When did airlines install seatback entertainment?

The first inflight entertainment screens appeared on the backs of airline seats in 1988 when Airvision, a subsidiary of Dutch electronics giant Philips, installed a 2.7-inch (6.9 centimetre) LCD screen.

Three years later Virgin Atlantic became the first airline to offer seat-back screens to passengers across all classes.

For the first time passengers could choose what to watch and when to watch it. Before that, inflight movies were shown on drop-down screens.

You got to see what the airline decided was appropriate, with audio via slightly weird earphones that sort of delivered sound.

If your sight-line was lousy you might get a stiff neck, or no movie at all.

However, that in itself was an improvement over the days when cabin crew would unfurl a projection screen at the front of the cabin.

From Airvision's tiny displays, seat-back screens have morphed into sizeable items. In 2012 South Korea's Asiana offered 32-inch (81cm) screens to its first-class flyers, but seat-back screens are disappearing.

They're expensive, they add weight and complexity and when most flyers have a smartphone or tablet, airlines are preferring to stream inflight entertainment via an app.

Comments