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In-Flight Movies: The Latest in Airline Cost-Cutting

Southwest, the industry leader in offering a no-frills service that people seem still to value considerably (and which offers no in-flight movies whatsoever), offers this advice to kids traveling on the airline: "We encourage our young travelers to bring onboard any Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved portable electronic device such as a portable DVD player and enjoy the movie of their choice through the comfort of their personal headphones. The flight attendants will make an announcement during the flight about when it's okay to bring out the device and begin the movie!"

If you are a movie addict, or simply can't make it through a long flight without some diversion, this option is unbeatable. Rather than suffer through the box office flop that the airlines offer on your flight, you can pick your own movies, watch them when you want to, pause them to take a nap or get out of your seat, and finish watching them that night in your hotel room or on the flight home if you wish. With compact DVD players coming in at under $100, it would only take 10 roundtrip flights to pay off the cost of the headphones.

A laptop computer can serve the same function well, except that, as seat pitch has decreased, it is increasingly difficult to open a laptop sufficiently even to see the screen. And forget about it when the passenger in front of you jacks her seatback into your lap.

It's worth noting that the average compact DVD player weighs about five pounds, so if 100 passengers carry a laptop or DVD player on board, that's 500 pounds, and we're back to where we started. (This is in part why it is not outside the realm of possibility that we start paying for luggage, including carry-on luggage, by the pound.)

Get Small
Tech gadgets get smaller all the time, and you no longer need a laptop or a DVD player to watch movies; you can do it on your phone. By now, there's not a whole lot you can't do on a tricked-out phone that you can do on a computer, and watching movies is no exception. Previously there was the complication that you are not yet allowed to turn on your phone in flight, but even this has been solved; both the Blackberry and iPhone, for example, have an "airplane mode" in which the wireless features are disabled, allowing you to use all the other features of the phone, including watching movies you have already downloaded onto the device.

Focus on Sleep
Most Americans are somewhat (if not extremely) sleep-deprived, and an airplane without meal service, snacks, Internet access or movies seems like a perfect place to catch up on sleep -- in fact, there's almost less to do on a plane than there is in your own bed.

The problem, of course, is that airplane seats are singularly inhospitable to comfort and relaxation, and it only gets worse on longer flights. Nonetheless, I have made it my own policy to sleep on planes whenever possible; it is a very rare opportunity to make a claim on winks I will otherwise never get back. For more tips, check out Sleeping on Planes.

Stay Home and Go to a Movie Theater
They're much more comfortable anyway.

Read a Book?
Sure, it's old tech, just a suggestion...

Go Anyway,
Ed Hewitt
Features Editor
The Independent Traveler


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