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Taking entertainment to the skies


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(CNN) -- If you are worried about missing that sporting event, election result or a news broadcast while taking a flight in Australia, things are about to change.

Live television services will soon be broadcast via satellite to aircraft and displayed on seatback screens for passengers flying no-frills airline Virgin Blue.

It looks set to become the first carrier outside North America to exploit the innovation. It is already being used by airlines such as JetBlue, West Jet and Frontier.

From mid next year, Virgin Blue will roll out the service on all of its 8,000 screens on domestic flights. It is seen as a bid to attract more customers, especially from rival Qantas.

There will be a fee of Aust. $5 ($3.8) for the service, which can be activated with a credit card and provides unlimited use on a one-way flight.

"We expect Live2Air to actually enhance yield by attracting new guests," says Virgin Blue CEO Bret Godfrey. The service may also generate new advertising revenue.

The service will offer 24 Foxtel and Austar television channels including CNN, Sky News Australia, The Comedy Channel, Fox Sports and Nickelodeon.

"Watching live sport, catching breaking news or the stock market close as you fly will be a totally new and unique experience in Australia," says Foxtel Chief Execitive Kim Williams.

The announcement comes as Air New Zealand and the Blockbuster movie rental chain sign a deal allowing passengers on Auckland-Melbourne flights to rent personal DVD players and movies.

Passengers will be able to rent the player and select a movie as they book on the airline's Web site, or they can choose from a range of titles after they check in.

In-flight entertainment is also taking a new twist in Europe. Dublin-based Ryanair says it would like to attract passengers with in-flight gambling. (Full Story)

By charging passengers for food, baggage and entertainment, in-flight budget airlines have been able to roll out services with little extra cost, aside from capital investment.

And with competition hotting up on many routes, no-frills carriers look set to use these extra services to entice customers away from rivals.


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