If I’m On A Plane, I’d Rather Have No Entertainment Than Bad Entertainment

by joeheg

I realize there’s no way that airlines can satisfy everyone’s desires when it comes to in-flight entertainment. If the airline provides a seat back screen, then we’ll complain that it’s too small or the choices are too limited. If we have power outlets, we’ll gripe that the box that provides that power takes up too much of our legroom.

If the airline doesn’t provide entertainment, instead offering free streaming of the content on our own device, we’ll just say they’re too cheap to put in screens.

It’s a no-win situation. I’d guess their best case scenario is to keep more people happy than they disappoint.

What I can guarantee is that there’s no one that wants to watch the type of in-flight entertainment we had on our last American Airlines flight.

When we boarded our almost four-hour flight from DFW to SFO, this was our entertainment choice.


You’re kidding me, right? Overhead screens in 2020, really? The other thing that was surprising was that the screens looked new, not like something left over from 20 years ago.

Besides that, the 737-800 we were on was up to date. It had Viasat WiFi, which worked well for the whole flight. The overhead bins were large enough for several carry-on bags. There were power outlets between the seats that actually worked. So what was with those screens?


I figured this must have been an older plane so these screens were a relic left over from then. While the seats, bins and everything were replaced, the screens remained.


I looked up the age of the plane and was shocked to see what I found on Airfleets.net.

Screenshot 2020-01-31 10.41.14

This plane was less than 7 years old. In 2013, American bought a brand new plane with overhead screens. A plane that they would plan to keep in service for decades. Just let that sink in.

Thirty minutes into the flight, the in-flight movie began. I knew it was the Disney movie  Maleficent with Angelia Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer. I knew that because there was no choice but to have the screens catch your attention, as they were directly at eye level. I couldn’t hear the movie because I would have to plug my headphones into the jack located in the armrest.

When the movie was over, we still had over an hour left in our flight so they started playing sitcoms. I think the show was Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

I can’t say that I saw many people with headphones on watching the movie on the screens. Most people were sleeping, reading, working on their computers, playing games or watching entertainment on their own devices.

At this point, what’s the point of having these screens? OK, they’re an easy way to show the American safety announcement instead of having the flight crew do it and that’s a plus.

This version of the 737-800 is eventually going to be updated to the new seating arrangement that American has for these planes. The out of date overhead entertainment is going away. They’re going to squeeze more seats into the plane by making the seat pitch less and switching to slimline seats with less padding.

While I’m complaining about the screens, everything else was fine with the flight. There was enough legroom for me to work on my laptop. The seat was comfortable for a 3+ hour flight and the power and WiFi were functional. I’d just wish they’d not use the screens at all during the flight. No entertainment is better than bad entertainment.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

Christian January 31, 2020 - 5:53 pm

Did the plane have the 1970’s type headphone things with the big twin rubber plugs that came from the armrest? Those were great. On Pan Am.


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