American Thinks In-Seat Screens Aren’t Needed on Domestic Flights; I Flip Flop on the Issue

American, Inflight Entertainment

American is getting closer to taking delivery of its first 737 MAX (4 will be coming in the second half of this year), and it is starting to talk about what it’ll look like on the inside. It is now official that the airline will not install in-seat video on these airplanes. Over the years, I’ve alternated from thinking in-seat video is good to thinking it’s not needed. I can’t make up my mind, and I continue to waffle today.

For American this is no surprise. The old US Airways management team used to think that all you needed was wifi. Even the overhead screens on US Airways domestic aircraft were pulled out and the power outlets deactivated. But at the new American the team realized it was a different kind of airline and needed further review. The signs were there, however, that we wouldn’t be seeing screens for much longer. Most notably, the pre-merger American A319s came with screens, but when the post-merger team decided to refurbish the US Airways A319s to match the American configuration, they left the screens off. So hearing that this is a cohesive plan for future deliveries isn’t a surprise.

But isn’t American still taking delivery of airplanes with in-seat screens today? Yep. In fact, there are 40 more A321s and 737-800s coming in the door this year that’ll be fully-equipped. This, however, is all from that mega-order that American placed before the merger. I was told early-on that it’s not easy to change the interior configuration on existing orders. I assume that’s why these still keep coming in the way they do.

There’s one important point of clarification here. Unlike United which thought screens weren’t needed on the 747, American still sees them as important on long-haul widebodies (though it won’t refit the soon-to-retire 767s). This change is just on narrowbodies. But if screens aren’t necessary, what is? The American promise is this:

  • Satellite internet access fast enough to allow you to stream Netflix, Amazon, etc.
  • Free streaming movies and music to your own device
  • Free live TV on your own device
  • Gate-to-gate access, no waiting until 10,000 feet
  • 110V power outlet for each seat

The new MAXs will even be equipped with an iPad holder in the seat in front to make it easier to watch content. (I have no clue how versatile that’ll be to work with non-iPads.)

When you put it that way, this does sound more than adequate, right? And the cherry on top is that those bulky boxes blocking your feet in each row will finally go away. Huzzah. But there are issues here.

First, I say this sounds great, but then every time I fly JetBlue, I’m reminded how much I love a second screen. It is awesome to be able to watch television or a movie in the background while working on my laptop. This is indeed a first world problem. Can I be content without the screen? Sure. But I kind of want it to feel like it is when I’m at home. That makes me greedy, but hey, why not?

The thing is, I don’t think it’ll sway my purchase decision, at least not nearly as much as fast wifi does, and that’s what the airline cares about. Besides, if my option is seatback television and slow internet (Virgin America, Delta for now) or no television and fast internet on American, I’ll pick American.

The bigger issue, however, isn’t so easy to resolve. This is a nice standard to push for, but it’s not based in reality today. American still has a motley group of interior configurations and the customer experience is terribly inconsistent. The wifi project is going ahead full-steam. By next summer (2018), half the fleet will have the fast satellite wifi installed. The other half will be done by the end of 2019. Presumably they’ll start with the 737s that have the most awful, slow internet connections today, but I don’t know for sure.

But even beyond the wifi situation, it’s still a mess. I mean, look at the fleet today.

  • Embraer 190 (20 airplanes) – none have power, none with screens
  • A319 (125 airplanes) – all have power, 32 with screens, 93 without screens
  • MD-80s (57 airplanes) – all have completely useless DC power (cigarette lighter), none with screens
  • A320 (51 airplanes) – none have power, none with screens
  • 737-800 (284 airplanes) – 221 have power for 2 of every 3 seats and overhead screens, 63 have power and screens in-seat
  • 757-200 (51 airplanes) – some have scattered DC power in economy but most don’t, all have overhead screens
  • A321 (199 airplanes) – 78 have power and screens in-seat, 121 have no power and no screens

Talk about inconsistency. Now over the next few years, the Embraer 190s and MD-80s go away. The 757s will keep shrinking and fly pretty much only medium-haul overwater routes. But that still means there are a bunch of A319/A320/737/A321 aircraft that need some major work to get them up to speed. It’s not clear how soon that’ll happen, but in my mind, if this is going to be the product American wants to put forward, it needs to make it happen sooner rather than later.

Of course, if I happen to get on an airplane that has an in-seat screen on top of everything else, I’m not going to complain. And so far, American hasn’t decided to pull those screens out, but it might do so in the future. Still, I look forward to the day when American actually puts forth a consistent onboard experience. It is not there today.

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72 comments on “American Thinks In-Seat Screens Aren’t Needed on Domestic Flights; I Flip Flop on the Issue

  1. “[I]f my option is seatback television and slow internet (Virgin America, Delta for now) or no television and fast internet on American, I’ll pick American.”

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare slow internet Delta and fast internet American. Delta started installing high speed internet last year (Gogo’s 2ku), American doesn’t yet have a single plane with it will be offering satellite internet from two different providers and it will take several years to retrofit the existing fleet that will receive it. Delta is moving slowly on retrofits, but it’s American playing catch up.

    1. Gary – I’m not picking on Delta here. I’m just pointing out a valid comparison that could exist. No question everyone will end up with fast internet onboard. It’s just a matter of when. Though I do think the fact that AA will be half done before next summer is a pretty speedy timeline (relatively).

  2. In-flight entertainment and internet has become what inflight meals used to be…. something to distract passengers from the bordem of air travel and the tight space in which passengers have to sit for longer than the human body was created to sit rather motionless.

    The issue with inflight entertainment is simply that some carriers will offer both inseat AVOD as well as Wifi on at least the majority of their domestic fleets; AA and UA have decided that they won’t offer the product on new longhaul domestic aircraft.

    Aircraft types will always cycle out of an airline’s fleet; AA has made no statement on the final date to remove the 763ER from longhaul international service and they do not offer inseat AVOD. UA’s 744s will be gone long before AA’s 763ERs.

    DL has made the decision to acquire and keep the 717 and M90 and they apparently won’t have inseat AVOD. Most of the rest of DL’s fleet will have it but can customers understand the difference between the longhaul domestic flights that AVOD equipped aircraft serve compared to the 3-4 hour flights than the 717 and M90 sometime fly even if Delta Studio is offered on a larger number of aircraft?

    Nearly all carriers are upgrading to high speed internet so it is far too early to say that any one carrier will have an advantage or disadvantage.

    Alaska hasn’t decided – or at least announced – what they will do with Virgin America’s aircraft and product… but AS has to come up with a consistent product for longhaul flights and AVOD is just one component. Given that AS has a number of transcon flights, whatever decision they make for Virgin America’s network will have to be applied to AS’ transcons.

    While the MAX will very likely fly longhaul routes for AA, it is a long time before any airline other than B6 has a fleetwide inflight product. If AA starts removing inseat AVOD from existing domestic aircraft, then the implications are larger

    This topic is probably one that is worth re-evaluating in a couple years rather than declaring one carrier has made a bad or good decision.

    1. I agree that today’s “in-flight entertainment and internet has become what inflight meals used to be.” However, no matter how good those meals were, there are going to be people who complain about the food, the selection, the delivery, special meal requests, etc. And when airlines removed meals, people whined and complained–the same people that whined and complained about the quality/quantity/delivery/selection of said meals. I think that passengers currently complain about air carriers’ entertainment and internet options: too slow, too expensive, not enough current movie selections, boring television programming. And they are going to complain when operators don’t offer an in-seat video display on their aircraft. Even if, like others who have commented here, they bring their own devices. It’s a crapshoot for carriers to purchase systems that may or may not become obsolete in just a few years, and it’s expensive to haul around extra weight (the screens plus system components are heavy, which adds up over time). Additionally, licensing fees too continue to increase, adding to an already expensive cost to operate.

      So I say, yay American for removing in-seat video screens. I wish every carrier would, so I could truly compare pricing apples to apples. I much prefer to be in charge of my own entertainment when flying.

      Lastly, I only carry on one backpack (or duffel) when I travel, which goes under the seat in front of me, and as Cranky stated, “those bulky boxes blocking your feet in each row will finally go away. Huzzah.” This is the bigger benefit to me.

  3. Ok, compare Jetblue. Fleet wide free live tv, xm radio, super fast flyfi internet, and they are retro fitting the fleet with the latest live tv system which will have an 11 in screen and 40-50 AVOD movies, all for free.

  4. The only thing I would miss about that would be the flight maps and the rare-but-interesting nose and/or tail cams.

    1. If the in flight maps would show actual routings, instead of just great circle routes from origin airport to plane and from plane to destination, like the plane tracking web sites do, I would agree with you. As it is, they are only good for showing current plane position, not past/future routings.

      1. At least some IFE systems do show actual routing. I remember having watched a path of circles made while waiting for landing on an Etihad moving map once. But it’s definitely the exception to the rule.

      2. Here in Australia Virgin have implemented AVOD via mobile devices in almost their whole fleet. Includes flight maps that update in real time – like Bgriff I’ve been in a holding pattern and the map reflects that. So it is possible.

  5. What annoys me the most is inconsistency, and I count the regionals in with this. Hate getting on a ERJ or CRJ and seeing an onboard product so different from the mainline metal. I fly mostly DL and know what does & doesn’t have the seatbacks but my overwhelming preference would be for 100% of their planes to have the exact same amenities. I literally pack my bag depending on what metal is flying the route. That’s ridiculous, but reality.

    Even on the shortest routes I like the option. When I fly MSP-DTW (often) it’s nice to be on the seatback IFE equipped 757’s as it is a great time to catch the morning news before connecting off to wherever work takes me. On a flight longer than 3 hours it’s and absolute necessity and I have and will continue to make my purchase based on on-board amenities. SY flies a lot of routes from MSP that I would consider but with no personal screens those “sun country” destinations are long flights.

  6. As someone with large feet (men’s size 14) and as someone who reads on flights, I find the underseat boxes far more of a pain than the IFE is a plus. In the end this is a consumer preference issue and rarely a make or break decision. I also wonder how much weight it saves not having the IFE?

    1. I’m in agreement with you, Jeffery (except that I’m a small woman with average feet). I care about the stowage space under my seat and the cost to haul those screens/systems around regardless of whether they are used by one, some, or all.

    2. I was actually on a LUS A321 from SFO-CLT last week and used the streaming IFE for first time, it worked prefectly on both my Surface PRO 4 and my phone, now those planes are missing power still, and that has become a necessity.

    3. I agree. Based on the comments it appears that I am almost the only person who doesn’t use IFE. Sure, on JetBlue flights I may try DirecTV, and on United flights I may plug in to the AFC channel, but in my limited experience B6 does a poor job of keeping its IFE and screens operational, and I would never choose a flight or airline because of it.

      I can usually sleep or doze on flights, and that is what I spend most of my time doing (or trying to do). I will take extra leg room and waist room (at a 44″ waist, I don’t have much room to spare, though I don’t need a seat belt extension) and no in-flight PA announcements (they wake me up) long before I care about airline provided IFE.

    4. As a fellow tall guy with big feet (6’4″ and 13E), I agree that the boxes are a really pain. The in-seat screens also make the seats thicker, which cuts into the already miniscule personal space in steerage. I would much rather have the boxes and screens go away, I don’t even need power – a tablet and a USB power pack will get me through any flight just fine.

      What I really want is legroom, I would be delighted to trade every in-flight geegaw for an extra inch of legroom and footroom.

  7. If you depend on passengers using their own devices, you need to have power to seat — preferably without large intrusive boxes

    1. You don’t need power. Anybody with even a quarter of a clue has a power pack for their tablet and/or phone. A basic $20 model from Amazon will get you through just about any flight.

  8. Actually Cranky the LAA 757, domestic and int’l have AC outlets at the same placement as the former DC outlets-every seat in F, scattered around Y but front loaded.

    Not sure about LUS but I suspect they have zero, zip, zilch, nada.

  9. I fly on American LAX/BOS about once a month and I’m entirely dumbfounded by the product inconsistancy. First of all, it’s a long haul transcon flown by an inappropriately small 737-800, although I realize there are few options. I would imagine this is a high profile/revenue route for American and you would think they would always put forth their best product, especially since winter westbound flights can run up to 7 hours long! But no. I have been on wonderful aircraft with that new plane smell (and seat back entertainment) and I have been on OPOS (old pieces of shit) that could have been flown by Amelia Earhart. It’s maddening. Jet Blue gets it as it’s one of the routes with Mint Service.

    I was very disappointed to hear about the new MAX aircraft, although I “kinda” get it. They are expensive, complicated systems that are prone to obsolescence and stunt leg room – but I like them. Like you, I carry a laptop, but like the option to use both screens. ADD can be a wonderful thing.

    So will they ever upgrade the 100 plus older 737s? I would bet not. I just took a flight on a 6 year old 737-800 with brand new seats, but no TV’s.

    But to your point, it’s about consistency and expectations, something American needs to get a handle on.

    David Wood West Hollywood

    PS, on a totally separate note, how important is the LAX-SFO route these days? I used to travel that route once a week in the 80’s and it was a dog fight between PSA, United and AirCal. But times were different. We didn’t have teleconferencing and the internet. Frequent face to face contact, especially in sales was crucial.

    Now that route doesn’t seem as important as bigger aircraft have been replaced by CLP’s – Crappy Little Planes.

    Do you have any stats about that route like the percentage of flights out of LA that go to SF? As a guess, I’d say it was probably about 10% back in the day. I would imagine now it’s closer to 5% or less.

    Sorry, total geek question I know…

    1. Have you flown a 76 seat E175, it’s one of your CLPs but it’s far more comfortable than mainline. One good thing about scope clause is it made the large RJs nice.

    2. Good questions, considering that e.g. JetBlue is now offering Mint on LAX-BOS.

      As for LAX-SFO, AA flies a mix of mainline and regional. If you pick the time right it’s a 738. Ironically, the same plane you fly for LAX-BOS :-) although I’ve noticed that the 738s on LAX-SFO are commonly from the older part of the fleet.

      1. Whoa, I take the LAX-SFO comment back. Looks like AA has downsized/increased frequencies, and they’re all regionals. Wow.

    3. David – Yes, they’re upgrading the 737s to have fast internet and power throughout. No screens, but it’ll be a big improvement.

      As for LAX-SFO, it’s a huge route that requires a ton of frequency. So for American and Delta, that means a lot of regional aircraft to allow for so many flights without losing a ton. I don’t know what the percent of flights would be out of LAX, but I’m guessing there are more LAX-SFO flights today than there used to be. I mean, you have today:

      American – 12x Embraer 175
      Delta – 13x Embraer 175
      Southwest – 10x 737-700
      United – 6x 737-900, 6x A320, 1x 737-800
      Virgin America – 10x A320

      Sure, PSA used to fly every 5 minutes, but I don’t remember there being this much competition.

      1. To put it in crude terms, is it pretty safe to say that LAX-SFO is the West Coast equivalent of the NYC-DC shuttle?

        Also, I am going to assume that the LAX-SFO also has Chinatown buses for those looking for a cheaper option, same as out east.

        1. Kilroy – It’s a fairly different market. There’s no train, to start. Plus there are just a lot more airlines. There are also a lot more regional airports which are relevant in the mix too. Plus, they never really had a true shuttle-style operation (even though Delta may call it that).

          1. Actually there is a train between LA and Oakland: Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. It’s once a day, slow, and frequently late, but it’s there.

  10. Candidly, Cranky, I just don’t care whether my airline of choice has screens, movies etc. As long as I have Wifi, I’m OK and can entertain myself. When my family travels with me, I remind them to bring computers, books, entertainment etc. They work fine.

    Perhaps the one exception is when I am traveling on legacy Continental jets equipped with DirectTV. I enjoy the DirectTV but since this is not part of United’s go-forward strategy, who cares?

  11. Jet Blue has the best of both worlds with seat-back screens and excellent wifi. Combined with the generous seat pitch ( Assuming Jet Blue flies your route) why would I want to fly anyone else????

      1. … and available flights. JetBlue is great out of JFK, BOS, FLL, LGB but not so much from most other major cities.

        1. And JetBlue has very few options for the middle of the country. There are exceptions, but you’re not within a 2 hour drive of an ocean, odds are JetBlue doesn’t fly to your nearest big city airport.

          1. JetBlue IRS to plenty of middle America destinations, they just only fly to NYC or BOS from most of them

  12. A/C Power, WiFi and onboard entertainment are important, in that order. You can pre-download movies (and it’s getting easier, with Netflix now having downloadable content), and most of us have at least some work we can get done offline, so although WiFi is nice, it’s not absolutely essential. (Plus, especially for leisure travelers, it’s not always easy to justify spending money on WiFi.)

    In-seat A/C really does change the game, though: Now you can use electronics before boarding (e.g. give your kid the iPad and have them watch a movie at the gate, or between flights) without worrying about juice nearly as much; you can charge and use while in the air, and what’s more, you can have a charged device when you land (that’s especially been useful for me when I arrive early in a city and want to be able to rely on having a charged phone).

  13. WiFi is good but, will they provide it at no charge?
    And, narrow bodies are going further, like TALA. What about those?

    1. Based on the summary in the article, I expect that access to the wifi network itself will be free, and you’ll be able to stream content provided by American for free. But for full Internet access via that wifi connection, you’ll have to pay.

  14. As a business traveler on AA, the shrinking of the under seat area is most bothersome. I can’t put my computer bag under the seat in front of me anymore due to the electronic housing units, thus taking up more space in the overheard bin. At least I board first as an Exec Plat, so I always have room, but i’m sure someone else would really like that several square feet for their bag on full flights.

    Most people I see on planes have their own entertainment, from phones to tablets to PC’s, in-seat entertainment is only necessary in my opinion on long trips to Asia, Europe, and South America.

  15. In first class seats, (Domestic business class now), the DC power outlets on the MD80 have always worked to charge my iPhone. The power outlets on my last two AA 737-800 flights were not working.

  16. Frankly, I’m just a wee bit more concerned with getting where I’m going on time, in one piece with my luggage. I also must observe that an airline can’t simply snap its corporate fingers and retrofit 900 aircraft overnight.

  17. I much prefer watching a TV in the seat back over watching a tablet on my tray table. The angle for you back is just better. I think AA is trying to justify being cheap here. At least Delta is going to install TVs on all planes that do routes that are aver 2000 miles.

    1. Henry – I haven’t dug through that airlines thread, but I can tell you that when this happened, American said it was not announcing any removal of existing screens. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it hasn’t been announced.

      1. Hey cranky thanks for your note. On airliners, the initial post read:

        “An internal memo was released today stating that all new aircraft deliveries will come without seatback IFE. Additionally, all existing narrowbody aircraft (except the 321T) will see their seatback IFE removed over time. Seatback TVs will remain on all current widebody aircraft and new 787/350 deliveries.”

        So, it sounds to me like they may have only announced internally that they are removing screens from ife-equipped A319, A321, and 737-800 at this point. But, if you take a closer at the public announcement, it talks about how wide bodies will keep screens and then says “We’re also committed to seat-back screens on our three-class A321s.” which seems to back up the rumor that they will be removing them from all other narrow bodies.

        1. Henry – Interesting since at the time I got it straight from my sources at the airline saying that nothing had been announced. I wonder if this was misinterpreted.

          1. While your source is undoubtedly correct, IFE has to be maintained and invested in to remain current. Seats have to be replaced.

            It is likely that the current generation of IFE will be left on planes – perhaps thru the life of the seat – but a company either has to invest money to upgrade systems which become obsolete and replace broken equipment (at some point it isn’t worth repairing most electronics) or remove them.

            I would guess than within 5-7 years, perhaps less, AAL will have no domestic Wifi equipped aircraft unless they reverse their decision.

  18. Anyone old enough to have flown when the only in-flight entertainment was reading, playing cards or talking with the person next to you will know you won’t die without wifi,TV or power ports.

    Would those things be nice to have…sure, but people will survive without them if they had too.

    1. I *do* take your point, but I think that some sort of IFE is almost as old as the jet age.

      I remember flying transatlantic in about 1981 on a 747. I distinctly remember seeing the flight attendants opening up a screen at the front of the cabin, and a 3-tube projection TV showing a movie. We got the audio via those old acoustic tube stethoscope / headphone things.

      Not sure if the DC8 / 707 had any sort of movies, but the 747 must have had them almost from the beginning.

      1. Inflight movies were a thing in the pre-747 1960s. From

        The first in-flight movie was in 1921 on Aeromarine Airways showing a film called Howdy Chicago to its passengers as the amphibious airplane flew around Chicago.[2] The film The Lost World was shown to passengers of an Imperial Airways flight in April 1925 between London (Croydon Airport) and Paris.

        However, it was not until the 1960s that in-flight entertainment (other than reading, sitting in a lounge and talking, or looking out the window) was becoming mainstream and popular. In 1961, David Flexer of Inflight Motion Pictures developed the 16mm film system for a wide variety of commercial aircraft. This replaced the previous 30-inch-diameter film reels. In 1961, TWA committed to Flexer’s technology and was first to debut a feature film in flight.

  19. When I’m traveling for work I have to carry a huge laptop and I’m not the only one. Airlines forget that not everyone have these ultra thin laptops and tablets. When I fly if there is no seatback system then it’s a book or the back of my eyelids. Either that or maybe give me room for my monster 17″ laptop (HA!). I like having the seatback for the days when I don’t feel like reading or (more commonly) I finish my book while in flight.

    It’s about options and for that I prefer Delta when flying domestic. To remove seatback entertainment to save weight is fine, IF we saw real changes in ticket costs. We don’t, the airlines pocket that savings. Give me the seatback entertainment and deal with the reduced profits in my opinion.

  20. I may be the only one, but I dont own any electronic doo-dads; I do like when planes have IFE, because the airplane is the only place I get bored. I am fine at home and my destination without a doo-dad, so I dislike this regression based on the premise that I should buy one and fuss with loading stuff onto it.

    It really seems silly that ~20 years ago there was seat back IFE to Europe, and today instead of it getting more prevalent with cheaper electronics, it is being taken away. It comes across as completely wrong and the explanation/claims are very poor.
    Its very obtuse cost cutting just like with United.
    The best is of course that HNL-GUM or DFW-HNL are domestic with no food or IFE! but a 2 hour trip to japan from GUM has both.
    I am sure the wifi will be very pricey.

    1. I remember when JetBlue started up and the seatback TVs were a BIG DEAL. Now, only 15 years later they’re on their way out. I regret this since, like John, I don’t bring doo-dads on airplane vacations. If I’m driving, I’ll throw the laptop in the back.

  21. In-seat-screens, flight maps, food; soon windows, pilots, cabin crew, seats…oh, I can still remember the good old days, but that was BC–Before Cranky–so things weren’t all that good back then!

    Why complain? It’s Monday, and no airline is down because of some IT issues, but I’ll just have to wait for sure ’til I read the papers tomorrow! Like these problems are just random? Am I the only one thinking “computers down” and “conspiracy” might go together with all this stuff?

  22. In late December I flew on UA from SFO to ORD on a domestic 777-200 that looked like it had just been fully refurbished. It was supposed to be an older 2-5-2 seating, but was swapped to a 3-4-3 seating arrangement, with slimline seats. The seats had no seat back monitors, but they did have a little plastic clamp in the space where the monitor would go that would hold an iPad or iPhone. I haven’t seen this discussed anywhere that UA was removing setback monitors from 777s and putting in holders for iPad and iPhones.

    1. Simon – United has long had a small sub-fleet of domestic 777s that largely did Hawai’i and Guam flying with some hub-to-hub. The airline has announced it is moving more into that subfleet. At the same time it’s putting the old United flat beds in biz (8 abreast, forward/backward alternating) and crunching 10 across in the back. This won’t happen to the international fleet.

      1. Hi Cranky, I knew UA has the domestic sub-fleet, I just hadn’t heard that these were being refurbished to 10 abreast like the new 777-300ERs and that the seat back monitors were being removed, I am pretty sure that when I was on the older versions they had monitors. The tablet/phone holders are nice, much better than on the 747’s where you have to juggle your phone when watching a movie and trying eat or working on a laptop. But was disappointed to find no monitor.

        1. Simon – The subfleet never had in-seat video so monitors aren’t being removed. The intl aircraft that are converting over did have screens, and yeah, it looks like it’ll be removed on those. But they’re totally new interiors anyway so it’s not a surprise. They couldn’t repurpose the old monitors.

    2. Ugh. A 777 with 10 across seating and no seat back video. That sounds like an absolutely miserable experience.

  23. Flights over 5 hours keep the screen. Under 5 hours its not needed. I like what Delta and Southwest have done with free TV and limited movies on your own device. At least a USB power supply (2 amp) is a must.

    One thing I really have never understood is why in 2016 do we need a “black brick” as a CPU/power supply, etc. underneath every row. I get that this can’t all be wireless, but the weight savings to get rid of that thing or lessen it would be huge. Maybe someone in airplane IT can weigh in on what exactly that thing does and is it 1996 tech, 2006 tech, or 2016 tech.

  24. I’d argue that power is more important than even internet. If I have power, I get off my flight at my destination with a fully charged device, ready to work. On a 1-3 hour flight, I can live without internet.

    As for AA’s mad dogs, I keep a tiny car charger adapter in my bag at all times. Usually it’s for rental car use, but I’ve used it in ride-share cars and on airplanes too.

    I stopped carrying an empower adapter when US pulled those from their A321s.

  25. so I’m on Virgin America right now on a transcon flight. I’m on my laptop doing some work (but taking a small break..) and of course I’m listening / glancing up at the TV while also working. On Alaska, I do the same when I have a video player/digeplayer. I do like the IFE on American, and thankfully when I do fly on American I’m typically on their A321s, so I’ll get to enjoy this for a few years.

  26. Domestic and international long-haul should get a screen, otherwise wifi is probably enough. I’ve tried United’s streaming solution on 175’s to 747’s and while they can be inconsistent, they are easy to use when they work. You open the app and it’s there. I may be in the minority here, but I like to turn off the tv when I’m working on something important.

    I’m also curious about United’s direcTV planes- I’ve heard the slimline retrofits on those planes are getting new screens as well. If that’s the case what would make UA choose to keep the only outlier in a (relatively) consistent domestic experience? Legacy Continental contract maybe?

  27. Honestly, I’m just used to IFE inconsistency. It’s not a big deal.

    What really surprises me is AA’s lack of interest in their extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra product. AA had it, US didn’t and the now combined airline pretty much has what it inherited. You’d think they’d pick one configuration or the other.

  28. Except for long haul flights, I rarely use the in flight entertainment system. If my work is done, I’d much rather read or sleep. So for me, in order of importance: 1. Seat Power, 2. Wifi, 3. In flight entertainment.

    Somewhat off topic, but relateed: what’s really irritating me is the partial changeover from Gogo inflight internet to whatever the new system is. I have a year long subscription to Gogo, and have recently found myself on several of the new AA units with the new system. I get it that we’re going to have a better, faster system in place when all is said and done, but in the meantime, the number of aircraft where my Gogo won’t work is growing, and I’m never sure (since all you’re told is that the aircraft “has wifi”) which system I’m going to run into now.

    It’s too bad that AA couldn’t have worked out a system where your Gogo credentials would work on the new system until the rollout is complete. Ahh well. It just gives me an excuse to read, which I’d prefer over work any day!

  29. The last time I was on a flight with my 9 year old son the person in front of us, in full view from my seat, was watching a movie on their large screened laptop that was R rated and full of sex, sexual violence and violence. It was appalling for me to see and would have been absolutely shocking for my son to see. This person was using a DVD. Are there any regulations about what type of movie people can watch? Would it be okay for them to watch a porn movie? People need to be reminded that what they are watching on their private devices isn’t private. We can all see it and it is imperative that they think about the impact this has on others. With the inflight entertainment system the airlines have some control over what people are watching and hopefully have enough common sense to limit it’s content to movies that are not explicit with sexual content. I say keep the entertainment systems.

    1. Yep, they could watch porn and all the kids and those who don’t want to watch porn would see it. I’m all for inflight entertainment. I miss good service on airlines.

    2. Desiree – There is no regulation around what people can watch on their own devices and it can certainly create some really uncomfortable situations.
      You would hope common decency would have someone at least try to turn the device away from a child next door, but of course, that doesn’t always happen.

  30. I frequently fly to Asia and imagine that once I’m beyond US borders, Netflix or Amazon won’t work. I’ve been mid-flight and my device loses power, or I’ve forgotten a cord, or what have you and would really appreciate the screen on the seat. Also, I liked United’s offerings of foreign films that I can’t find elsewhere. When United stopped providing the screens, I stopped flying them to Asia. There’s better service on EVA, Singapore or Air Canada.

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Cranky Flier