I’m a lifelong student of the airline industry. My primary interest has always been the operations side – making things click with the right fleets and schedules. Now that I am on the customer side of the counter, I still study airline operations, marketing, loyalty, etc, but something of increasing interest to me is passenger experience. In other words, the hard product like seats and inflight amenities. IFE gets a lot of attention for reasons that I’ve never quite figured out. JetBlue started the buzz with TVs at every seat, and airlines have been fighting internal battles about the way forward ever since.

Many airlines have installed fancy IFE systems. I’ve been most impressed with American’s system that I experienced on its A319 and A321T service recently. Delta has a fairly nice system on its 737-900s too. Delta has also invested in making more entertainment options available via live streaming, a feature that I think has potential across the industry. On the other hand, US Airways, now part of American Airlines removed all of its domestic IFE, and disabled power systems on legacy US Airways aircraft.


Maybe I’m an outlier, but I carry a laptop, smartphone, and tablet device on all of my trips…business or pleasure. These devices are loaded with entertainment options. What they aren’t loaded with is limitless battery life. While I enjoy IFE systems from time to time, if I were forced to choose, there’s no doubt that I’d rather have reliable electrical power with a standard outlet than any other inflight amenity I can think of. Couple that with live streaming video, and I think you have a viable IFE option on most flights.

I have no idea how much weight a modern IFE system adds to an airplane, but I would think its considerable. No doubt, the airlines that are in the process of adding these systems have some solid data behind their decisions to install these systems, but I’d much rather have power at every seat than a “TV”. I thought a reader poll might be fun. You know how I’m voting. What about you?

-MJ, October 13, 2014

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