What is it about airlines and in-flight entertainment (IFE)? There’s a big difference of opinion of what passengers want while onboard. There are some airlines like JetBlue and Delta, which are upgrading their seatback screens and offering even more choices, with JetBlue even offering DirecTV and SiriusXM content onboard.
American Airlines has tried to navigate a middle ground in regards to its entertainment options. Some of their planes have seatback screens while all of the planes they acquired from US Airways have no entertainment (and no power outlets).
American then went all-in with Team No-IFE when they introduced their “Project Oasis” seats. These seats offered no entertainment screens, even in first class. They did offer power outlets and the reasoning for the decision was that people wanted to watch their own devices while onboard, not a seatback screen.
Well, this product may be a sign of what helps save American Airlines from a horrible decision.
On November 12, 2019, the Disney+ service launched and overnight had an installed base of over 10 million members. Now I know that’s nowhere the number of people who have access to Hulu or Netflix, but there’s one big difference. Disney+ is allowing people to download as much as you want (or have the memory for) to your devices.
If you need a primer on how to download content from Disney+, here’s a step-by-step guide.
Disney+ allows you to watch content offline on your iOS or Chrome-based phones or tablets. You could watch the MCU movies again, well not all of them (yet). What about a throwback marathon of The Black Hole, Tron, and Flight of the Navigator? Or maybe you just want to see what you were missing by not checking out Star Wars Rebels.
Sure you could always download movies and TV shows from Netflix or Amazon but it wasn’t all of the shows. Personally, I had problems with the playback with both services when offline and when I went to watch a series I previously downloaded, it was gone from my device and I needed to reactivate it before every trip. Sometimes shows would disappear, never to be seen again.
What does the future hold?
I need you to go with me on this one. Maybe American Airlines and Doug Parker see something that we don’t and are looking at a further horizon. Airplanes have a lifespan that lasts decades and it can be a long time before a cabin goes in for an update. All we can see now is a cramped seat with no screen. In ten years, everyone will be able to effortlessly bring whatever content they want onto a plane. Downloading TV shows or movies will happen almost instantaneously and you’ll be able to update things while you sit at the gate. With your VR goggles, you won’t care about being cramped in your seat as you’ll not even see how close you are to the seat in front of you. If you want to work on your virtual computer, you won’t need a full-size tray table as there’s no actual keyboard and no screen.
If that’s the future, maybe we should stop thinking of American as the airline that’s cutting back on in-flight entertainment and instead start giving them credit as the visionaries they are.
I even have a slogan for them. “American Airlines. Right now you think our planes are bad but just wait 10 years and you’ll see we had it right all along.”
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary