United Airlines: The Future of In-Flight Entertainment?

Future-In-Flight-EntertainmentLiving in China, I don’t get get home to Florida often. In fact, before this summer, it had been a year. It’s a combination of the ticket price, the desire to travel through Asia, and of course, the 15+ hour flight.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: the flight sucks. The jet lag sucks. And having people stare at you while you struggle to roll up your compression socks? That sucks too. But after doing it a few times, the flight time doesn’t seem as long, the jet lag gets a little better, and the fear of what others think goes completely out the window. Don’t believe me? I actually do walking lunges down the aisle. True story.

On occasion, I’ve actually found myself looking forward to the flight home. Not only to see my parents (Mom and Dad, I love you and love seeing you. Promise.), but also to enjoy the one truly enjoyable thing about flying: the in-flight entertainment.

But what happens when the in-flight entertainment is taken away?

Passengers start to panic, rummaging through their carry-ons for their books and kindles. They feverishly begin searching for the magazines they swore they bought at the airport bookstore. Kids start yelling, babies are screaming. Threats are made against the flight attendants. And in a last-ditch effort, the captain begins to play an array of calming classical music, hoping to placate the humans-turned-animals and make his takeoff time.

Ok, so this isn’t exactly what happens; but it is what was playing in my head at the start of my weekend flight—the moment I noticed there were no screens attached to the seats.

United Airlines is in the process of removing all of the in-seat televisions, in order to offer “personalized entertainment” for its passengers. Claiming that viewing movies and TV shows on your own devices is  a much better experience, they are forgetting a few very important factors. A lot of people don’t fly with laptops or tablets; and if they do, most won’t stay charged for a full 15 hours. Google Chrome won’t work with their technology, and guests are unable to use the wifi once onboard to download other programs. Safari users will get an error message stating that the in-flight entertainment is not working, as the necessary plug-in does not pop up. Tablet and iPhone users will need to download the United app before takeoff, otherwise they will not have access to the entertainment at all.

I consider myself to be somewhat technologically savvy, but it took me about an hour to overcome the obstacles stated above, in order to be granted access to the movie options. At one point, I flagged a flight attendant, who was visibly irritated with the program. He stated he’d spent most of the flight resolving server errors and disabling pop-ups. “I’m not a tech guy,” he claimed, exasperated. “But if no one complains on the Internet, nothing gets changed. They won’t listen to us.”

So here you are, United. I’m complaining. And I never complain. But to me, shelling out $1,200 should entitle your passengers to a screen, if nothing else. (I’ll save my rant on the lack of food for another time.)

What do you think? Is this the future of in-flight entertainment? I’d love to know your thoughts or hear your personal stories.

18 thoughts on “United Airlines: The Future of In-Flight Entertainment?”

    1. To be fair, the flight attendants were really nice, and flights were on time. But, they have a lot of work to do!

  1. I agree with your mother…if I am going to fly anywhere outside of the USA, I look at Singapore Air first! Then a few others, like Icelandic Air, ThaiAir or Korean Air. Do you think United is starting a trend that will go internationally?

    1. I hope not, Patty, but that’s what I’m wondering. I personally don’t understand the trend or how it benefits United at all.

  2. Hmmm…looks like I’ll be S.O.L since I don’t have a Smart Phone, tablet or laptop. I’ll have to be happy with my hard copy crosswords even though I’ll be cross-eyed after 15 hours!

    1. Jill, I read an entire book on the plane and definitely felt a bit cross-eyed at the end of it. My eyes were even bloodshot!

  3. I flew United between the States and Australia last month, and while it turned out that seats did still have individual screens, all of the announcements and signage at the gate suggested otherwise. Before boarding began, flight attendants reminded everyone to download the app if they wanted to watch movies. So annoyed initially, and so relieved in the end. How could anyone think this is a good idea?! As if airlines in the States weren’t already so subpar compared to most of the world’s…ugh.

  4. I’m one of those weird people that enjoys flying as well. I like having time to just read and relax.. but on my flight home from Boston today I totally enjoyed watching the Real Housewives. It would really make me sad because it would make the flight so much longer!

    Anyway, glad to have connected with you from the Shanghai Bloggers Network, and excited to meet you this fall! xo

  5. I encountered this on Virgin Australia recently but couldn’t download the app as there wasn’t enough time pre take-off. Agreed, it is a backwards step but is probably all to do with costs.

    1. I’m thinking it must have to do with costs, but it still doesn’t make sense. They are taking out all the fun bits of flying!

  6. Ugh! I am so weary about this! Our miles are through United, so we fly them often, but taking away this sort of entertainment? Not cool. I just don’t get whats happened to airlines these days. We recently flew American and it was HORRIBLE.

  7. I haven’t flown United for awhile but they started doing this on West Jet airplanes too. I find it kind of annoying since it’s much easier to watch the TV than hold my own device. I know people put their tablet or laptop on the fold-out tray but that just takes up so much space and it’s already cramped on long flights. Anyway, I guess others like this new way. Have a nice weekend! 🙂

    http://www.mintnotion.com

  8. We agree flying sucks. Just returned from UK Sunday. Flight 7.5 hours, half of yours. Still Sucks.
    Love you, Uncle Bob and Aunt Winnie

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