American Airlines is to start offering to stream video to passengers' own kit, as long as that kit is a laptop computer and the passenger doesn't mind paying for the experience.
The service offers 100 movies and TV shows, priced at $4 and $1 respectively, which can be streamed during flights on the airline's entire fleet of 767 (domestic) aircraft. The service is managed by Gogo, and even lets passengers take the end of the film with them after they've landed.
It's that Digital Rights Management mechanism which limits the service to laptops, but it also allows passengers to continue watching after landing – TV shows get an additional 72 hours, films are available for only 24.
Gogo already provides Wi-Fi connectivity to a number of airlines, including American, at a rate reflective of the cost of the satellite back-haul used, but both companies are keen to emphasis that film-watching punters won't be expected to shell out for their Wi-Fi access too – that's an entirely separate, and separately billed for, service.
Gogo also provides connectivity for tablets and smartphones, to the point of offering a dedicated client for iPhone and Blackberry devices, but neither of those will be able to watch films for a while.
It has always seemed strange to squint at a seat-back screen while having a much-better display stowed in the overhead locker, not to mention the lack of wide screen on fitted screens makes viewing even harder (we'll never forget sitting through "TARGAT" on an in-flight monitor).
Having said that, balancing a laptop in economy isn't easy, and we're not looking forward to the day when we're all expected to carry our screens with us onto flights – weight allowance permitting. ®