American Airlines Ditching Seatback TVs In Some New Planes. Will They Be Missed?

Image courtesy of American Airlines

Not that long ago, “in-flight entertainment” consisted of having to crane your neck to watch a bland, inoffensive movie on shared screens — and that’s assuming your headphones worked. Then individual seat-back screens expanded viewing options; more movies, shows, and games to choose from. But with nearly everyone now carrying some sort of personal entertainment device, are these small screens necessary? American Airlines doesn’t think so.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that new American Airlines planes expected to go into service this year will come sans seatback TVs.

The four new Boeing 737 MAX planes, which will be used for domestic travel, are a sign of the times for airlines.

American said in a memo to employees that nearly 90% of its passengers bring a device or screen with them when they fly.

Unlike seatback sets, which could be temperamental and sometimes confusing to new users, most of us know how to operate our phones and tablets.

“It makes sense for American to focus on giving customers the best entertainment and fast connection options rather than installing seatback monitors that will be obsolete within a few years,” the airline said.

The change likely won’t have much of an impact on passengers, as the airline will continue to offer the ability to stream content from personal devices.

Passengers with a phone, tablet, or laptop have the ability to “watch free movies and TV shows from its on-board library and live television channels without purchasing an in-flight Internet connection.”

Travelers who do purchase American’s in-flight WiFi will also have access to content from Amazon and Netflix. Although, with more people using WiFi to connect their personal devices, the speed at which passengers can actual stream shows and movies could suffer.

Despite the change, American isn’t completely doing away with seatback monitors: the company says that it will also take possession of dozens of Boeing 737 and Airbus A321 planes that will have monitors. It’s unclear where those planes will fly.

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