Digital

Flyers Beginning to Prefer BYO Entertainment to Seat-Back Screens

Aug 21, 2014 6:00 am

Skift Take

The user experience on iPhones and tablets is smoother and more intuitive than plane’s seat-back screens suggesting airlines would be foolish to waste another cent on in-flight hardware.

— Dennis Schaal

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Passengers on Virgin America. Davity Dave / Flickr


Airline passengers generally like the idea of ditching seat-back onboard video screens and instead wirelessly streaming movies and TV shows to their own portable devices, such as laptops and iPads, according to a new study.

But passengers also expect some kind of compensation, such as more free entertainment or lower ticket prices, from airlines which will save money by eliminating the screens aboard their aircraft, according to the research report, “Airline Passengers Receptive to BYOD Future” by market research firm Osurv.

The study said the U.S. airline industry’s trend toward BYOD — bring your own device — video entertainment delivered wirelessly is “its most significant cost-cutting campaign since tacking on fees for checked baggage and inflight meals.”

Airlines prominent in Chicago, including United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, offer streaming content on some flights.

“Critics think the disadvantages to BYOD will infuriate passengers,” said the study, which included 1,300 adult airline passengers. “Despite the skepticism, a majority of passengers were actually receptive to BYOD and expressed many qualms with existing (inflight entertainment) systems.”

Nearly three-quarters of respondents, 71 percent, were OK with the initiative toward using personal devices, the study found. A preference for using their own high-quality screen was a big reason, and 9 percent preferred to “forego the airlines’ potential germ-ridden devices.”

The study found that many passengers didn’t like the seatback and drop-down screens in aircraft anyway, finding they created stress for some passengers instead of relieving it.

For example, fliers were stressed by malfunctions in the aircraft screens fearing it could signal a mechanical problem with the plane. Others didn’t like seat-back screens because the glare hampered their ability to fall asleep. Nearly a third of passengers felt stressed when aircraft screens showed explosions or killing, the study found.

Almost nine in 10 respondents viewed the trend as a cost-cutting initiative by airlines, and 94 percent of those fliers thought they should benefit in some way from the cost savings. About half expected more free entertainment content, more than a quarter, 27 percent, expected a cheaper airline ticket, and 18 percent expected discounted baggage fees.

“Even though airlines must continue to address passengers’ perceptions of BYOD, the overall findings suggest a bright future for this emerging trend,” the study said.

(c)2014 the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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