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woman uses Delta's in-flight entertainment
Delta

The Best Airlines for In-Flight Entertainment

SmarterTravel

In-flight entertainment can make the difference between a tolerable flight and a miserable one in the main cabin and can add to the enjoyment of a trip in a premium cabin. CableTV.com, a TV-Internet consumer information resource, recently ranked the in-flight entertainment experience for the 10 largest U.S.-based airlines.

Best Airlines for In-flight Entertainment

The rankings are as follows:

  1. JetBlue
  2. Delta
  3. United
  4. American Airlines
  5. Alaska
  6. Southwest
  7. Hawaiian
  8. Allegiant
  9. Frontier
  10. Spirit

Here’s what makes each one the best:

JetBlue

The nation’s leading low-cost carrier earned a top score on its in-flight entertainment through a combination of factors. Among them are above-average legroom, live TV—36 channels on A320a and E190s, more than 100 channels on A321s—at-seat USB and power outlets, and free Wi-Fi, with a few more extras in the premium cabin. “Overall, it’s a cozy and convenient company that caters to your comfort,” the report points out. This is no surprise: JetBlue consistently shows up at or near the top of most overall ratings of U.S. airlines.

Delta

Another no-surprise result: Delta has been consistently outperforming its two giant legacy competitors—American and United—in passenger ratings. It earned high marks for in-flight food and drinks, along with screens at each seat on most planes and other features. Delta loses the top spot to JetBlue mainly because it charges $16 for WiFi. And Delta offers “really good grub” even in the main cabin.

United

The second legacy line offers much the same as Delta. Its Wi-Fi is a bit more expensive, but in provides a free media “library” you can access by laptop or smart phone and DirecTV on “selected” flights. It got dinged a bit because not all flights have power outlets or screens.

The Others

Alaska, American, and Southwest offer paid Wi-Fi, and those three plus Hawaiian offer at-seat screens on most planes. At the bottom end, lack of both Wi-Fi and at-seat screens doomed Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit to last-place rankings.

Note: Most of my conclusions came from the CableTV.com study, but I checked features with SeatGuru (SmarterTravel’s sister site) where possible.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most recent information.

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