What’s Downloaded For Your Inflight Movie Queue?

Most shows I watch on my laptop — I do DVR a few things but mostly I watch television and movies on airplanes.

I also never rely on an airline’s inflight entertainment to keep me occupied. I’ll download who seasons of shows and watch good chunks of them on long haul flights (and then resist the temptation to continue watching when I’m back home — these are for flying only!).

When I spoke at an aviation conference on a panel with Scott Kirby of US Airways, I heard his boss remark later in the day that all airlines curse the person who invented inflight entertainment. They’re a huge cost center and they provide no opportunity to make any money. The context here was US Airways’ decision to install internet across its fleet — they knew it was a money loser, but the alternative was worse, they were seeing people booking away from US Airways in favor of other carriers who offered it.

Historically “IFE” has been that way but going forward I don’t see it nearly as much the case (and of course US Airways doesn’t offer inflight entertainment domestically). That trend will be exacerbated as inflight wireless spreads and with better speed.

But even now I’m generally surprised by people who don’t bring their own. To me that’s part of preparing for flight. I tend to do quite a bit of work in the air (especially with internet!) but there reaches a point that my brain just needs to veg out and that’s also the point that it doesn’t do nearly so much good to try to read either.

My current queue includes:

  • The 4 most recent episodes of The Walking Dead
  • Season 2 of Hell on Wheels
  • Season 2 of True Blood

I’ve just finished:

  • Season 2 of Game of Thrones
  • Season 1 of Magic City
  • Season 1 of Homeland

I highly recommend:

  • Season 1 of The Borgias (I eagerly anticipate the downloadable release of Season 2)
  • The Shield
  • The Wire

What’s in your inflight queue?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Great post! It hit home like a sledgehammer because I’ll be traveling to the Med to take a 10 day cruise in May, and then I’ll spend additional time in Eastern Europe and Turkey. Longhaul flights there and back, extensive train travel, hotels with limited English TV stations…

    In my case I purchased a tablet. Not just any tablet, but one that has a micro SD slot. I’ve already loaded four 32GB cards with videos, and I’m now working on fifth. That’s over 150gb of shows but hey, I like to have choices.

    I have Downton Abbey, The Borgias (awaiting S2), Game of Thrones, and the new Viking series, among others Like you, I too, stop watching the shows for just such occasions as these.

  2. Season 2 of the Office (US). Easily the best all-around season in sitcom history. There may be better overall sitcoms (e.g. Seinfeld, Arrested Development), but season 2 compared with any other season of any other sitcom is head and shoulders above the rest.

  3. Just finished Season 1 of Homeland! I love that show. I cannot wait to start season 2.

    Frequent Flyer University, thanks for the tip. I will definitely check out House of Cards once I finish Homeland Season 2 and am in Homeland withdrawal…

  4. Gary, you might like Sputhland. I just finished the first 4 seasons. The Killing is also good. Claire

  5. I’ve finished: West Wing (7 seasons), House of Cards (Netflix only), Homeland (2 seasons), the Wire (5 seasons). Not sure what’s next, maybe Breaking Bad. But that’s a ton of TV/entertainment.

  6. I’m going to say something really ignorant and ask how you get all this stuff on your computer. I have netflix discs and streaming, and that’s it. Short of getting on the “8 discs at a time” plan, how do you load all of this stuff up?

  7. @Frank

    I don’t know what Walking Dead his, but he lost me at “True Blood.” My wife likes that crap.

  8. Future post request: What else do you take on a long flight? Say you are flying to Europe or Asia, what are the total comments of your carry on? Or at least what is in there for you to access on the plane? What headphones(brand),sleeping aids, etc? What suggestions would you have for someone flying long haul for the first time? Your first item is a media player of some kind to watch your TV shows. What are your required sports for this? A full size iPad? An iPhone? PLEASE HELP A NEWBIE OUT. Thanks

  9. You can, legally, download all this stuff via iTunes.

    Or if you, like me, have TiVo, you can transfer shows that were recorded on your DVR to you iPad for later viewing. I believe Dish’s Hopper with Sling has a similar capability.

    In my queue? Walking Dead and Breaking Bad I’m already current on. The UK version of Top Gear of course. At the moment I’m working my way through the 2nd season of Justified. Shameless is probably next, since I haven’t seen any of it this year yet. Might try the UK version of Sherlock after that.

  10. The Wire is one of the greatest shows ever. Homeland might get up there too but you can’t really give them the greatest ever title after just two seasons.

  11. Most of the legal download services have specific restrictions as to where you must be physically located when watching their content due to copyright. For example, iTunes requires that “You agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes Service from outside these locations”. How do you get around this when watching these programs on international flights?

  12. I watched some traveling show throughout my last CX flight. I think it was in Chinese, not sure, but the chick was hot.

  13. I’m always bringing my laptop with some new movies. On my last flight to Sao Paulo I was lucky to get the NEW Lufthansa First (I used Miles&More miles and had no problems getting a seat some 2 months ahead). I noticed the new IFE also has a USB port. I put a movie on a USB stick and connected it. Nothing happened. So I asked the purser if it was somehow possible to connect USB media to watch a movie (it felt stupid to use a laptop as the new screens are pretty good). He was surprised saying I was the first ever to ask this question. Obviously it didn’t work and once again I had to use my laptop.

  14. @ Dan, you can buy an entire series on DVD…download onto device/sd card…sell used DVDs on Amazon/eBay…rinse, repeat.

    I’m using a rooted Nook HD 7″ tablet. Bought it for the micro sd slot, as I’m not always hooked into wifi for streaming, and I carry hundreds of gig in nautical charts (for my boat) with me.

  15. In somewhat order of recommendation, sorted by source and all available through iTunes/Hulu/Netflix —

    House of Lies

    Boardwalk Empire
    How to Make It in America

    Mad Men
    Breaking Bad

    Modern Family
    Downton Abbey
    Big Bang Theory
    White Collar
    How I Met Your Mother

    Sherlock (UK)

  16. The Killing (Season 1 & 2)–amazing.

    House of Cards–don’t miss it.

    Hell of Wheels–who doesn’t like a great Western?

    Breaking Bad–more addictive than Meth.

  17. Based on those shows, you might like JUSTIFIED, or you could also do MI-5, probably one of my favorite long time series of all time.

  18. I work at an IFE company and I had to laugh when I read “airlines curse the person who invented inflight entertainment. They’re a huge cost center and they provide no opportunity to make any money.”
    Though I agree somewhat, there are a lot of airlines that do charge for pay-per-view content on their IFE, and since we are getting continued business from them, I assume that many passengers are purchasing pay-per-view IFE as well 😛
    In addition, all of the big premium airlines of the world (Singapore, Emirates, etc) view their IFE systems, especially in F or J, as an indispensable part of their branding. The comments made by US Airways are a pretty good example of why people regard top carriers from other countries so much better than the US legacy carriers…

  19. If you are an Comcast customer, get the new Xfinity Viewer app. Many of the movies and TV shows are downloadable, not just stream-able. Just finished watching the higly addictive Shameless that way.

    Otherwise rent from iTunes.

  20. Oh man. So many good suggestions here. Looks like my broadband connection’s going to be busy for the next while.

    I took the last season of 24 and some new Walking Dead and American Dad on my trip to Singapore earlier this month and didn’t watch any of it. Turns out I’ve missed a lot of big movies lately, so I spent the flights getting caught up. ANA and Asiana had a surprisingly good collection of new releases. They also had both seasons of Sherlock, the new BBC series based on Sherlock Holmes. Excellent stuff, far superior to Elementary for those who care.

    If you’re into quirky comedy, give Community a try. Office S2 may be the best comedy season ever, but Community S01E23 is the finest half hour of television ever made.

  21. I bring exactly the same number of movies with me as seat cushions, drinks, and food items: zero. I choose airlines so I can keep it simple!

  22. Xfinity *player* app (not “viewer”)

    Q re House of Cards on Netflix — how do I download, rather than stream?

  23. There must be something wrong with me. My thought when people asked how to d/l was that Gary should have linked an Ink Bold app in and mentioned buying I-tunes or Kindle gift cards at office suppy stores.

    I do the same thing for flights as well as the treadmill at home.

    Most of my favs have been listed (Wire, Shield, GoT, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Shameless). Buffy and Angel are worth a look. I am doing Friday Night Lights right now, its early, but I am in “Like” category, not “Love”.

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