Since American is Taking Out Seat Back Video, Prepare With an Amazon Tablet for $20

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American Airlines is getting rid of seat back video from its domestic fleet. As part of their “Project Oasis” retrofit even planes that have seat back screens are going to have those removed.

While American claims 90% of customers bring their own devices, so screens are unnecessary, that number can’t possibly be right unless “devices” include “flip phones.” Older travelers and children frequently don’t have their own devices. A family of five probably doesn’t own five tablets.

And of course even if customers can manage without seat back video you’d be hard pressed to find any that prefer not to have seat back screens. American will lag in customer experience behind Delta.

As regular readers know I don’t often use seat back video. I don’t rely on the airline to entertain me. I always bring and watch my own. You should too.

Via Mommy Points you can get an Amazon Fire 7 Tablet 8 GB for just $19.99 plus tax and one American Express Membership Rewards point using promo code AXPFIRETAB7. You can link an American Express Membership Rewards account and pay using as many Membership Rewards points as you wish, but you should just use one point for maximum effect.

If you want more premium versions of the tablet,

This won’t help of course if the federal government bans personal electronic devices in the cabin, like they did on flights to the U.S. from several countries earlier last year. In that case it will mean a desperate run for the hills away from American’s domestic product. But as long as that doesn’t happen at least you’ll have an Amazon Fire tablet.

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. “American *will* lag in customer experience behind Delta?!?” I recently flew Delta and was blown away by how–even as a non-elite–the experience was so much better than AA. Free entertainment, choice of snacks (not generic pretzels thrown in my face), power outlets that worked, and flight attendants who didn’t roll their eyes. Even the pleather seats on an old DL plane seemed newer and of higher quality than the pleather AA is installing on even the 77Ws.

    As for removing IFE, this is just a cost-savings measure by AA, pure and simple. Budget Dougie and his LCC team don’t care, as long as they offer a plastic tablet holder and USB power.

    Except, I already schlep enough stuff around when I fly, so maybe I don’t want to add the extra weight of my iPad (another personal belonging to keep track of). And the power outlets are useless if they don’t work–which they often don’t. On a recent flight, the FA used her tablet to unceremoniously give me 2,000 worthless Advantage miles. They can keep their miles, I’d rather have an outlet that works.

  2. LOL. The obsession with the seat-back screens. Good riddance on domestic flights I say.

    EXP on AA.

  3. I no longer use my phone or laptop for videos. They wear out the battery. With smartphones, the mini-USB has a limited life, maybe 3 years. Keep pluging it in and out and it gets worn out.

    Therefore, I must choose if I want to buy a tablet just for AA. No thanks. I’ve already decided that AA is a 3rd tier airline for me. My 2nd tier is Alaska, Delta, even United. Usually, I cannot fly 1st tier, such as SQ, because they don’t fly domestic US flights.

  4. Last time I tried, Amazon Kindle was not supported by the AA streaming. Has that changed??

  5. Just fly Delta or JetBlue!

    Sure, JetBlue isn’t what it used to be…but it doesn’t take all that much to be better than super crappy American.

    Oh, as concerns another of our super crappy, degraded, airlines, United technically still has a fair amount of Boeing 737s with seatback IFE including live, satellite television via DirecTV (just like at home if one has it – and pretty good, too, both at home or in the air and used to be one of the few reasons I could think of to fly United since I, and my partner, LOVE having live satellite tv when we fly [especially DirecTV])…

    …however, with United’s announcement that the entire Boeing 737 fleet with DirecTV that until recently did NOT have that airline’s INCREDIBLY LAME (at least when one or both of us flew several times last year) now has that dreadful “option” (to choose from mostly 3rd rate programs or movies that better fit the “straight to DVD” category than hit shows, or box office blockbusters that you didn’t then, and still don’t, want to watch) for free to “choose” along with the existing DirecTV that’s NOT free…

    …well, then, I’m pretty sure one does not have to be a jaded cynic like me to already know that it won’t be all that long til United’s PR department (Josh Earnest, WHY did you take this job? It’s to United Airlines what Sarah Huckabee Sanders is to her employer… just sayin’) issues some bs press release saying something like “Passengers Have Spoken – And we listened! With use of our [words omitted: GOD AWFUL] stream to ones personal device up staggering [coz it’s FREE] and demand for DirecTV down [coz it’s NOT free], the real tv is out, and our fake tv with programs we should PAY YOU to watch is in!”

    Or something like that, anyway…

    Anyone up for starting a “pool” predicting how long it’ll be until United pulls the plug on its DirecTV now that it has the super lame and super awful stream to ones own device ‘free’ ‘option’ competing against the pay per view DirecTV ‘option’?

    Is that announcement going to be buried in the 10-Q just after the 3rd quarter ending in September comes out and any accounting charges for discontinuing DirecTV are disclosed then?

    Or early next year, in January, when the 10-K comes out?

    …coz I sure don’t see United keeping the DirecTV going much longer given how it and American battle each other to see who can suck more than the other – since frankly, my dears, they don’t give a damn about their brands or their passengers…

    …and they’ve long since given up any pretense that they really don’t care anymore, too, they’re so blatant and shameless in how there’s no low, low enough, that they’re racing each other to go to…

    Indeed, the shock would be if United sought to be more like Delta or JetBlue than American…

    …then again, that would takes guts, imagination, and visionary thinking – NONE of which exists at either United or American anymore. [sigh]

    Have fun & enjoy holding those hand held devices while watching programs nobody wanted to watch whenever they may have happened to be in a theater or on tv that were so bad you probably never heard of the show until it was among the dearth of shows that actually plays when your device finally syncs with the wifi signal, and NONE of the hit shows/movies promised on United’s web site or its inflight magazine begin streaming, but those dreadful no-name shows (they paid little, if anything, for the licensing rights to show, ‘natch) sure do!

    Don’t forget to buy a bag of popcorn, too, before hopping aboard these sad, depressing seatback IFE-less planes!

    …coz if our experiences aboard United’s stream to device last year are any indication, that bag of popcorn is going to be the only enjoyable thing to while away the time staring at the bare, pleather covered seatback in front of you, as if in a time machine traveling back in time to the 1960s before inflight entertainment began, and airlines actually sought to win ones’ business by bragging about how great their (mainscreen) movies (with plastic tube headphones – no joke) were as a reason to choose them over “Brand ‘X’” that didn’t have any movies on their the crappy planes that in this day and age would likely still be ten times more comfortable than our crappy, IFE-less, densified planes…

    Backward progress, anyone?

  6. I have several of the Amazon fire HD 8’s they are decent for just this purpose. The only warning is that they are limited out of the box by the Amazon infrastructure so you may need to use the google app store hacks to be able to load some other sources like VUDU for this. I love mine and it is perfect for flights but skip the 7 and go for the 8.

  7. Parker exploring putting flight attendants in the lavs for takeoff and landing and putting pax in the jump seats

  8. Let’s face facts American is cheap as hell which is why they are taking away the screens. Unreal that they are further gutting their product. I’ve avoided flying American carriers whenever possible because of this garbage.

  9. It just makes me scratch my head to read the negative criticism about removing seat back IFE while two of the most highly regarded airlines, Alaska and Southwest, do not have it

  10. I truly have to wonder just how many of the folks who complain on blogs actually take the time to e-mail or write to American (and others) who have such awful service and issues…and whether they ever receive a response.
    I have learned that the written word can be very powerful, particularly when you take the effort to put in in an envelope, place postage upon it and mail it! It is easy to delete an e-mail. Less easy to ignore Twitter and other social media because you can’t delete it over and over….it can’t be taken back so they have to respond (mostly) or write some crap about how they are taking care of the issue.
    But if people would just once get together and write to AA about something like the removal of in-flight entertainment, what’s to say that results couldn’t actually be achieved?
    I recently wrote to a store chain about an issue, two associates contacted me to try to resolve the issue…previous e-mails were pretty much ignored.
    I’m sure it is much more fun to write nasty things about them on blogs because they spend their days reading what we write here, don’t they?
    Gary, thanks for the heads up, the code worked for me and I snagged a Fire 8…not sure if I’ll keep it for myself or gift it but that is an awesome price at less than $30. FYI, you have to pay with an Amex Platinum for it to work, at least on mine, but once I switched to that card and used $1 amex points, it went through fine.

  11. @split8s

    My experience as well — the Fire tablet (Silk) was not supported by Gogo. Maybe on newer WiFi installs?

  12. That is correct it is not supported. My kids have a fire tablet and I realized silk wasn’t supported on my way to California. I then downloaded chrome, aa and gogo app and it would never allow me to go past the aa home page saying that it is not supported. This is after backdoor installing all three apps through Google play

  13. Removing the IFE is an awful idea. Even when you bring your own device, it will use battery power. Airlines that have good working power outlets, are not able to charge every device on the plane consistently. Also, the selection that a good IFE system offers will completely surpass the number of items you can download and or stream (unless through Netflix, Hulu, etc.). It’s about AA not having foresight. They will cut costs now. But they are losing a lot of prospective customers that will turn elsewhere. It’s a step backwards if you ask me.

  14. I support this. Any display you install is going to be outdated in 2-3 years anyways, doesn’t seem at all cost effective. Even flying first class on Cathay it’s clear that while the display is good it’s just not at all up to date with the pixel density and image quality of a modern tablet.

  15. “While American claims 90% of customers bring their own devices, so screens are unnecessary, that number can’t possibly be right unless “devices” include “flip phones.” Older travelers and children frequently don’t have their own devices”

    I’d wager that 90% of flyers aren’t children or very elderly people though.

  16. As i promised AA, this lifetime gold is flying other airlines. Just got off a Delta flight with IFE.. Nothing cluttering my table space, and in this case (gasp) ability to cross my legs. I watched the airshow and some live TV. I’ve always taken this position, and after this last flight the discussion is over: IFE is better than no IFE. Period.

    I am making choices based on IFE criteria. Further it ‘feels’ like a more premium item; eg the “cheaper” airlines dont have them.

    As many of us have said, this is a big mistake AA has made. Just absolutely no doubt about it any longer. The old AA is well dead, and the new one is well on its way to becoming a meaningful challenger to Spirit.

  17. Turns out that flights with IFE are always better.

    It is the best proxy to show that the airline cares. The cabin looks better, flight attendants are friendlier, even the food is better.

    Booking based on whether IFE is present is a wonderful tool to have a good trip. Just like having a cup holder in a car used to be a great indicator as to the quality of the car (and, as Gary would remind us, we all can hold our coffee between our legs when driving, so what’s the deal?)

  18. The AA app was not available on the Amazon site, you had to install Google Play as download it that way. It worked fine until recently. AA is now forcing an upgrade, and no the Google Play site says it is not compatible and you cannot download it. AS tells me get have no plans to make their app support one of the best selling tablet lines in the country. Other airlines have working apps for Amazon Fire. As required their app for streaming video. I bought this tablet mainly for that purpose. WHY WON’T THEY FIX THIS???

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