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In-flight Entertainment


My friend Girasoli has just posted about a rather uncomfortable return flight from a Slow Travel GTG. She had no choice of movies, as the entertainment system was centrally controlled. Horrible. This made me think about how very much I appreciate the progress that has been made in many in-flight, in-seat entertainment systems.

This probably sounds insignificant to a lot of travelers. But I cannot bear to be bored. And let’s face it, flying is boring, at best. When I’m bored, every other annoying thing about flying increases in scope. The kid kicking the back of my seat, the passenger in the next seat who hogs the arm rest (which, to me, should be a neutral zone. A kind of fence between good neighbours.)

However, these annoyances can be much more easily ignored by the pleasant distraction and escape provided by a good in-flight, in-seat entertainment system.

I realize that these days, I have more and more options for making my own fun during a flight. I can read to a certain extent, although it can be hard to focus during a flight. Especially in the middle of night, because I can’t sleep during travel, so I’m awake for every painful minute of the flight. I can eat – and I certainly do. I can drink – ditto. And I keep my beloved iPod handy at all times.

I remember a flight back from Hong Kong a few years ago, before iPod and before in-seat entertainment. I read Middlemarch from cover to cover. That’s how long the flight was.

I fly most often with Air Canada, which is frequently mocked by Canadians, but which I think actually stands up well to international comparisons. I have very few beefs with Air Canada. Likely, that’s because I’ve been seduced by their decent in-flight entertainment systems. In roughly the last two years, every flight I’ve made within Canada and to Europe has featured a seat-back system that lets each passenger select her own brand of distraction. There’s usually more than a dozen films, a mix of old and new; some TV shows; even a few documentaries. This is very helpful. I’ve flown twice to Europe with Swiss International Airlines, very nice people, a good amount of chocolate. But the in-flight entertainment system has broken down twice, and that’s unacceptable.

Alas, on Air Canada these days there are an increasing number of advertisements before every movie or program, and these can’t be dodged using fast-forward. But I can tolerate quite a bit to have control of the remote!

Comments (9)

I can't believe you read all of Middlemarch on a plane!

I always make sure I have several books since I'm seldom interested in the movies they show. I do sometimes listen to the canned music they provide (Delta Radio actually has some decent selections). I just wish I sleep the entire time.


I know!!! It was a very quiet flight, the plane was perhaps only two-thirds full and I had a row to myself, so I could actually concentrate. That's usually the problem, I'm too easily distracted by the people around me.

Yes, I can't sleep either - although I wish I could. On my flight to London, British Air -- grrrr. Let me begin by saying it was a 'fully booked' flight. The foot rest was broken - so I had a choice of either having it kept in the semi-upright position or off completely. You can just guess which I chose. The movie screen and sound did not work. I have brought a lot of reading, crosswords and my ipod to keep me busy, but that meant my light had to be constantly left on because neither I nor the flight crew could control it for me. First and last time I will choose British Air.

ah Sandra, things sound so civilized on your side of the world. Last December we went to Thailand with Blu Panorama.
We had no idea this was considered a "low cost " flight as we paid an amount comparable to other airlines except that it was a direct flight from Rome to BKK.
The treatment was unspeakable. As they normally only do low cost within Europe, they treat people on intercontinental flights as bad. There was virtually no entertainment, they brought hardly any drinks, the seating space was a joke, the food was worse than anything I ever experienced anywhere.
Next time I will surely get more information about the airline!


Wow, that WAS a long flight! I must admit I've never gotten past the first couple chapters of Middlemarch...although I loved her novel Adam Bede. Did you actually enjoy Middlemarch? Perhaps I should give it another go...

I flew with charter airlines last couple times(Condor and Transat), simply because they were hands down cheaper than AC out of Halifax. But if the cost was in the same ballpark, I would prefer to fly AC. I know my mom found her flight very amenable when she went to Spain last year.

I don't seem to mind flying at all, I put on the classical music and get lulled into a semi-meditative state. I don't sleep, but find the drowsy state quite relaxing.

"I read Middlemarch from cover to cover." WOW. Long flight, indeed!

I save up magazines to churn through on long flights. Nothing too "heavy" - although the New Yorker is good - short articles are the solution for me when I don't feel like reading a book.


menehune, I'll remember to never fly with British Air (I'm sure a lot of people are saying that right now, with the strike!)

Letizia, poor you! That flight sounds like hell on wings.

Anne, I read Middlemarch for a book club, so I was determined to finish it (I hate it when people come to book club and haven't read the book!!!) I also found the first several chapters pretty dull, but I recall I really became caught up in the novel after maybe the first 20 per cent or so.

Colleen, magazines are an excellent option. A good alternative when things are a little too chaotic to let me sink into a book.

Barb Cabot:

Long flights are always a challenge. Magazines, a good book, an ipod help alot. Once I took a short vacation in the midst of an italian course so I had many good hours of conscentrated study time. That helped alot. I don't own a kindle but I imagine that makes travel time on planes and in airports alot easier too.

My flight really wasn't that bad. At least there were no screaming babies on the way back (although there was one, thankfully not too close to me, on the way to San Diego). I think I ahve just been spoiled by flying Continental with the individual movie screens and all of the choices (that is when they work). I will always choose a flight with the individual movie screens over a flight with just one movie for everyone to watch when possible (unless the price difference was huge). I didn't realize that Air Canada had the same little individual movie screens. Too bad Air Canada is not really an option for me.

I think my biggest problem (besides hating to fly in general) is that cooped up feeling (similar to when a passenger in a car on a long drive).

I agree with you that I hate to be bored on a plane. And that kid kicking the seat... one of the biggest nightmares when flying!

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