With overbooked flights, small seating areas in the main cabin area and the possibility of a chatty neighbor, it can often be a challenge to maintain one’s composure on board a packed plane. But regardless where one is sitting, there are a number of common annoyances to contend with, such as crying babies, kicked backrests and people talking loudly or worse yet, taking an unnecessary call on a smartphone. Fortunately, with modern technology and modern conveniences, all passengers have a number of in air entertainment options that can help drown out noisy people or reduce other annoying distractions while allowing them to be more relaxed and comfortable for the rest of the trip.
Following the lead of international carriers like Air Canada, China Airlines and Norwegian Air, Delta Airlines announced last June it would start providing free, in flight entertainment to all of its passengers. The services include free movies, television shows, a diverse music library, video games, live satellite TV and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Shortly after the announcement, United and American Airlines stepped up with its own package of complimentary in flight entertainment, along with some international carriers like LATAM Airlines, the leading carrier to countries in South America. However, American and United are among those airlines that charge a fee for a headset or earbuds and not always with good audio quality. Other major American carriers like Alaska and Virgin Atlantic continue to offer on demand movies and TV shows for a fee while first class passengers may be entitled to complimentary movies and premium television and where available, free inflight entertainment players.
Available on most domestic and international flights, Wi-Fi service allows passengers to use any Wi-Fi-enabled device such as a smartphone, tablet and laptop computers. However, unlike several international airlines like Air China, Emirates and Norwegian, wireless service must be purchased or obtained as a useful perk from a few notable credit cards, like the FlexPerks Visa Signature Card from US Bank and the Business Platinum Card from American Express, along with a free inflight option for T-Mobile users. Currently, the only exception for free Wi-Fi from a U.S. based airlines other than an airlines’ company link, is JetBlue, which recently announced free, high-speed wireless on all of its flights in January. Other major domestic airlines continue to charge for wireless service, including $8 onboard Southwest, $16 for domestic and a tiered system for international flights on American Airlines, and $16 for a Domestic Day Pass and $28 for a Global Day Pass on Delta, along with some options for monthly or yearly wireless service. Wi-Fi service is also available for purchase prior to the flight on some flights or through Chicago-based Gogo, the leading provider for Wi-Fi and entertainment services for flights worldwide. Hotspot devices like Verizon’s MiFi Jetpack and AT&T’s Unite Explore cannot be used just prior to departure and during the flight.
In spite of the all the choices provided by an airlines’ in-flight entertainment system, the simplest is to listen to selections on the system’s extensive music library. In order to take advantage of this typically free service, one must either bring their own wireless or hard-wired headphone or earbuds or rent a set of headphones from a flight attendant. Other passengers may wish to listen to their own music through their mobile device either with hard-wired headphones or Bluetooth wireless sets with a noise-canceling feature like the Bose QuietComfort 35, Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 and Sony MDR-1000X. Of course, passengers can also choose their headphones for other entertainment options, whether it’s a feature length movie, favorite TV show, audio book or popular video game. While headphones and earbuds can greatly enhance a traveler’s onboard experience, it’s important to also understand that prolonged exposure to loud noises of over 80 decibels may lead to hearing loss.
Since most airlines do not provide completely cost free onboard entertainment, many passengers can keep themselves busy by using apps on their smartphone and/or tablet. While many popular social media apps require a wireless connection, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp along with selected video games and other types of apps , there are many other apps, in fact millions of others to keep passengers comfortably entertained, especially offline games like Angry Birds, Minecraft and music apps that require no internet connection, such as iHeart Radio, Pandora, SoundCloud and Spotify. Still other passengers with a wireless connection can make dinner reservations on apps like OpenTable, purchase ticket online for a sightseeing tour through Viator or even make last minute hotel reservations or to extend their trip on popular travel apps like HotelTonight which now allows booking for up to seven days in advance. Of course, there is also a multitude of reading choices for tablet users, such as what’s found on Apple’s iBooks, Google Play Books and Amazon Books, as well as newspaper apps like the New York Times and popular magazine apps like Time Magazine, People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. Lastly, passengers who don’t own a tablet but would like to watch streaming entertainment can rent a device from airlines like Alaska, American, Delta and United.
Depending upon the airplane’s wireless connection, passengers can enjoy movies or TV shows through Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now, among others via a laptop, a tablet with an optional keyboard such as those offered by Brydge or a tablet available for rent onboard. But the better solution, at least with the Amazon Prime app and more recently the Netflix app, is to download a movie or favorite television show to a mobile device prior to departure, then enjoy the offline video entertainment onboard the plane. However, downloaded movies or TV shows uses up a significant amount on data and therefore should be obtained while using a wireless connection. For passengers without a Netflix or Amazon Prime account or mobile device, still popular alternative is to simply watch movies or play games on a DVD player.