Cranky on the Web: Screens in Seatbacks, The Impact on Delta

Alaska Airlines, American, Cranky on the Web, Delta, Inflight Entertainment

Inflight Movies: Does Anyone Really Want to Watch Them on a Phone?The Wall Street Journal ($Subscription Required$)
It’s the age-old question about inflight entertainment. Does a seatback screen matter or not? Barbara Peterson at the WSJ took a look.

What the American-Alaska partnership means for DeltaTPG
TPG took a look at what the American/Alaska tie-up means for Delta, and I was asked to comment. Though the full impact remains to be seen, it’s obviously not good news for Delta.

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10 comments on “Cranky on the Web: Screens in Seatbacks, The Impact on Delta

  1. Regarding AA-AS vs. DL, there is no way to know with certainty the full impact, but since the article talks about various competitive markets around the US, any realistic assessment of who might win or lose has to consider the entirety of where AA and DL already compete.

    On that basis, ever since deregulation and over multiple time periods including the past 5 and 10 years and since 9/11, Delta has gained more revenue and share in American strength markets than the other way around. The flagship market where this has taken place is JFK where Delta has nearly doubled its share since 9/11 and their gain has come largely at American’s expense which is far smaller than it was at those same time periods. JFK is the largest market but it is hardly the only one where this dynamic has played out.

    Of course, the biggest AA-DL competitive market right now is Miami as part of Delta’s intention to develop a joint venture with Latam. If Delta adds even one quarter of the capacity that American flies to Latin America (or DL gains revenue proportionally via a joint venture with Latam), DL will gain far more revenue and share than American could possibly gain in Seattle or as a result of the addition of AS to oneworld.

    It is far from clear what will take place in Seattle or in any other market esp. since DL’s plans are not clear other than continued growth in Seattle which can be seen, along with AS’ schedules.

    Past performance is no guarantee of future results but you can’t disregard it and you also have to ask what is different now that changes the trajectory of the past.

    You also have to look at American and Delta (and the rest of the US airline industry) as a whole since both are massive companies that compete in many markets around the world. AS might be nearly defined by SEA but AA and DL are not.

  2. Personally, I’d rather have a seat back tablet holder than an IFE screen. Having a screen near eye level and a Bluetooth keyboard on my lap or tray table is the most comfortable way I’ve found to work on planes. It’s much more comfortable than constantly angling my neck down to look at a laptop on my tray table.

    If I want to watch a movie I can always do so on my tablet. Power outlets are also great, especially on long flights, but it’s tolerable to do a < 4 hour flight without power.

  3. Any Delta move other than a strike at an American hub with international connections will be a wasted economic effort.

  4. Its a shame that we can’t actually read the WSJ story without an account. Maybe in the future, you could note “registration required” on such links?

    FWIW I prefer my own device over any programming offered by a carrier. I can download what I want to watch/read/listen to. And if the flight is shorter than the movie, I can pick up where I left off.

    1. Chris,
      I clearly see a note on the link to the WSJ article that a subscription is required $.

      It would be nice to be able to read a fair use summary of the article.

      As for personal device vs. seatback, nearly every seatback equipped aircraft also has streaming movies, although not necessarily with the same content.
      You thus get a choice of which to use if you are agnostic as to content.

      If you care about specific content, you probably have what you want on your own device anyway.

      Seatback audio/video is the free meal of 40 years ago; some airlines gave it and some did not.

      It is a wonderful distraction for some people to the boredom of sitting in a tightly packed metal tube with a bunch of strangers.

      My perception on flights over 3 hours that have seatback video is that two-thirds plus of the people have it on if only to watch the moving map.

  5. THE WSJ is nearly impossible to access , but president day special *2 months for $1 *made me go for it.

    saw your comments in the seatback video story. you must be exhausted doing so much running around live long & prosper

  6. So Googling the WSJ article led me to this: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/evjxdp/actually-we-should-all-have-to-watch-the-same-in-flight-movie-at-the-same-time

    Which contains the very truthful statement : “Every time I try to view a movie on a flight, I find myself watching other passengers’ movies instead of my own, as if they know something that I don’t. This seems to be an issue for others, too, because I catch them looking at mine as well.”

    The article led me here: https://www.amazon.com/Cinema-Beyond-Territory-Entertainment-Histories/dp/1844576272

    In this groundbreaking exploration of in-flight cinema, Stephen Groening traces the history of this transnational cinematic practice. At once a history of exhibition and an inquiry into changing forms of media and spectatorship, this interdisciplinary book opens up new directions in the history of cinema, visuality, travel and cultural geography.

    …and now I have another book on my wish list.

  7. I have to say that while I don’t think seatback IFE is going to get the leisure traveler to pay extra $$$ up front, people always use them. If I had a nickel for every time I overheard someone on a Delta flight comment something like “wow they have TV’s on this plane” or “this is way nicer than (insert airline here)”.

    Not sure what it costs to put seatback screens in aircraft but it is a differentiator. While I sometimes use them, sometimes not, I like having the option, and NO, I do not watch video on my phone. Nor do I on a laptop or tablet. Those are for work and if I’m going to just vegetate and watch a movie, it’s on a seatback screen. Otherwise I’m reading or sleeping.

  8. One big plus of seat back video is live TV. I haven’t seen anyone offer streaming live TV, it is only available (in my experience) via seat back screens. It was nice to fly Delta during the football season and actually watch my team playing.

    Other times I do watch their movies (some are more current than what is on my ipad), or watch something I’ve downloaded (and hasn’t expired!).

    I know some airlines (JetBlue?) have had live tv for a while but my flying (limited) was on AA so I haven’t had much experience with it.

    1. American Airlines and Southwest both have live TV available on your mobile device (via web browser).

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