We’ve all been there. That moment when someone else has the remote control, forcing you to watch something you’d really rather not. You have a choice: stay put and be bored, or leave the room and find something more interesting to do.
Usually, I opt for the latter.
Now imagine that you’re on a crowded plane, and it’s either watch the terrible film, or spend eight hours twiddling your thumbs and trying to sleep upright, while simultaneously trying not to die of boredom. Tough call.
Maybe I’ve been lucky but I didn’t realise, until last week, that transatlantic airlines still did the whole communal in-flight entertainment thing. Every flight I’ve taken to the US has had on-demand entertainment systems, with the headrest screens. Apart from this one.
And it was one of those flights where you’d really appreciate the distraction. Mechanical issues before you take off. The worst turbulence I’ve ever been in for a good portion of the flight. And all this in cramped conditions and two rows from the toilets, which means you spend most of the flight with a waiting passenger’s elbow resting on your head.
Thankfully, there is one other option – Bring Your Own. There are iPads, media players and laptops that can take the place of the airline’s entertainment systems. And that’s something the airlines are catching on to too .
Only this week Virgin America said it plans to offer a new in-flight entertainment system that will not only make use of the seat monitors, but also use an onboard WiFi network to allow travellers to hook up their own personal electronic devices to connect to the system during the flight and access content. It will be using Gogo’s ATG-4 system, and will allow travellers to rent their own TV programmes or films for the flight – and for a reasonable amount of time after, if you get a bit too ambitious.
Note the use of the word “rent” there. This will cost you, unlike the complementary (and, at times, crap) in-flight entertainment you currently put up with on other flights. But if it’s a good enough service, isn’t it worth paying for?
The Virgin system is due to launch late next year.
And it’s not the only airline eyeing up a new way of keeping its customers happy, while simultaneously boosting its revenue. Southwest Airlines is to offer a video streaming service this year on some of its aircraft.
In the meantime, the rest of us will have to keep loading up the tablets with video at home and hoping there’s enough to get us through the flight.