There are many ways to pass the time if you’re in the air, but for most people, settling in with a glass of wine and a movie is the preferred way to fly. But not all airlines share the same script when it comes to entertainment offerings. A new survey from the website, CableTV.com, ranked the “entertainment value” of the country’s 10 top airlines, based on their selection of films and television shows, accessibility, pricing and personal device access. They then weighted the offerings around any extra cost (if any) while also looking at which airlines offer WiFi in the air.
If you’re hitting the friendly skies for the holidays, or thinking about booking a trip, here’s what to expect when you turn on the seatback screen (if they even have one) on your next flight.
1. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines topped the list, thanks to what the analysts said was, “a little more of everything in its on-board entertainment package.” The airline — which recently absorbed Virgin America into its fleet — has been touting its “Alaska Beyond Entertainment” program, which lets passengers stream movies and TV shows to their smartphone, tablet or laptop. The airline says they currently offer more than 500 titles on-board, including nearly 200 movies. Games and music are also part of the offerings.
Tip: download the Gogo Entertainment App before you fly so you don’t have to purchase WiFi on-board. That way, you can start watching the programming immediately after takeoff, with no added costs. Current movies on Alaska include “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Ready Player One” and “Deadpool 2,” among others. See reviews and ticket prices for Alaska Airlines here.
Southwest’s entertainment options are completely free, and don’t require WiFi to access them. You can either download the Southwest app beforehand or open your Internet browser once in the air to access the airline’s “Inflight Entertainment Portal.” Most Southwest flights require you to bring your own headphones, and many of them don’t have seat-back screens, so you’ll need your own device to watch anything on the flight. Currently, films include “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “The Wife.”
Note: Southwest loses rights to live TV and iHeart Radio when flying internationally, so if you’re headed to Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean, you’ll only be able to access the movie offerings and on-demand TV. See reviews and ticket prices for Southwest Airlines.
The survey gave kudos to Delta for offering a USB-charging outlet on most of its planes, which makes it great to keep your devices at full power. The airline also offers its “Delta Studio” seat-back entertainment console, which offers more than 300 movies, as well as HBO and Showtime, along with non-premium networks. Worth noting: Delta has many new movies streaming on their flights before they’ve even hit theaters, like, “RBG,” which is playing on their flights this month. Also playing right now: “The Predator, “Christopher Robin,” and, for holiday travel with the kids, “Frozen.”
Select flights also have access to a dozen live satellite TV channels, in case you don’t want to miss the big game, or live telecast during awards season. See reviews and ticket prices for Delta Airlines.
4. (Tie) JetBlue, American, Hawaiian, United
There was a four-way tie for the fourth spot in the entertainment survey. The analysts praised JetBlue for being the only airline that offers free WiFi on all of its aircraft, though as expected, connections and speeds may be spotty. JetBlue also offers DirecTV, which gets passengers up to 100 TV networks and 100 SiriusXM Radio channels free of charge. When it comes to movies though, the selection is more limited: the airline only offers six movie options on flights over four hours and just three on shorter trips. See reviews and ticket prices for JetBlue.
The survey says American Airlines’ seat-back movies, TV, music, and gaming offerings are comparable to Southwest’s and Alaska’s, though not all of their planes have a seat-back console. Like the other airlines, the company encourages passengers to download their app to access entertainment content from their personal devices, should the flight not have a screen. First or Business Class passengers receive complementary Samsung tablets to watch free movies and TV shows from their seat. This month’s offerings include: “BlacKkKlansman,” “Mile 22” and “Searching,” the John Cho-led thriller. See reviews and ticket prices for American Airlines.
Hawaiian Airlines makes the list thanks to its solid in-flight options, along with their own in-flight video magazine, “Hawaiian Skies.” The video series, which highlights island culture, is produced exclusively for guests on Hawaiian Airlines’ North America routes. Guests on Hawaiian’s transpacific flights also have access to health and wellness videos that include stretches and exercises you can do while in your seat and in the air. See reviews and ticket prices for Hawaiian Airlines.
Also coming in at no. 4 is United, which offers more than 100 TV channels from DirecTV, as well as recent-release movies, and even podcasts. Their new “United Private Screening” options let you view the latest hit movies, TV shows and music videos from Vevo through your seat-back monitor or personal device, depending on the aircraft. Earbuds are also complimentary on most routes. Not all planes have seat-back consoles though, and you’ll want to make sure you charge your device prior to boarding. The airline only offers power outlets on select aircraft. See reviews and ticket prices for United Airlines.
5. (Tie) Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit
As expected, the three low-cost carriers round out the bottom of the list. None of the three airlines offer in-flight entertainment or WiFi. The airlines are upfront about it at time of booking though, saying most customers prefer the cost savings on their tickets, to a host of free movies or television programs. See reviews and ticket prices for Allegiant Air / Frontier Airlines / Spirit Airlines.
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