According to Lufthansa Systems, the earliest validated instance of in-flight entertainment (IFE) took place in 1921. That was when when Aeromarine Airways, a company that offered a type of seaplane service, showed a movie promoting Chicago (Howdy Chicago) to its passengers as the amphibious plane flew around The Windy City.
Obviously, a lot of things have changed with IFE in 100+ years. TWA began showing on-board feature films in 1961. 1963 heralded in-seat headsets, which were also initially introduced by TWA. 1979 saw in-seat headsets start to give way to electronic headsets (although they were originally only offered on select flights and in premium cabins). In 1988, Northwest Airlines introduced the first in-seat audio/video on-demand systems into their Boeing 747 fleet (they were 2.7″ screen but hey, it was RIGHT THERE, not 5 rows in front of you).
Today, in-flight entertainment is offered as an option on almost all wide body aircraft. However with the advent of smart phones, tablets, etc. in the past decade and a half, many passengers don’t even pay attention to what the airlines offer – they have a custom choice of music, movies and TV shows on their own, personal devices.
Still, some people still prefer to use the IFE – either on the screen on front of them or offered by the airline onto their own devices – rather than watch their own content. I remember several (and I mean SEVERAL) years back, I didn’t have a backup battery with me and didn’t want to use up my phone’s battery. So instead of watching my own stuff on my phone, I watched the plane’s IFE. It’s so long ago that I can’t tell you what airline it was, where I was flying, or what movie I decided to watch. All I know is that that flight ended before the movie did. Needless to say, I was SO FRUSTRATED! I remember going to my local Blockbuster (I told you it was a long time ago LOL!) to rent the movie so I could finally see the end ;-).
Which brings us to modern-day flight. Airlines, not surprisingly, typically do things that benefit themselves, unless they’re forced otherwise. A good example of this is charging for seat assignments, which separates families with small children who may not want to plunk down an extra $15-$35 per seat to ensure a caregiver sits next to their 4-year-old. Except now the federal government is pressuring airlines to figure out a way for little kids to sit next to a caregiver. Other examples are that several airlines charge extra to people of size who need more than one seat. Getting a refund (or even just a credit) if you’re sick and can’t/don’t want to fly can be a nightmare. Even when they do offer something for free, like this airline plans to do, you know it’s more to be able to say “Look what WE offer you!” than true altruism.
And yet every once in a while, for the little things that don’t/can’t cost anything, airlines do something that’s not only common sense, but helpful.
Remember that movie I didn’t get to see the end of? I was reminded of it when I saw a tweet from Peter Lattman (managing director of media at Emerson Collective; vice chairman of The Atlantic, formerly of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) not long ago:
The product genius at United who came up with this feature deserves a promotion pic.twitter.com/RU9eFCPNjv
— Peter Lattman (@peterlattman) December 10, 2022
“The product genius at United who came up with this feature (being able to whittle your choice of movies down to under 2 hours, under 1.5 hours, etc.) deserves a promotion”
Other airlines offer the same thing. Delta Air Lines does. Air Canada has a “Movies you can finish by landing time” option.
Don’t get me wrong – when you’re scrolling through movies, they all give you how long they run, what they’re rated, etc. But if you only have 90 minutes left in your flight, how awesome is it that you can cull out movies based on how much time you still have left on your flight?
Corrine Streichert, and Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Consultant for IFECtiv, replied to Lattman:
Thanks! Glad you appreciate it! A lot of research and work went into this starting as far back as 2016 up to 2018 prior to its launch.
— Corinne Streichert (@CoStreichert) December 11, 2022
It’s just a small thing that’s 100% common sense. But it’s a freebie and stops passengers from being frustrated by missing the end of their chosen movie at the end of their flight.
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