Airlines are ditching seatback screens and making you use your phone to watch movies

  • Airlines are beginning to remove seatback screens from aircraft.
  • They're doing this because travelers are increasingly favoring laptops, phones, and tablets to seatback screens, which are expensive and add weight to the aircraft.
  • Instead, airlines are making entertainment options available to passengers on their personal devices.

Airlines are beginning to remove the seatback screens passengers once used to watch movies and TV shows, according to the New York Times. Instead, they want passengers to stream content provided by the airline on their personal devices.

American and United Airlines are not including the screens on new planes designed for short trips, which reduces the weight of the aircraft as well as installation and maintenance costs that can total over $10,000. The shift comes as passengers increasingly favor personal devices like laptops, phones, and tablets over seatback screens. 

RELATED: Here's how to avoid the most pesky airline fees:

Pesky Airline Fees
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Pesky Airline Fees

Foreign Transaction Fees

The best way to avoid these fees is to withdraw the cash you want to spend before boarding the plane to your destination. This way, you won't have to worry about being charged a fee to swipe your card and you can also create a budget for yourself. 

Photo credit: Getty

Data Roaming 

The best way to avoid this fee is to notify your phone carrier service ahead of time that you plan on traveling out of the country. Oftentimes, the company will have international plans that you can initiate before your trip. 

Photo credit: Getty

Internet Fees

The best way to avoid this fee is to use the internet at locations that provide the free service such as cafes or coffee shops or even the hotel lobby. 

Photo credit: Getty

Baggage Fees

The best way to avoid this fee is to check and make sure your airline allows you to check in bags for free. If the airline you selected doesn't offer that service, carrying on a smaller suitcase is an alternative option. 

Photo credit: Getty

Ticket Cancellation

This best way to avoid this fee is to use the 24-hour cancellation window most transportation services provide. However, if you are unsure about your trip while you're booking it, consider paying for cancellation insurance. While it may make the ticket more expensive, it also give you the comfort of cancelling your ticket whenever you want. 

Photo credit: Getty



In response, airlines are offering free mobile messaging and in-flight entertainment that passengers can stream on their devices. Delta Airlines announced it would make hundreds of movies and TV shows available to passengers on their personal devices and on aircraft with seatback screens in 2016, and introduced free mobile messaging for passengers in 2017. Alaska Airlines rolled out a similar service in 2017, while American and United have moved to make more entertainment options available to passengers on their devices, according to the Times.

While this shift may be cost-effective for airlines, some travelers prefer seatback screens to using personal devices because they take up less space and don't threaten to drain their devices' batteries. This means airlines may have to make investments in outlets and increase the quality of their entertainment offerings to gain an edge on the competition.

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