Are the Days of In-Flight Entertainment Numbered?

Although I do not mind being a passenger assigned to a seat in the economy class cabin of an aircraft, I usually do prefer being seated in the premium class cabin if given the choice. That statement may sound obvious to you, but if you were to ask me years ago the reasons for wanting to sit in the premium class cabin, I would have replied the food, the improved service, the additional comfort of the seat itself with the plethora of buttons to figure out the 3,467 positions with which I can adjust the seat, and the unlimited in-flight entertainment with many options for movies, games, music and the essential dynamic flight map displaying where on earth your flight is located at that moment in English and a second language in imperial and metric measurements — all at no extra cost.

Despite the understanding of airlines attempting to earn additional revenue, I never liked being a passenger in the economy class cabin with the in-flight entertainment option calling out to me to use it, only to find that it was basically useless unless you either ponied up the money per game to play or movie to watch. Sure, the movie shown in the main cabin was usually free of charge, but you had to watch it when the flight attendants started it with no choice to watch it earlier or later, and it was usually a movie no one would watch anyway. Let’s face it: the feature film The Kim Kardashian — Justin Bieber Checkers Match dubbed in Swahili with Baoulé subtitles is not exactly my idea of the ideal way to pass the time on an international flight. It would have been interesting to hear the late Don LaFontaine voice the trailer for that fictitious yet potential train wreck of a movie, though.

Anyway, free unlimited in-flight entertainment is not high on my list of priorities anymore these days due to disruptive technology in the form of portable personal electronic devices such as “smartphones”, tablets and .mp3 music players which can do just about anything except wash your clothes and cook your dinner. My portable personal electronic device has my choices of music and games — and, at greater than 27 hours, the 551 songs I currently have available to me on that device is enough to outlast the longest of flights, never mind all of the different types of games to occupy my time at my choosing.

It is with that reasoning when I found out that the good people at Cathay Pacific are thinking about doing away with in-flight entertainment, I say go for it — especially if it purportedly increases fuel efficiency significantly by removing up to two tons of weight from the aircraft. With both the processing speed and capacities of portable personal electronic devices increasing to the point that they can easily accommodate the entertainment options of their owners, in-flight entertainment systems are paling in comparison — and passengers seated in the economy class cabin no longer need to whip out their credit cards or cash to be entertained. At most, there may be a charge of a couple of dollars for headphones, but that is usually on domestic flights anyway.

Not everyone agrees with me about doing away with in-flight entertainment systems, however. For example, FlyerTalk member midlevels does have a good point posted in this discussion with the following statements:

“This is one of the most absurd ideas I have heard in a long time. I will stop flying Cathay if I am expected to bring my own entertainment on flights. Honestly, they expect that before I fly I will pre load my (as yet non-existent) tablet with 10 hours of movies for my long haul flight?

“While they’re at it, why not stop serving meals as well? All those ovens are heavy too. Everyone can just bring a thermos and serve themselves a hot meal of their liking.

“And let’s not kid ourselves. Even if the bean counters do score this pathetic victory, airfares won’t drop by a cent.”

However, FlyerTalk member Land-of-Miles counters with this comment posted in this discussion in the British Airways Executive Club forum:

“The odd thing is that it is CX that is suggesting this and they have the best AVOD I have ever experienced. I recently spent over a day flying CX F and was amazed at the amount and quality of content (all in HD too). It certainly makes BA AVOD look very poor in comparison.

“The real issue is in Y I suspect. The IFE boxes beneath seats limit legroom so removing them could actually improve passenger comfort as well ad reducing aircraft weight. This is much less of an issue in J and F where the boxes tend to be built into the seat itself.”

What are your thoughts on in-flight entertainment? Should it remain and be improved, or should airlines just do away with it altogether?

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Comments (Showing 3 of 3)

  • AuBoutDuMonde at 8:39am June 17, 2012

    CX, or any other airline considering such a move, might consider the following:

    1) Elimination of in-flight entertainment might allow the removal of equipment and a weight savings, but that has to be offset to some degree by passengers now bringing their own equipment onboard — and not everyone is going to have an iPad.

    2) In-flight entertainment systems essentially aid the crew in keeping passengers seated as much as possible. If there is no in-flight entertainment, there will be a lot more people out of their seats, and more noise due to socializing, simply out of boredom, not to mention more lights on throughout the flight because of people reading.

    3) Personally, I would not fly any airline that removed in-flight entertainment as it helps pass the time.

    It doesn’t seem like a very good idea as a cost saving measure.

  • thphilly at 4:40am June 19, 2012

    Every seat must have outlets or usb charging plugs if you are going to have to use your own device, I’d at least request that.

  • Happydayy at 6:35am June 19, 2012

    They should offer pre-loaded iPads to all passengers…ipads are much lighter than 2 tons!

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