In-flight entertainment is going mobile

By Abigail Abrams
February 16, 2017

Any regular traveler knows that in-flight entertainment is an important part of making long flights enjoyable. But soon, the way you get that entertainment could change.

Airlines are increasingly phasing out the screens on the back of every seat, the New York Times reports. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, airlines have found that they can provide in-flight entertainment by streaming movies and other content through a wireless service instead.

“Virtually everyone is connected at all times on the ground today,” Jon Cobin, the chief commercial officer at Gogo, which provides Wi-Fi service on more than 2,900 commercial planes, told the Times. “That behavior doesn’t change when you get in the air.”

Seat screens add weight to the plane, which means the plane burns more fuel and ultimately costs airlines more money. Only two national airlines in the U.S. — JetBlue and Virgin America — still have seat-back screens on every plane, according to Bloomberg. Just last month, American Airlines aal said it was getting rid of screens on 100 new Boeing 737 Max jets.

If you’re scheduled to travel someplace far in the next few days, don’t worry: Airline experts don’t expect in-flight entertainment to disappear overnight.

“The thing with the airline industry is nothing happens quickly,” Jason Rabinowitz, the director of airline research for Routehappy, a company that tracks airline amenities, told the Times. “The only thing that moves quickly is the aircraft itself.”

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