With continuous advancements in technology, in-flight entertainment on commercial flights is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Airlines not only recognize the need to keep their passengers entertained (especially on long-haul flights), but also diversify their offerings to cater to various preferences and age groups.
While many passengers pass their time on board reading, watching movies or simply taking a nap, there’s also a significant number of people who choose gaming over other sorts of entertainment. From various gaming apps like the Candy Crush Saga to portable game consoles, such as the Nintendo Switch, in-flight gaming has become a popular choice for passengers to pass the time during their travels. Airlines have taken notice of this trend and are continuously working to enhance the gaming experience for their passengers.
A Timeline of In-Flight Gaming
The concept of in-flight entertainment was first explored in the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1920s, Aeromarine Airways showcased the movie “Howdy Chicago” to passengers using a projector, becoming one of the first airlines to experiment with in-flight entertainment. However, in-flight entertainment remained limited to occasional movie screenings until later decades.
The 1980s marked a turning point for in-flight entertainment with the introduction of seatback screens. This technological advancement significantly improved the in-flight experience, offering passengers a more comfortable viewing experience to hold their attention.
In 1975, Braniff International Airways blazed the trail for in-flight gaming by being the first airline to introducing a version of “Pong” that passengers could play on their seat-back screens. This move set a precedent for future airlines to incorporate video games as part of their in-flight entertainment offerings.
As technology continued to advance, in-flight gaming options became more sophisticated. In the 1990s and 2000s, airlines started offering a variety of video games on their in-flight entertainment systems, catering to different gaming preferences and age groups. The games ranged from classic arcade titles to more modern and graphically enhanced options.
The graphics processing capabilities of modern personal devices has led to an era where passengers aren’t beholden to cabin gaming options. Because many passengers have access to games of their own choosing on portable devices they own, airlines are embracing the concept of facilitating gaming in addition to providing gaming options via IFE.
While the IFE technology exists to rival personal portable gaming technology, the cost of developing and installing those devices makes widespread integration across commuter airlines a potentially expensive investment.
With so many passengers bringing smartphones, iPads and laptops on board, airlines are creating ways to integrate these personal devices with their in-flight entertainment systems, allowing passengers to access a broader selection of games through their devices. They’re also enhancing the ability of passengers to play their own games via seat charging capabilities and improved connectivity.
Two Ways of Providing In-Flight Gaming
If you’ve ever flown long haul, chances are the airline of your choice had some kind of IFE offering. For multiple decades, the standard has been in-flight entertainment via seatback screens. These screens typically gave you access to a library of movies, shows, music and games. The latter option allows passengers to choose from a selection of pre-installed games like classic arcade, puzzles and trivia and quizzes available on the in-flight entertainment system.
These games offer hours of endless entertainment and even education, which can be especially fun and beneficial to young fliers. Passengers can control the games using the seatback remote or touchscreen.
Airlines like JetBlue, Delta and Southwest have earned the reputation of having some of the best IFE seatback options.
Airlines also recognize the growing community of gamers who prefer using their portable game consoles during flights. To accommodate them, many airlines have been installing USB ports in every seat, making it easier for gamers to keep their devices charged and enjoy uninterrupted gaming sessions throughout their journey.
For example, airlines like Alaska, American and Hawaiian offer in-seat USB ports to all passengers, including those seated in economy.
Whether passengers choose to play games on their own devices or portable game consoles, airlines are embracing the diverse preferences of modern travelers, ensuring an enjoyable and personalized gaming experience at 30,000 feet above the ground.
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