Worried the terrible customer service, tiny seats, baggage fees, lack of food, and frequent cancellations might not be quite enough to make customers completely miserable while using their services, airlines have decided that passengers should probably no longer have TV.
Three major airlines, American, United, and Alaska, are doing away with seatback television monitors in favor of forcing passengers to either bring their own devices or just twiddle their thumbs in their tiny seats for a few hours. Or, I suppose, they could read a book if, unlike me, they can train their eyes on a page in a cramped, moving space without vomiting.
The reason, of course, is money. Those little screens apparently cost $10,000 per seat, and studies show that they are not really an important factor for consumers choosing their flights. But perhaps that was because we assumed they would always be there.
And now, airlines will get to charge $30 for their shitty wifi so you can watch a movie you wouldn’t have paid $15 to see when it was in theaters. Also, the beauty of those seatback TVs was that they did not work without headphones. Now, there will most likely be a sharp increase in full-volume sounds coming from dozens of screens in the same cabin at the same time.
Of course, lack of television aboard an aircraft is a twenty-first century inconvenience that is relatively minor when compared to the travel-related suffering of yore. The word travel itself is derived from the word travail, which means “painful or laborious effort.” Two hundred years ago, there was a very real chance you would die of some foreign sickness on your vacation if your boat didn’t sink on the journey. But that’s not much consolation for the present-day when you are stuck in a two-foot square with nowhere to put your arms using tiny bottles of $10 booze to try and drown out the sound of your seat neighbor watching Godzilla at top volume on an iPad.