Emirates Allows Passengers To Preload Entertainment Prior To Departure

Emirates ICE system

Emirates becomes an early adopter in allowing passengers the option to preload entertainment choices in a playlist prior to departure. Experience The Skies takes a look at how this system works and the benefits this new feature can bring.



Emirates is the biggest airline in the Middle East region serving over 58 million passengers in 2018. It is based in Dubai, United Arabic Emirates and has a big presence at Dubai International Airport (DXB). More than 85% of its operation are mid haul (3-7 hours) to long haul (7+ hours) flights. The airline operates these flights with the world’s biggest Boeing 777 (148 aircrafts with an order for 150 777Xs to be introduced in 2020) and Airbus A380 fleet (109 aircrafts with an option for another 53 aircrafts with an unknown delivery date). It is no surprise that it operates some of the longest flights in the world today (refer to this post for more information).

Connecting passengers around the world through long distances means many hours are spent in flight. Emirates created the Information, Communication, Entertainment (ICE) in-flight entertainment system to keep passenger entertained through these longer journeys. The current ICE system owns the world record with over 4,000 channels featuring new and classic tv shows, live tv, music, movies, games and podcasts, etc.

How it works

Emirates partnered with Thales to power the current iteration of ICE across all long haul fleet cabins with screens ranging from 10″ in economy to 32″ in first class. Passengers can interact with the screens through the touch based navigation interface or a secondary control pad. Creating an ICE playlist can be done in a few easy steps:

  • Before departure – passengers will need to download the Emirates mobile app for iOS or Android. Open the app and locate “My Trips” to find the flight. Various entertainment choices available on the flight would be shown and can be added onto a playlist.
  • On board – passengers connect with the plane’s OnAir Wi-Fi system, follow the instructions to sync the playlist stored in the app to the in flight entertainment screen and enjoy all the different choices.
  • Sync capabilities are available immediately on over 100 Boeing 777s with the Airbus A380 being retrofitted with the option in 2019.
Infographic on how to set up and sync playlists in advance for viewing on board.

Sir Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airline said: “In keeping with our ‘Fly Better’ promise, our teams work tirelessly to provide ever better world-class travel experiences. Every detail is carefully considered as we continually enhance and develop innovative products and services for our customers. This latest functionality on the Emirates app elevates the customer experience even before they step onto the aircraft. Our customers can now browse the unmatched content on offer and create personal entertainment playlists at their leisure, and once comfortably settled in their seats on board, they simply sync and press play.”


Many airlines have been publishing entertainment choices on different flights online or inside the flight magazine for years. Singapore Airlines (in November 2018) and Emirates are the early adopters to make them conveniently available in the airlines’ app to add on a playlist before departure, similar to features in Spotify and Netflix. The ability to create playlists has many benefits to passengers, airlines and content providers including:


  • Encourage earlier trip engagement and build excitement
  • Allow parents to set up and control the contents available for their kids
  • Resume content from the end of one flight to the next without interruptions


  • Gather data on which entertainment options receive more advanced searches and playlist addition
  • Create new metrics based on content consumption as part of marketing and promotion
  • Innovate new product delivery options based on usage

Content Providers

  • Gather additional data on viewership and popularity of contents sooner
  • Incorporate new promotional contents through a new channel
  • Build new interactive options to assist airlines to engage the passengers even sooner

2019 is the year where new technologies will be introduced throughout the travel journey with the goal to improve customer experience. Airlines like Southwest (refer to post) incorporating complimentary messaging on board and Emirates building a easy to use advance playlist option are just a couple of examples where passengers in all cabins can enjoy.

Larry Leung is the Director of Research and Strategy at Experience The Skies. He is a certified avgeek, a public speaker and a dessert and design enthusiast. Contact him through LinkedIn or Twitter.

Experience The Skies is a consulting company based in Toronto, Canada that specializes in the travel industry with focus on the assessment, competitive analysis and development of loyalty programs, technologies, marketing, ancillary revenue solutions. Follow Experience The Skies on TwitterFacebookFlipboard, and Instagram.