I RATHER like aeroplanes – and the neat technology in them – which is why I was only too happy to accept an invitation to head to Brisbane International Airport earlier this week with other media and industry representatives to look around a shiny new passenger jet which had literally just flown in.
Fiji Airways took delivery of one of the world’s most up-to-date aircraft a week or so ago, in the form of a brand-new Airbus A350 XWB twin-engined wide-body long-haul jetliner, and it was making its first flight to Australia before becoming one of the flagship aircraft on its Australia-Fiji service.
Being a plane enthusiast, I could go on and on at length about the range and the top speed and the other technical specifications, but the reality is you can look that stuff up on Wikipedia if you’re interested.
Long-haul air travel has changed quite a bit in the past few decades and while in the past gaming in flight was largely out of the question, that definitely isn’t the case anymore, with gaming capable laptops and the Nintendo Switch console – not to mention your mobile phone, if that’s your thing – within most gaming budgets now, and providing a great way to while away the hours as you fly.
While I didn’t get the chance to experience the plane in-flight, I was able to look around inside the aircraft on the tarmac at Brisbane International Airport at its official unveiling to local media and industry earlier this week – the plane was so new it still had the plastic covers on its in-flight entertainment system and carpets.
The Fiji Airways Airbus A350XWB has 110v universal power plugs in all its seats – even the economy class ones – which means you can plug a laptop or Nintendo Switch in and be guaranteed juice for the duration of the flight.
The question is: Could you realistically game while flying aboard this marvel of modern aviation technology, though?
The short version: It would appear so.
If you’re up near the pointy end of the plane in business class, the answer is an unequivocal “Yes. Yes you can” – each seat has a lie-flat capability with lots of space, a sliding tray, and a storage space next to it which opens up to reveal a USB port, a 110v universal power plug, and somewhere to put your Switch while you’re enjoying champagne and posh food at 35,000 feet while enjoying not feeling like a pleb.
Most of us, however, are not made of money and will thus likely be flying in economy.
The seats have a pitch (seat space) of 32in (81cm), which is pretty standard – I’m a tall guy and there was still enough room for me to sit comfortably with a couple of inches of space between my knees and the seat in front.
They’re 18in (45cm) wide, which means there’s enough space to set up a laptop on the tray table, but you probably don’t want to be playing anything really action orientated since there won’t be much space left over for the mouse (and you’re not going to do anything silly like try to play Metro: Exodus using the inbuilt touchpad, are you?). Fortunately, turn-based games like Civilization VI and XCOM 2 are fantastic for playing on aeroplanes, though.
Given their smaller size there’s more than enough space for a Switch, tablet, or mobile phone there, although you may need to consider where your elbows are going for an extended gaming session – indeed, how comfortable you’ll find trying to use a laptop or gaming device in-flight will likely depend on how much of the seat space you find yourself occupying.
Fiji Airways tell me for a small fee, you can upgrade to the ‘Bula Space’ (“Bula” is the wonderful Fijian word which roughly translates “Hello” or “Welcome”), giving you 34in (86cm) of pitch – so more legroom, but that doesn’t really help if you’re still elbowing whoever is sitting next to you when you’re really getting into Diablo III: Eternal Edition on your Switch somewhere over New Caledonia.
Like I said, I haven’t been able to test the gaming experience in-flight, but the Fiji Airways A350XWB will be entering service on the Sydney-Nadi route from December 1, with a second aircraft of the same model flying the Nadi-Los Angeles service from January 2020 – so it remains to see what the in-flight gaming experience is like, but on paper and from what I saw, the potential is definitely there.