Economy class cabin seats KLM
The economy class cabin just as passengers were boarding the aircraft in Amsterdam. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Are the Days of In-Flight Entertainment Numbered? Perhaps — and Possible Reasons Why are Because…

espite 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…

…and even though I am involved in acting on the side, I do not have much of an interest in viewing entertainment content. I prefer to do the acting rather than watch someone else do it; and I find very few movie and television programming options even remotely pique my interest anyway. The offerings of in-flight entertainment — even those as extensive as what is offered on flights operated by Etihad Airways — are usually sub-par, in my opinion; and simply do not interest me most of the time. Give me a window seat any day, as whatever is outside of the window will usually capture my attention more anyway and cause my mind to wander.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Even a view as simple as this is more entertaining than most in-flight entertainment offered aboard airplanes and will keep my mind wandering. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Actually, the dynamic flight map is the most interesting aspect of in-flight entertainment for me — just as Channel 9 on flights operated by United Airlines is essential to some passengers — so that is one aspect I would not want to see disappear but realize that it could be a casualty of eliminating in-flight entertainment options from airplanes.

Free unlimited in-flight entertainment is not high on my list of priorities anymore these days due to the advent of 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.

Back in June of 2012, management at Cathay Pacific Airways reportedly considered doing away with in-flight entertainment altogether; and in this article which I wrote on Thursday, June 14, 2012, I said go for it — especially if it purportedly would increase 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 increasingly 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.

Additionally, perhaps the elimination of in-flight entertainment would also contribute to additional leg room as a result of rendering those annoying metal boxes underneath seats obsolete.

Although Gary Leff of View From The Wingaccording to this article — and I seem to agree that the offering of in-flight entertainment generally does not matter to us, not everyone agrees pertaining to the elimination of in-flight entertainment systems. There are people who enjoy all that in-flight entertainment has to offer; and some people may choose to stop flying as passengers on airlines which no longer offer it.

There are solutions, however: some airlines offer in-flight entertainment via Wi-Fi access; while others offer the temporary use of tablet devices by passengers for the duration of the flight; and still others offer electrical outlets and Universal Serial Bus — or USB — ports to plug in portable electronic devices during the flight to prevent the loss of use of the devices caused by depleted batteries.

What are your thoughts on in-flight entertainment offered by airlines?

All photographs ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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