Over the last fifteen years, airlines have been fighting a non-stop battle to provide their passengers with the “biggest and best” range of video and audio entertainment. As far as Economy is concerned, they might have made cuts in catering, numbers of cabin staff and even squeezed an extra few seats in but they have all spent money installing the latest entertainment systems.
Some might question whether this investment was really necessary anyway. If you look around a longhaul aircraft cabin, you will certainly see a few people glued to the entertainment system but many, if not the majority, use it only for a short period, if at all. The systems are not cheap to install or maintain and they do suffer from quite frequent breakdowns.
Air Asia X, the longhaul budget airline based in Malaysia, is now considering ordering a new aircraft without even a basic entertainment system. Obviously this will save them money but, they suggest, it is not just a question of cost. According to them, in-flight entertainment has now moved on – people have their own i-pods, dvd players and pc’s for use on-board. They do not want to be restricted to the airline’s choice – however many channels the airline claims to offer. In other words, the real music or film junkie who would not have stepped on to an aircraft that did not have the latest video system a few years ago, is now travelling with his own, more sophisticated and personalised system.
We can’t see the airlines giving up on in-flight entertainment yet but Air Asia X’s argument is persuasive. It could well be that the battle to have the “biggest and best” entertainment system is over.