Travel

American Airlines Is Ditching Seat-Back TVs On Its Newest Planes

Is it the end of an era?
01/26/2017 10:17am ET

When it comes to entertainment, your next flight may be strictly BYOD: bring your own device.

American Airlines will not install seat-back TVs in its 100 new Boeing 737 Max planes, according to a company statement released Tuesday. Instead, passengers will be able to stream free movies, TV shows and live TV to their phones, tablets and laptops.

“More than 90 percent of our passengers already bring a device or screen with them when they fly,” read the statement posted to American’s internal website. The airline will invest in faster internet service and focus on streaming “rather than installing seat-back monitors that will be obsolete within a few years.”

The decision also helps airlines cut weight and fuel consumption, and Conde Nast Traveler points out that scrapping in-flight entertainment boxes also gives passengers a little more room under the seat.

American’s new, TV-less Boeing 737 Max jets are slated to debut on routes in North America later this year. Analysts at Skift called the change a “sign of the times,” noting that United Airlines has for several years skipped seat-back TVs in favor of streaming and Wi-Fi.

But don’t cry just yet: Your seat-back TV is sticking around, at least on some flights. JetBlue is keeping TVs, Skift notes, as will American’s current-generation Boeing 737s. And Delta’s incoming order of new planes will have seat-back screens as usual, Delta spokesman Anthony Black told HuffPost.

“By now, passengers are used to using three or four screens at a time, and that’s not going to change,” Black said. “So our aircraft will continue to have seat-back entertainment.”

TVs also seem to be essential on long-haul flights: American’s international flights will continue to feature seat-back screens, the carrier’s statement said.

For the movie-loving traveler, that’s a relief.