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As our world becomes more connected, more people are able to travel to several places all across the globe. While cars, buses, trains, and subways are still efficient ways to get around, they can’t get you all that far without several tanks of gas, nor can they get you over bodies of water separating land masses. For these longer trips, airplanes are still the best means of transportation.

Every day over 8 million people fly on planes, whether for business or leisure, and in 2013 there were an estimated 3.1 billion airplane passengers, an all-time at that point. It’s safe to say that we humans fly a lot. But sitting in place for long stretches of time has gotten more and more difficult for us as technology in recent years has flooded our minds with so much information and so many distractions. And while some flights are longer than others, we still like to keep ourselves occupied while we travel through the sky.

Fortunately, most flight providers now offer several ways for passengers to relax, be entertained, or otherwise remain occupied during their travel time. For those who get anxious while riding in a plane, these distractions might not only preferred but even necessary. And people have various ways of keeping their minds busy on plane rides. About 21% of airplane passengers read while flying, so a good number simply bring their own books, magazines, or newspapers to pass the time. Another 17% simply want to sleep. But for the rest, there are often entertainment options provided by the airline company.

The Evolution of In Flight Entertainment Systems

Just after the first world war airline companies began implementing the first forms of in flight entertainment (IFE). IFE systems at the time were simple and not very efficient, but the novelty of them kept passengers intrigued. For instance, Aeromarine Airways showed the first in flight film in 1921 via projector screen. After World War Two many airline companies began implementing bars and food options for their passengers. And while other companies began to follow suit after these test runs, people began wanting more. Over the decades planes got larger, rides got longer, and people wanted better quality entertainment with more privacy. By the 1960s in flight entertainment had become accepted and generally expected, and so in flight entertainment companies got to work making their systems better and more enjoyable.

In Flight Entertainment Systems Today

Our world is so plugged in today that most of us expect certain amenities anywhere we go. WiFi access, power, and USB support are all very important in today’s society. So important, in fact, that 25% of those surveyed claimed they would choose an airline over another one if it had WiFi services. With WiFi access comes the freedom to stream movies, video, music, and browse the internet on one’s personal device. This privacy is appealing to many people, and since so many have smartphones or tablets, providing WiFi is a great way for an airline company to keep its passengers happy and entertained during the flight.

Beyond WiFi and in seat power, most airlines today also feature screens (IFE monitors) on the back of every seat. Where in the past these companies had to show movies on a single projector for everyone to use, now they can offer personal screens for each passenger. Sometimes the same movie plays for all passengers, while other times people have the option to watch different things. For added privacy headphone attachments are supplied as well.

The Future of In Flight Entertainment Systems

It’s difficult to know for sure where IFE will go in the future. However, as technology evolves and more people have access to their own portable entertainment devices like smartphones and tablets, the way in flight entertainment systems interact with passengers will likely change. In other words, if the goal of IFE is to optimize the passenger’s flight experience, and the average passenger utilizes their own devices for entertainment, then the focus of IFE might have to shift a bit. Rather than providing the entertainment technology itself, companies might begin focusing on ways to enhance the personal experience of the passenger and his/her own entertainment device. Offering WiFi and powered seating is a great first step toward achieving this goal.

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