American ditches seatback IFE on next-generation Boeing 737

aa 737 old livery for BA-1

American made a big announcement today (first seen on the Runway Girl blog): when it receives its first delivery of the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft later this year they have elected to get rid of seatback video screens.

WAIT WAIT, before you jump to the conclusion that this is bad, hear me out.  American is not getting rid of in-flight entertainment.  Instead, they will have streaming entertainment options that you can access via your personal device for free, similar to what they already offer on many jets.

Wait, so is this good or bad?

I personally LOVE the news.  Seatback screens for in-flight entertainment are nice, sure, but what isn’t nice are those enormohuge boxes underneath every seat that contain the power supply and who knows what else to support the screens.  They cramp my footroom and actually slow down boarding because people end up having to put more things in the overhead bin instead of being able to fit items underneath the seat in front of them.  From American’s standpoint this was probably an easy decision as well, since screens and power boxes add a lot of weight to an aircraft, which impacts fuel efficiency in the air.

For me it’s great news for a few reasons:

  • I usually travel with at least 2 devices, sometimes as many as 4
  • Aaaand that’s about it really

American will have next-gen in-flight wifi on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft as well, which should provide ground-like speeds when you want to connect to the broader internet (you won’t have to pay for internet access to watch the in-flight entertainment options).  Basically if you give me expanded footroom, live TV, power at every seat, and a bunch of movies I can watch for free, I’m going to be pretty happy!


What do you think about the new streaming in-flight entertainment solution?  Do you prefer the old seatback screen instead?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Well, United has been doing this for the last couple of years on their long-haul transatlantic flights (SFO – Frankfurt). I’ve been both ways on that route maybe 10 times and I can’t remember a single trip when their wifi entertainment system did NOT have problems. Every time there would be an announcement about how they need to reboot the whole system to get it working.

    I had two trips when my Galaxy Note 4 couldn’t establish a connection to the on-board WIFI network. The first time it happened I notified the staff, they told me it was happening to other people too and they rebooted the system 3 times on that flight (everybody in the middle of a movie had to stop, wait for 10 minutes, restart and ffwd to whenever they left off). My phone never did connect on that flight. Luckily I had one of the first GearVR headsets with me, so I just used that and some movies I had on my local SD card.

    The other catch with the United system (and I doubt the American system would differ) is that you need to install their proprietary app onto your device and it MUST be updated to the most recent version. If it isn’t, it won’t connect to their network. If you get to the gate and realize that you forgot to update the app, you gotta find wifi somewhere and get that done. (great! one more thing to stress about before getting to the airport) If you have a data plan, no problem, but if you travel internationally (as I do) and they update the system between your to and from flights you can get stuck with an obsolete version.

    On top of all that, United’s 747 doesn’t have any way to charge your device in your seat, so you gotta think about how to power your device when it dies from 6 hours of non-stop video streaming. (Hopefully these new planes for American at least have powered USB ports in for each seat)

    All of this is just to highlight that these types of systems are exactly flawless yet. Definitely not as reliable as the seat-back entertainment systems.

  2. 4 device andy…in these parts, if you carry more than one, chances are you are a drug dealer. What do you carry


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