Airlines are expanding their rich in-flight entertainment (IFE) menus from blockbusters to brain boosters.

The latest entry in the trend of onboard edutainment is the Ideas Roadshow, which offers in-depth conversations with some of today’s leading thinkers and creatives.

The Ideas Roadshow was the brainchild of the show’s host, Howard Burton, who after creating a community outreach element to his research institute in Canada, found that many people were curious about research in many fields, but intimated by the learning process. He began producing one-on-one conversations with prominent minds, covering topics from physics to psychology, law to linguistics, sports to storytelling, all designed to be accessible and engaging.

“Our goal is to make the conversations as natural and informal as possible to best highlight the passion and excitement of the guest,” says Irena Burton Director of Communications and Licensing for the Ideas Roadshow.

The Ideas Roadshow 60-minute chats are now offered as part of the long-haul in-flight entertainment menus of British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.

Burton tells us, “[We] are convinced that many passengers would be delighted to seize their time in the air to experience different, stimulating content that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to sample in their day-to-day lives.”

More Entertainment

Other airlines have recently introduced alternative edutainment selections to their IFE content mix.

JetBlue has introduced prerecorded lectures from e-learning site Coursera, courses from the Berklee College of Music, video cooking classes through Rouxbe, and a selection of e-books through its partnership with HarperCollins.
Virgin America offers passengers audio and video lectures on topics like history, science, and nutrition. The airline also offers Crash Course videos which explain a wide range of heady topics from anatomy to politics, finance to astronomy.

Virgin Australia has introduced one-hour courses in photography, financial planning, food and nutrition and business in partnership with Open Universities Australia’s free Open2Study online platform. Each module is adapted from the university’s four-hour programs, and passengers can continue their courses online to earn a certificate.

Singapore Airlines offers Berlitz language courses, “Culture quest” guides to local cultures and customs, and Soundview book summaries which cover business strategies.

Delta introduced TED Talks on its Delta Studio menu in 2014, and more recently partnered with OMG. I Can Meditate! to offer passengers a selection of 10-minute guided meditations which aim “to help users nurture practical happiness, calm, and clarity in relationships, work, and life.”

Those producers, and airlines, betting on the long-term success of edutainment content are hoping to tap-in to travelers’ eagerness to learn and experience new things.

As Burton says, “[T]ravel naturally broadens the mind and many are excited at the prospect of exposing themselves to new ideas from when they first board the plane.”