American Airlines ditches seat-back entertainment

The fourth-largest US carrier says it will not have video screens for films and TV on the back of seats on its new Boeing planes, saying passengers' devices are adequate.

A Boeing 737 MAX takes off during a flight test in Renton, Washington last year. Customer American Airlines' 737 Max's will not have seat-back film and TV screens. Jason Redmond / Reuters
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Passengers who want to watch a film on American Airlines’ new 737 Max better bring a device with them to watch it on.

The carrier said it will not feature seat-back video screens on the Boeing aircraft because almost all travellers now carry mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Satellite-based systems have improved on-board internet speed and access, which will enhance the viewing experience, the Texas-based airline said.

“More than 90 per cent of our passengers already bring a device or screen with them when they fly,” American told workers. “Those phones and tablets are continually upgraded, they’re easy to use and, most importantly, they are the technology our customers have chosen.”

The move marks a reversal for the chief executive Doug Parker, who said less than a year ago that American would have seat-back screens on all of its planes to remain competitive. The carrier this year will receive the first four of its 100 Max aircraft.

A decision has not been made on whether to extend the policy to other new planes.

Video screens will remain on planes used for international flights, American’s three-class Airbus A321T and some single-aisle planes used for specific flights.

Films and television shows in American’s on-board library and live television can be viewed on devices at no charge, the airline said. Satellite connections to use the internet, text or access on-demand video will be available for a fee from gate to gate.

Plans call for American to have satellite-based Wi-Fi on half its single-aisle fleet by the summer of 2018, with full installation by the end of 2019. Half the domestic narrowbody fleet will have power at every seat by the end of 2018.

* Bloomberg

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