In-flight entertainment can make the difference between a tolerable flight and a miserable one in the main cabin and can add to the enjoyment of a trip in a premium cabin. CableTV.com, a TV-Internet consumer information resource, recently ranked the in-flight entertainment experience for the 10 largest U.S.-based airlines.
Best Airlines for In-flight Entertainment
The rankings are as follows:
- American Airlines
Here’s what makes each one the best:
The nation’s leading low-cost carrier earned a top score on its in-flight entertainment through a combination of factors. Among them are above-average legroom, live TV—36 channels on A320a and E190s, more than 100 channels on A321s—at-seat USB and power outlets, and free Wi-Fi, with a few more extras in the premium cabin. “Overall, it’s a cozy and convenient company that caters to your comfort,” the report points out. This is no surprise: JetBlue consistently shows up at or near the top of most overall ratings of U.S. airlines.
Another no-surprise result: Delta has been consistently outperforming its two giant legacy competitors—American and United—in passenger ratings. It earned high marks for in-flight food and drinks, along with screens at each seat on most planes and other features. Delta loses the top spot to JetBlue mainly because it charges $16 for WiFi. And Delta offers “really good grub” even in the main cabin.
The second legacy line offers much the same as Delta. Its Wi-Fi is a bit more expensive, but in provides a free media “library” you can access by laptop or smart phone and DirecTV on “selected” flights. It got dinged a bit because not all flights have power outlets or screens.
Alaska, American, and Southwest offer paid Wi-Fi, and those three plus Hawaiian offer at-seat screens on most planes. At the bottom end, lack of both Wi-Fi and at-seat screens doomed Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit to last-place rankings.
Note: Most of my conclusions came from the CableTV.com study, but I checked features with SeatGuru (SmarterTravel’s sister site) where possible.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 11 Must-Haves for Your Carry-on Bag
- Why You Should Never Fly at Night with These Airlines
- The One Thing You Need to Do on a Red-Eye Flight
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most recent information.