I’m not a fan of airline inflight entertainment. I don’t want to rely on the airline to entertain me. I’m picky about what I watch, and what happens if the entertainment system isn’t working?
Since I rarely use the airline’s entertainment, it doesn’t matter to me whether we have seat back screens or not. I only ever use them for the flight map to see where we are, but as long as we have internet I check that out on my laptop anyway.
American’s new standard is no seat back video screens. They provide streaming entertainment you can access on your own device. Brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are delivered without the screen. Existing Boeing 737s will get the new seats and have screens removed.
I realize I am not the median passenger. Readers tell me over and over that seat back television screens matter.
- American Airlines may pay their executives well, and give employees unilateral raises and bonuses, so it’s easy to get trapped in a bubble. The average airline passenger in the U.S. has a six figure income. But American flies to many places where that isn’t true such as Central America and the Caribbean. Not everyone has a tablet to watch.
- What about a family of five traveling together, even where a family has a tablet they may not have five.
- Alaska Airlines at least will rent tablets to passengers
- Update: A frequent pet peeve of mine, American’s power ports don’t work on much of their fleet at least as often as they do work, plugs fall out of them. There’s no current maintenance program for outlets at American Airlines although the airline says they’re working to develop one.
Will your phone battery let you watch movies throughout a Miami – Seattle flight Westbound?
Or Dallas – Anchorage?
Tell me why seat back screens matter to you, as I say I know from overwhelming feedback that it matters but it’s outside my personal experience as to why.
Meanwhile perhaps the most surprising defense of seats where you can’t open a laptop is that ‘if you can’t pay for more legroom you shouldn’t be working.’
When I fly Southwest Airlines in coach I can open my laptop and work. Flying American Airlines coach on the new Boeing 737 MAX I really couldn’t. I had to angle the laptop 45 degrees, lean the base up against my chest, and curl my hands in order to type. That sort of posture, against slimline seats with less padding, gave me a back ache within an hour.
If you need to work on a plane, you should be getting paid enough to fly in biz class or extra leg room at least, anyway. Otherwise if you have to work in coach you should be more worried about finding a better job than typeing on your oversized laptop.
There are several things wrong with this reasoning.
- No one is talking about an oversized laptop. I couldn’t open my ultrabook.
- There’s no problem using it on Southwest.
- Business travelers fly Southwest day in and day out for their routes and frequency. Southwest is the largest airline by passengers domestic passengers carried.
- The 737 MAX reduced the number of extra legroom seats, they aren’t always available.
- Business travelers value their time, change flights (including paying to do so) and often more comfortable seats just aren’t available on those new flights.
- American reduced the distance between seats in their extra legroom cabin on this plane too. And they did the same thing in first class!
And by the way, paying American for extra legroom doesn’t get you extra space in the lavatory where the sinks are so minimized that they don’t hold the water in when you wash your hands, water sprays everywhere. No this is not a reasonable product.
American’s new coach seat isn’t worse than the worst coach seat out there now. But the worst coach seat out there now is a problem. Take away the seat back TV from many existing American Airlines aircraft, shrink the lavatory, and reduce the room offered even in Main Cabin Extra and first class and you have an across-the-board reduction in customer value.
Telling passengers that they should get a new job if they can’t pay American Airlines more money seems strange when the passenger can keep their current job and fly the largest domestic passenger airline instead.