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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Video streaming in the cloud (like, real clouds)

Molly Wood Oct 5, 2015
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The hit Netflix series “House of Cards” is hitting cruising altitude on Virgin America. 

Passengers on the airline’s new planes equipped with satellite Wi-Fi can now get access to the full catalog of Netflix films and shows on their personal devices until March 2. The hitch? If they’re not already Netflix members, passengers have to sign up for a free, 30-day trial membership. Three seasons of House of Cards will also be available on the planes’ in-flight entertainment system.

JetBlue recently crafted a similar deal with Amazon Prime, allowing Prime members to stream content for free on their tablets, smart phones or laptops and for nonmembers to pay to access Amazon content.

“For companies like Netflix, these partnerships are great sampling opportunities,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research, a travel industry research firm. “They are a way to introduce the product to an up-market audience.”

Harteveldt said these deals are only possible with satellite Wi-Fi, not the air-to-ground Wi-Fi system many airlines use.

“Satellite Wi-Fi, which Virgin America is installing, and which JetBlue has, allows a greater bandwidth to be transmitted to the plane, which means more people can use it and you can do more with it, including streaming video,” he said.

But business travel expert Joe Brancatelli of JoeSentMe.com doubts these deals will matter when people book airline flights.

“Most people who travel for leisure will buy on price,” he said. “And most people who travel for business will buy on their loyalty to an airline’s frequency program or price or some combination thereof.”

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