Yesterday I wrote about American Airlines Executive Vice President of People, Communications, and Public Affairs Elise Eberwein flying United in first class. She wrote a trip report on twitter documenting the experience.
She’s a class act and complimented the friendly flight attendants. However she notes:
- Flight was an hour late (so much for D0)
- No blankets
- No predeparture beverage
- United’s hot towels before meal service are much nicer than American’s
Subsequently she’s shared one more detail about the flight, and I hope she does more than just write about it on twitter. She needs to bring the insight back to the American Airlines management team: the flight had no seat back video and she couldn’t watch United’s streaming inflgiht entertainment.
We had no screens today. And couldn’t get their app to download so couldn’t watch their movies. But that’s ok, I had Homeland season 6 downloaded.
— elise (@elisecom) November 10, 2018
American Airlines is removing seat back video screens from their domestic fleet as they reconfigure Boeing 737s with the new Project Oasis interior (more seats, less legroom, less recline, less seat padding and smaller lavatories) along with Airbus narrowbodies to follow.
I don’t value airline inflight entertainment but I’m an outlier. I bring my own device and I make sure it’s loaded up with everything I need. Mostly I want to work on the plane, and need internet access, but when I’m too tired to work I’m picky about what I watch and plan ahead.
American’s CEO Doug Parker says delivering plan without seat back video is going for great. American says they’re planning for the future, that seat back screens become outdated (just like TVs at home have, or something?).
While the airline claims 95% of passengers have their own devices, that counts cell phones. Not every family of five owns five iPads. Even when customers have their own devices they largely use seat back video, which is why Delta has invested in them for 600 planes.
Now Elise Eberwein could have downloaded United’s app to watch video prior to doors close. But once you’re up in the air you’re stuck. You cannot download the app without first buying internet, so there’s no access to free entertainment at all. And what if the government imposes an electronics ban as they did for some flights headed to the U.S.?
The suggestion that nothing is lost for passengers when seat back screens are removed is silly. People prefer seat back screens. American doesn’t offer as extensive a library of new content over streaming video. But they’re taking out screens because they’re expensive and the weight burns fuel, not to mention that they incur maintenance cost. It’s about saving money, not passenger experience, and readers tell me over and over that streaming just isn’t the same thing.
By the way just like Ms. Eberwein I’ve had Homeland‘s season 6 downloaded on my laptop for months as well. I enjoyed the first five seasons, but I’m just a couple of episodes into this one and haven’t gotten into it yet.