Delta Is Betting on Tablet Technology to Solve In-Flight Entertainment Conundrum

  • Skift Take
    Maybe Delta’s new in-flight screens on its Airbus A220s will be better than previous generations. Or maybe they won’t be. Either way, Delta deserves credit. Few of its competitors put screens on domestic airplanes anymore. Delta could have easily gone without them.

    Even in an age of mobile phones and tablets, travelers — particularly infrequent flyers — often say they still like seat-back screens on airplanes.

    Many airlines take a different view. The screens are expensive to operate and maintain, and they’re often technologically obsolete within a few years. But since airlines hate to mess with what’s already on board, the screens fly well past their prime. It’s why many airlines, including United Airlines and American Airlines, no longer install embedded systems in short-haul aircraft. American is even removing them from most planes.

    Last week, in a discussion on stage at Skift Global Forum, Delta CEO Ed Bastian told me his team believes it has solved this problem by investing in a new wireless embedded system for next-generation, short-haul aircraft. The system, which relies on tablets mounted in seats, will be called “Delta Wireless IFE,” though Gogo will provide some of the back-end technology through what it calls Gogo Vision Touch.

    We’ll have to see how it performs. But it has the makings of a promising investment for Delta and passengers. Bastian said it usually costs more than a million per aircraft to install wired entertainment systems, but said this technology will decrease that cost by roughly two-thirds.

    “A wireless IFE is great because it means we don’t have to wire the planes anymore,” Bastian said. “We just put the tablet on the back of the seat headrest as a display panel.”

    What do you make of Delta’s investment in new technology?

    — Brian Sumers, Senior Aviation Business Editor [, @briansumers]

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    I’m excited to share that Skift has acquired Airline Weekly, a 14-year-old publication led by Jay Shabat, Seth Kaplan, and Jason Cottrell.

    Airline Weekly is a premium newsletter, and this team knows nearly everything about airplanes and airlines. Every week, they put out stellar content. And earlier this year, they scored a major coup when they broke news that Neeleman, JetBlue’s founder, planned to start a new U.S. airline with Airbus A220s.

    I’ll continue to write this newsletter, but if you’re looking for more in-depth coverage, you may want to consider subscribing to Airline Weekly.

    Contact Me

    Skift Senior Aviation Business Editor Brian Sumers [] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.

    Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines will debut a new entertainment system on its Airbus A220s, slated to start flying this winter. Delta Air Lines
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