American Airlines does away with seat-back entertainment

By The Economist online

IT IS becoming a dilemma for any airline ordering a new batch of planes: should it ask for entertainment screens to be fitted into the back of every seat? Most aviation watchers expect that the technology will become obsolete at some point in the coming years, as more people fly with their own devices. But it is not passé yet. Anyone flying long-haul still expects to find a tiny, fuzzy monitor a few inches from their nose.

Nonetheless, over the lifetime of a new plane, entertainment built into headrests will come to look quaint. So American Airlines has decided to get ahead of the times. Its new order of 100 Boeing 737s, which should start to enter service by the end of the year, will not have seat-back entertainment. Instead passengers will be able to stream films on their phones, tablets and laptops using the plane’s Wi-Fi.

This seems like a sensible move. Ninety per cent of its passengers, reckons the airline, already carry a smart device onboard. In-flight entertainment systems cost around $3m to install on every jetliner. Shunning them not only saves on that initial outlay, but also on fuel costs. All that underfloor wiring and modified seating adds bulk to…

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Category: Business and finance, Gulliver

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