Song is Cool

I’m flying Song airlines for the first time, en route to Orlando on business. The individual interactive multimedia consoles are pretty cool. You can check out your altitude, flight path, etc., in real time, which I think helps mitigate the lack of control and attendant anxiety most people feel while flying. There is also a decent selection of “MP3s” (I wonder if they are actually stored as MP3s?) that you can queue up for a personal playlist. I’ve found more than enough selections to last the rest of the flight. (Strangely, I seem to have to hit ‘pause’ at the end of each track to advance to the next). There are also a bunch of satellite TV stations, pay-per-view movies and games, although I haven’t checked those out.

I’m curious about how the music licensing works. The airline would like to provide the attractive feature of a broad variety of music for its customers; at the same time, it probably serves as effective marketing for the labels, just like radio play. You might, for example, check out an album you were thinking of buying on the flight, and purchase it later if you liked it. The chance that inflight music will be copied by customers is very low and presumably they don’t need to worry about DRM. So which way does money flow—from the airlines to the labels or vice-versa? Or are the tracks “free?”

Now playing: The Beatles, Revolver, “Got to Get You Into My Life.”

P.S. After we landed, the interactive multimedia consoles rebooted. It turns out they are running Red Hat Linux, circa 2002. Smart.


  1. Ian Jan 28

    I rode Song to San Francisco a couple weeks ago and was equally impressed. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that they may have to cease operations in the near future because of parent Delta’s financial woes. Although if you ask me, I think Delta should just change its name to Song and get rid of the Delta brand instead.

  2. Roger Jan 28

    I know at least Virgin Airlines (IIRC) as well, have used a Linux based solution for cabin passenger entertainment (or whatever they’te called) consoles.

    A friend of mind was on a business trip to japan on virgin, and apparantely the system was down , and the only thing they would show was some sort of Oops .

    Unmountable root, I guess – but my friend is a audio driver developer for windows and Symbian other OSs except, has almost no linux experience – so didn’t really remember the exact error message.

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