Delta executive says airline will continue to invest in in-flight entertainment

With more people traveling with laptops and tablets, you would think airlines would get out of the business of providing in-seat entertainment. They could give passengers some in-seat power and internet and let them fend for yourself.

But Mike Henny, Delta’s director of customer experience, says his airline has no plans to stop giving passengers in-seat entertainment. In fact, he expects Delta will continue to invest in in-seat entertainment, with sharper, clearer screens with even better resolution. That sort of investment is expensive, but Henny said customers demand it.

“Particularly on longer haul flights, you may not have a device,” he said. “Or you may just want a bigger library of content. We want to help you pass the time more easily and give you more choices. We’ve got giant servers and a true library of curated content with options that you may not have had.”

One of the keys is so-called early window content. These are generally television shows and movies that recently aired or premiered in theaters and are not generally available via Netflix or iTunes. Airlines pay a lot of money to get this content early – no one would tell me how much – but executives and analysts say customers really enjoy it.

“Early window content does tend to be a little more expensive,” Henny said. “When you are sitting on a plane for several hours at a time, being able to see the latest movies that were in a theater several weeks ago is a big deal. In the grand scheme of things that’s something we do view as worthwhile.”

Henny said Delta plans considerable investment in in-seat entertainment in the next couple of years, now that executives have successfully merged two airlines – Delta and Northwest – and brought the combined carrier to profitability. Generally, the airline will put the best systems on airplanes that usually fly longer flights, he said.

“We went from a position of being in survival mode and integrating two carriers to getting to profitability,’ Henny said. “We got to the point where we had the luxury to invest a lot more in our infrastructure and on-board product.’

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