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THE INC. LIFE

American Airlines Thinks This Surprising Thing Is Something People Will Want On Flights (Prepare To Laugh)

The airline is taking a lot of things away, but it thinks this is a good idea.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 11 Mar 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

Corporations are people, too.

Unless they're airlines.

Somehow, the human touchy-feely aspects can desert airlines at the worst of times.

When they're dealing with customers, for example.

That's not to say that occasionally, deep in the bowels of their organizations, there aren't employees who try to make suggestions.

Gary Leff at View From The Wing, for example, got hold of American Airlines' written answers to some recent employee questions and ideas.

Many replies came with a standard "no, don't be silly, we've no plans for that" sort of response.

It's not as if American -- or any other legacy airline -- is going to add bigger seats or bigger planes. (Employees don't even hope for such things anymore.)

One idea, though, did capture American's imagination.

You may not have heard that the airline plans to eliminate seatback screens on many of its planes.

The official reasoning is that 90 percent of passengers bring their own devices onto planes anyway. (In many cases, those devices are called cellphones. Their screens are still smaller that the old seatback screens.)

So why, the airline's argument goes, should American offer seatback screens, when passengers have their own screens?

Now it just so happens that a more realistic reason for removing seatback screens is that it makes the planes lighter -- and therefore more fuel efficient -- and it saves on maintenance costs.

It also allows the airline to put in thinner seats -- and therefore shove more of those seats onto planes.

Of course, those who have to deal directly with passengers are worried that the world doesn't really look quite as it does through the eyes of American's management.

They know that families with two children, for example, don't often get on planes with four iPads.

Without seatback screens, how are those kids going to be kept quiet?

No, American doesn't seem interested in, say, renting out iPads.

Yes, it could be more revenue. It could also be more maintenance.

One employee, however, suggested offering passengers headphone splitters, so that families could huddle around their one iPad -- like families who huddled around tiny TV sets in the 50s -- to watch a movie.

American called this a "nice, family-friendly suggestion" that should be passed on to those who make decisions on such things.

Please imagine, then, that the family brings one iPad on board. It's, say, a standard size iPad.

So, with these headset splitters, two or three members of the family could watch the same screen.

Except, well, who would hold it? Or would it be placed on the tray table of the person in the middle, if three people want to watch?

Have you ever tried watching the screen of the person sitting next to you? Your neck wouldn't be grateful. And with seats becoming ever narrower, your hips might need some maneuvering, dad.

Really, how many people want to watch the same thing anyway?

In our individualistic society, everyone has their own entertainment because everyone is their own entertainment.

Oh, and on top of all that, American will have to rely on the quality of its new ViaSat gate-to-gate WiFi.

You see, the airline's plan is to stream entertainment. After all, with no seatback screen systems, what else can it do?

And, yes, you'll have to pay for the WiFi.

So these are the joys you might look forward to in the new American Airlines Economy Class, in order to be entertained.

Headset splitters.

Really, one shouldn't scoff. This could be an excellent way for bringing American families closer together.

Oh, and here's another lovely aspect.

American could charge families for the splitters, couldn't it?

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