Consumer electronics trump airline movies

There is a growing concern among airline companies spending millions to upgrade in-flight entertainment that Apple iPods and netbooks may make the costly upgrades a waste of time and resources.

The number of people who bring iPods, handheld gaming units and laptops onto the airplane while traveling has drastically increased over the past couple of years, with some airlines re-thinking how to go about upgrading.

Instead of offering in-flight entertainment, airlines such as Delta Air Lines now offer Wi-Fi Internet service for any devices, including netbooks, capable of accessing the Internet.  Other companies are thinking about charging passengers for the right to use power sockets and USB ports, allowing them to plug in and re-charge devices during the flight.

“They’re so many reasons for airlines to change the way it works right now,” Center of Asia-Pacific Aviation analyst Peter Harbinson told Reuters.  “The biggest advantage for airlines is the weight of the IFE equipment. Fuel burned, regular engineering checks, and licensing fees to movie studios all add up to a considerable amount of money for airlines.”

Airline companies can now focus on letting passengers entertain themselves during flights, and no longer have to install and maintain expensive in-flight entertainment systems from Panasonic and Rockwell Collins.

I personally enjoy the ability to listen to my own music and watch my own movies while traveling, as I no longer have to endure whatever in-flight movie is selected.  Furthermore, the ability to access Wi-Fi allows me to get work done regardless of where I am — a luxury that obviously wasn’t available just a few years ago.

Do you still have an interest in in-flight entertainment, or would you rather listen to your own music and watch your own movies while flying?