Home Airlines Airlines Will Never Get In-Seat Entertainment Right

Airlines Will Never Get In-Seat Entertainment Right

by joeheg

Airlines spend a ton of money to try to enhance the in-flight experience. They have to try to distract you in some way from realizing that your seat is a little bit smaller and less comfortable than it was on your last flight.

The entertainment options have changed significantly since I first started flying. I remember getting to my seat and reading the playlists of each music station in the magazine to see which one I wanted to listen to during my flight. I usually ended up listening to the pop station or the Disney music station. Just wondering, did anyone listen to the World Music station???

When computers got smaller, I remember when an EmPower plug was the only way to keep your laptop running on a flight. Admit it, it was a fancy way to get you to pay for an adapter so your computer could run off a cigarette lighter.  We’ve come a long way since then, thank goodness.


By Coolhandscot – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9787421

You used to watch a movie along with the other passengers, just like in a theater.


Eventually, screens became smaller yet more plentiful throughout the plane. These drop-down screens were the rage back in the 90s. It was great, no one got a good view of the screen. Either you had to crane your neck to look straight up or you were too far away to see anything.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 10.51.23 PM

To listen to the movies, you needed the airline’s headphones with a special plug. Why? Who knows? Can your noise-canceling headphones plug into this?


What about this three-prong beauty?


The newest trend is BYOD, Bring Your Own Device. Airlines allow you to stream content by WiFi signal. Until airplane WiFi is fast and reliable, this will never replace in-flight entertainment, but it hasn’t stopped them from pushing everyone to use it.

Here’s the information on how to stream movies and TV for each airline.

So what have airlines learned? Not much, but I do feel sorry for them. This is a fight they will never win for several reasons:

1. Technology will always be one step ahead of them

Installing technology on an airplane isn’t easy. You have to make sure it will work and is safe to put on a metal tube flying at 35,000 feet. While you might have an HD iPad in your carry-on, the screen in the seat in front of you may be from 15 years ago. To change it, the airline will have to take that plane out of service to put in new screens and hardware to run them. By the time they install that tech on the entire fleet, it will already be out of date. It doesn’t excuse them from not trying but I understand the #struggle.

2. Customers will never be happy

Airlines are always trying to figure out what people want. They can give you a larger screen, but that means a larger power box needs to be installed under the seats, which will take away from the legroom. Then you’ll complain about having your legroom reduced so they’ll remove the entertainment altogether. Then you’ll complain about how cheap the airline is that you don’t have any TV screens. Do you see how this goes? There’s no correct answer.

3. People flying on airlines don’t know what they want

This is partially the same as the one above but different enough to give it its own listing. For example, I prepare and load a whole season of Rick and Morty on my iPad on some flights, and I couldn’t care less about in-flight entertainment. Is that not appropriate to watch on a flight? Sorry if your kid is sitting next to me but I’m sure they have seen this show or things worse than this already, but who am I to know what is suitable for your children.

Sometimes I’m an idiot and forget to charge my iPad and just want to watch some Fixer Upper on HGTV. (Thank You JetBlue for DirecTV)


Even other times I just want to get some work done on the flight and all I want is the power plug to keep my computer running and to have the Wi-Fi work at a decent speed.

And finally, sometimes I had to wake up so early for my flight that all I want to do is SLEEP!!

So here I am, a semi-frequent traveler and I have four different needs for various situations. How can I expect the airlines to satisfy me all the time, not to mention everyone else on the plane?

4. People will pick you apart if you try to tell them what they want

People will find fault in your decisions even when you try to go ahead of the curve and design a forward-thinking product. American Airlines did away with seatback screens in favor of a tablet holder.


Picture from View From The Wing.

Like it or hate it, American is sticking with that decision even when other airlines, like United, are reconsidering and bringing back monitors on their newly ordered planes.

The Solution?

I wish I had an easy solution, but I don’t. Let me put what I want.

I want functional Wi-Fi at a reasonable price. I don’t mean something that I can stream Netflix or download huge files with but fast enough to see websites and get work done if I want. Some flights I want to work, others I don’t and I will not know that ahead of time. If I book a flight with Wi-Fi, it better work even if I don’t need to use it.

I want a tray table that I can comfortably fit a laptop on without learning a new form of flying yoga position. I never knew this was a problem until I tried to use my computer on an American Airlines plane. I just couldn’t work on the tray table. I ended up resting my laptop on my backpack that was between my legs on the floor. From experience, this is not the most comfortable way to work for two hours.

I want a reliable power source. I’d settle for a USB outlet to run my phone or tablet but a plug to run a computer is preferable. I’d also ask that you check that the plugs work, please. Until then. I will follow this tip and bring a UK adapter with me.


If I have Wi-Fi, a functional tray table and power – I’d be fine without seatback entertainment. Even better if you give me streaming movies or TV shows (but don’t expect me to pay for a movie that I might not get to finish).

My problem is that I can’t trust you to provide that on a regular basis. On some flights, the Wi-Fi doesn’t work (or works so poorly that it might as well be broken). On some planes, I can’t even open my laptop. I have a power plug on other flights, but it doesn’t work unless I hold the plug at the right angle for the whole flight.

If I can’t work and can’t keep my phone/computer charged, I’m going to want to watch a movie I never wanted to see, or maybe a sitcom, just to keep my mind off of the lack of productivity I’m having on your airline.

However, if I always got to fly in a seat with a TV like this I might not complain as much:


Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.

Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.

Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

Vicente November 9, 2021 - 1:52 pm

When the Boomers finally toddle off to Memory Care, airlines should stop installing IFE. It’s a HUGE amount of weight, cost, and complexity for a bunch of hardware that quickly is obsolete. Just give me a decent charging point at my seat and I’ll bring my own tech thanks. They do this to make customers HAPPY and I’d rather see that budget spent on decent snacks, or maybe a bathroom big enough to turn around in (looking at you 737MAX).


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: