ebook I wanted to finish.

Last Sunday, I got my second chance to explore the new video system again.

A year ago, as Continental started getting new planes, they were not rigging them with the usual audio/video system. Continental was waiting for the delivery of new equipment -- individual systems for each passenger -- and did not want to expend the cost of refitting the plane.

There were many disappointed customers who discovered they had to entertain themselves for 4 plus hours. Season traveler that I am, of course, I was prepared.

The old monitor every 4-5 rows and 12 stations. 2 stations devoted to audio for the video -- 1 English and other Spanish. The other 10 stations for different kinds of music. At some point, the cost of entertainment went from $4.00 to $1.00. The headphones even changed. Over the ear clip-ons changed to earbuds that you can use on your own portable player. It included a gadget to transform the plug from single to dual plug so you can use them on any Continental plane.

The new system is DirecTV. There are no music stations. The movies are stilled controlled by Continental. They offer 4 current ones each month. September movies are Night at the Museum: Battle of Smithsonian, The Proposal, Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation. Continental also has 4 additional stations for reruns of dramas, comedys and miscellaneous documentaries. You could consider this Continental Vision. If DirecTV goes out because of plane misalignment with the satellite, you can still watch these 8 stations. Then you have 75 DirecTV stations to surf through for more programming like TNT, FoodTV, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN.

The bad thing about this new system is that programming does not halt when the plane PA system is used, even Continental Vision continues on. It's very annoying as you will miss all dialogue when the crew speaks. If I want music, I guess I'll have to make sure my player has enough juice.

You do need a credit/debit card to activate the system. The cost is $6.00. Headsets (the earbuds with dual plug attachment) are complimentary. Hopefully, it does not go up anymore as I consider this high. (Yes, it's still cheaper than a movie ticket and, given enough time, you could watch two movies, like I did.) As always, it is free for First Class. Though another frequent flyer told me you can get Continental Vision, not the movie channels, for free. I'll have to explore that when I'm in coach with the new system.

Supposedly the planes with DirecTV also have power outlets so you can plug in. I tried this once in First Class but was never able to find a working one in Coach.

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