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American Airlines ditching in-seat video screens in new 737 aircraft

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90 percent of passengers bring a screen on board

Boeing Holds First Test Flight For 737 MAX Aircraft Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

When American Airlines begins taking delivery of the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft — the newest variant of the most popular commercial jet airliner in history — later this year, one thing will be missing when passengers climb on board: in-seat video screens.

Ninety percent of passengers on American flights bring a phone or tablet with them, according to an American Airlines statement sent to The Verge, and the airline says it wants to focus on providing high-speed data connections and other entertainment options instead of seatback video screens. American points out that the in-seat monitors will be obsolete within a few years, while customer-owned devices are constantly updated.

Instead, American will let customers connect to its onboard Wi-Fi network and stream on-demand movies and TV shows or live TV channels to a phone, tablet, or laptop, without paying for a data connection. The airline says the streaming options will be available from gate to gate.

Photo: Boeing

But not all airlines are jumping on the no-video-screen bandwagon. “Providing seat-back entertainment in addition to the ability to access content via mobile devices onboard is something Delta is choosing to invest in while competitors remove options,” said a Delta Air Lines spokesperson to The Verge. “Our customers tell us that flexibility is important to them and we will continue to listen to them.”

American isn’t taking screens out of all its aircraft, either. Screens will remain on its wide-body international aircraft, even as it moves toward streaming-only options on many domestic flights. American also said that half of its domestic narrow-body aircraft will have power ports at every seat by the end of 2018, with 85 percent equipped by 2020.