Domestic routes in the US operated by the big 3 of American, Delta and United are now offering free entertainment options for all passengers. While this is something that the likes of JetBlue and Virgin America have offered for free for years, the three main legacy carriers are now following suit.
Delta was the first to do it back in June with United soon following suit a few weeks later. American had no choice but to follow suit and as of last week now offers free seat back entertainment on aircraft that are equipped with seat back screens – other aircraft without personal televisions will be upgraded with WiFi that links to a server that will offer a range of entertainment options accessible by smartphones, tablets or laptops – much liked United is doing on their newer 737 fleet.
Traditional WiFi will continue to be a chargeable service on all three airlines.
While international routes operated by the three airlines have featured free in flight entertainment for some time now, the addition of the domestic network is a most welcome change. This is a cheap way for the airlines to offer entertainment options without having to upgrade the hardware of their existing fleet, nor do they have to take into consideration the added uplift installing servers and television sets would have on their bottom line.
What will be interesting to look out for in the near future is now that most major American carriers are on par with the fact that they offer free entertainment to begin with, the competition will now turn to content. Buying the rights to broadcast movies, TV shows and live telecasts come at a cost, and it will be up to the individual airliens to see how competitive they want to be in this arena. Already United is offering free access to coverage the Rio 2016 Olympics (they are the official airline of Team USA, after all) and JetBlue has been promoting their premium services and partnerships such as the one they currently have with Amazon Prime. We wouldn’t be surprised if some of the bigger players in the market had something in the pipeline with the likes of Netflix or HBO.
All said and done this is a massive net positive for the consumer in American air travel – as oil continues to tank and record profits continue to be recorded, hopefully look for added amenities on domestic flights in the near future.
And Its about time, too.