Living 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.