American Eliminating Seat Back Video, But Doesn’t Tell Customers How to Stream

At an American Airlines Crew News Q&A session between employees and management one flight attendant raised the problem that customers don’t know how to access the inflight video American is providing, “Our customers are having a problem finding the landing page for our inflight internet… they’re having a hard time finding the videos. I probably get 5, 6 people asking on a flight.”

Legacy American Airlines A319

This is increasingly important since the legacy US Airways fleet doesn’t have seat back video, and the new domestic standard will be no seat back video even for brand new aircraft (and for American’s reconfiguration of existing aircraft to shove in more seats).

American expects customers to use their own devices for inflight entertainment, but doesn’t make it easy to do so. Customers don’t know how to access streaming video content. They don’t understand in advance that American’s setup requires downloading their app, and that the app must be downloaded in advance. American doesn’t even make announcements at the gate prior to boarding that they need to do this.

Legacy US Airways

A simple solution — taking the need to use American’s app as a given — would be to simply allow passengers to download the app inflight. There’s certainly the bandwidth for it.

  • For Android products they could even host the app locally for download (though of course would have to push updates for the app out to the fleet, but they push video content updates now).

  • Or they could open up access to Apple’s store or Google Play store, which would mean that customers not buying internet could download apps but not otherwise use the internet.

Of course more detailed instructions may be necessary for someone trying to stream American’s entertainment using a Windows laptop.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Also, AA needs to make sure it’s seat power outlets are working. Half the time they don’t work at all or they are so worn out that the plugs fall out. Without power, using personal devices is dependent on how much battery you have left.

  2. Good riddance. It’ll be nice to not have the woodpeckers tapping the back of my head all flight. And my feet will appreciate the extra space in the footwell without those IFE boxes.

  3. @Sue — what power outlets? As a CLT-based AA flier, we get legacy US Airways planes 95% of the time — none of which even have power.

    It’s pretty awesome.

  4. This is already in place. GoGo currently allows users to download the GoGo Steaming app inflight to view content. For that have the app, it’s also a loophole to get 15 minutes of free inflight wifi, since GoGo has to remove the restrictions in order for the user to access the Apple AppStore to download the GoGo streaming app.

  5. Gets even harder when the inflight wifi quits half way thru the flight as it just did today.

    Way to go for great 🙁

  6. Good catch Mr. Gleff! If you have to have an app, and they don’t tell you in advance you have to have an app, and they don’t allow you to use the wifi to get the app, (like GoGo sensibly does); Then American is putting their appless passengers into their AAbsurd customer service hell. This is another example of why AA cares little, or not at all, about their passenger’s experience on their flights.

    This is just as absurd as reducing the pitch on seats, while still allowing for recline, which further reduces the pitch to what is a totally unacceptable and painful extent. They should check with Greyhound bus to see how this can be done. They also don’t need the tray tables for meal service anymore do they? Just think of the weight savings from getting rid of all those tray tables. How many gallons of fuel could be saved? The tray tables are basically useless in the basic economy configuration. A cupholder would suffice.

  7. @ Chrissy: Exactly. The less seatback IFE on domestic flights the better.

    I’ve yet to meet anyone who selects on flight based on IFE. Maybe if price, schedule, frequent flyer program, and seat comfort are all identical then IFE makes a difference…


  8. Ahh, that’s why I there was announcement after announcement on UA last week with instructions on how to access video content before departure. All they have to add is “unlike AA we care about your connectivity” and boom, competitive advantage.

  9. I flew a United leg last week and was reminded just how much more capable their app is vs AA. Truly night and day.

    The entertainment is built in and the advantages take off, no pun intended, from there.

  10. Alaska pulls this off quite well. They allow the Gogo download inflight and they warn you on the Hawaii flights that you need to pre-download the content because it’s over water. The selection is so-so, but Netflix offline to the rescue.

  11. The streaming is awful. Terrible old content, doesn’t work half the time, and you’re tangled with cables (when they even have power). Plus try eating or working at the same time! If I want Spirit features, I’d fly Spirit.

    I’ve started flying Delta instead: like JetBlue and Virgin (who unfortunately they have small networks) I know I will get IFE all the time — extremely important when I have the family in tow. Bonus — better planes, better people, better app–it’s like being on a whole different planet when I fly them!

  12. Westjet does gate and boarding announcements asking their “guests” to download the app before/during they board, but then again WS is a customer service-centric carrier so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  13. So how does a passenger with an Amazon Kindle use the streaming IFE. As far as I can tell, Amazon dropped the AA app from the store years ago and has never brought it back. Will AA tell us about that as well?

  14. This is an area where United did a decent job – all AA had to do was copy.

    When United rolled out streaming video a few years ago they hired a contractor to be present at many airports to educate people how to stream before boarding. Agents also have a script to make an announcement at the gate and there is signage telling people how to download the app and stream once on board.

    Once on board, there is a decent “how-to” guide listing food and beverage and wi-fi/entertainment options at each seat.

  15. Varmint says:
    March 2, 2018 at 11:05 am
    So how does a passenger with an Amazon Kindle use the streaming IFE. As far as I can tell, Amazon dropped the AA app from the store years ago and has never brought it back. Will AA tell us about that as well?

    Look for the Gogo app-the streaming IFE on AA will ask whether you want to use it or the AA app.

  16. Is the AA app the same one used to view reservations, etc. or is there a separate AA app to view videos?

  17. Delta is hands-down the best US-based legacy carrier. Although their planes can be old (such as the 763/764ER), they are updating their fleet with brilliantly new and shiny airbus’

    Anyone who thought AA would have great customer service after US Airways merged is living under a bridge. America West was ICONIC for its terrible customer service, which then translated to US Airways, and now AA.

    I travel to AZ and TX, but will gladly accept the connection in SLC with Delta any day.

    To answer the above question, it is the same AA app as the one you use to book, obtain boarding pass, etc.

  18. I just flew AA from Philadelphia to Miami and there were no charging ports, only a headphone jack and central monitors. Using the AA App and Gogoinflight while connected to the AAflight WiFi, my phone indicated I needed to connect to AAflight in order to stream movies despite constantly updating my flight status because I was connected to the network.

    WTF? Are some 4 hour flights not equipped for entertainment?

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