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The Best U.S. Airlines for In-Flight Entertainment

SmarterTravel

Travelers on Alaska Airlines enjoy the best in-flight experience among the large U.S. carriers, according to a new report from CableTV.com, a website sponsored by various U.S. cable and satellite providers. Southwest comes in second, Delta third, and American, JetBlue, Hawaiian, and United are tied for fourth. Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit show the lowest scores—they don’t offer in-flight entertainment at all.

CableTV.com summarizes its methodology: “We looked at the options offered by 10 major U.S. airline companies: seatback consoles, personal device access, variety and pricing of movies, TV programming, music, games, and other entertainment. Ratings are also modified by a scoring of how many of each line’s operating fleets provide each feature: all planes, some planes, or no planes. Then we weighed each one’s extra cost (if any) and engagement value, while factoring Wi-Fi availability (which, believe it or not, still isn’t always found on aircraft in 2018).”

In-flight entertainment is a big deal for many travelers when choosing an airline, especially given that the “hard product” of tight seating is so bad on just about every carrier these days. That’s why it’s significant that some airlines, including American, are forgoing seatback screens on some new planes and instead offering a free wireless network. The rationale is that almost every traveler these days carries a smartphone, tablet, or laptop that he or she can use to display video and audio entertainment. That may be true, but I know I’d rather watch an in-flight movie on a 10-inch seatback screen than on my iPhone.

These rankings may be useful to you in choosing among two or more essentially equal schedule/price combinations. Depending on your priorities, you can also find information about individual airplanes on SmarterTravel’s sister site SeatGuru.com, which also includes the many foreign lines that CableTV.com did not rate.

How much does in-flight entertainment matter to you when flying?

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