Streaming Video on Planes: Cool Innovation or Just Another Airline Fee?

More and more airlines seem convinced their passengers are willing and able to pay for streaming video on demand. Are you?

Virgin America, Southwest, American to Offer Streaming Video

The latest entrant in the streaming video amenity race is Virgin America; according to news reports, beginning late next year, the airline expects its passengers will be able to download their choice of video or audio files via Wi-Fi on devices such as a smartphones, laptops or iPads and its various tablet cousins. You might expect this kind of cutting edge amenity from Virgin America, which already offers a lot of in-flight entertainment via personal seatback screens on all its planes, but Southwest is also entering the fray.

See Which Airlines Offer the Most Luxurious Amenities

According to news reports, the no-frills carrier will start the introduction of a video streaming service later this year, but you’ll have to provide your own screen. Meanwhile, last May, American Airlines announced it too will experiment with streaming entertainment.

Why Passengers Love Streaming Video

The big selling point about streaming video is being able to see what you want, when you want (within reason); this can include episodes of your favorite TV shows, or new movies you’ve missed or even NFL games. And since many passengers wouldn’t think of boarding a plane without smartphone and/or laptop in hand, ready to accept the all-important WiFi connection, you’re ready to go.

Why Airlines Love Streaming Video

Airlines love the concept because they won’t have to keep installing expensive seatback screens; plus, they can remove these relatively heavy pieces of equipment, which can save them big bucks on fuel. And don’t forget the money-making aspect to it.

Another Airline Fee

Streaming video represents another new fee for the airlines; like meals or checked-bags, if you want this particular entertainment, you must pay for it. We’ve seen fee estimates as follows: $1 to $3 for a TV show, $3 to $5 for a movie. Note that this is actually cheaper than what airline WiFi subscribers already pay, which is about twelve bucks for a day’s worth of access.

See the 5 Cheap Airline Fees Worth Paying For

Is Video Streaming Worth it?

Some people don’t like watching entertainment on a small phone screen while others say their laptops are already loaded with their favorite entertainment shows and movies. Plus an airline like Virgin America or JetBlue already offer lots of things to watch for free.

Question for readers: Would you pay for streaming video? I might, but I think I’d rather just read a book (on Kindle or otherwise).


Published: September 19, 2011