Airlines offer contrasting entertainment options

Southwest provides the access, while American offers the gear, too.


You can watch TV shows on many American Airlines flights. And you can watch them on many Southwest Airlines flights.

That’s about where the similarity ends.

Like many global carriers, American Airlines Inc. has embraced the idea that it needs to provide both the programming and devices to deliver entertainment to its customers.

Southwest Airlines Co. has a simpler approach: We’ll provide the programs, you provide the device.

Southwest and Dish Network announced a partnership July 1 in which Dish is providing a wide array of programming to customers traveling on Southwest’s newer Boeing airplanes.

But customers won’t find a single drop-down monitor or seatback video screen on a Southwest flight. If they want to watch the Dish offerings, they’ll have to whip out their smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Spokesman Brad Hawkins said that approach is consistent with Southwest’s philosophy. The carrier avoids extra weight, doesn’t have to invest in expensive technology, and doesn’t have to worry that the technology quickly becomes outdated, he said.

In contrast, passengers on American’s airplanes increasingly will see aircraft with a lot of technology. None shows that off better than American’s new flagship, the Boeing 777-300ER.

Passengers in business class and first class have large screens at their seats. Every coach passenger has a small screen embedded in the seat-back ahead of them.

Alice Liu, American’s managing director of onboard products, said customers can enjoy 250 movies, 180 television shows and 350 audio programs aboard the 777-300.

“We actually did a calculation. We think you can fly around the globe 15 times and not have to consume the same content twice,” she said.

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