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Yesterday, I flew a United 777-200 equipped with the carrier’s latest entertainment concept: I could freely stream hundreds of movies and TV shows on my own laptop or United’s iOS app. (Hemispheres magazine said that Android compatibility is coming soon.)

I had never seen a system like it, and it seems like the wave of the future as it’s much lighter for United to remove all of its monitors and let us use our own.

I tested out the system by watching the fantastic Searching for Sugar Man documentary on my laptop on my flight from Honolulu to Guam.

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  • How did I like the personal streaming entertainment?
  • What would I improve?
  • How many TV shows and movies were available?
  • Was there internet on my flight?
  • What has United done with all its monitors?

How It Works

When you connect to United wifi open your browser, you are redirected to unitedwifi.com. The entertainment tab brings up the stream-able options on equipped flights.

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My flight had 36 TV shows loaded, possibly with multiple episodes of each. I didn’t check.

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 2.03.44 PMWe also had 157 movies loaded in several languages.

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You could break down the 157 movies by genre.

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 2.02.17 PMEach had a trailer you could play and some information about the plot, length, and actors.

The system works on an internal network, though at no point did my flight have access to the internet.

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My Review

I love personal, streaming entertainment compared to monitors throughout the cabin all showing the same movie. The odds I’ll like a movie shown to the same cabin are about 15%, and the odds I can find a good one from a list of 100 movies is about 95%.

Plus when you stream, you can choose the time of the flight to watch the movie and take breaks from it at your leisure.

United’s system had great choices and the functionality was perfect. I didn’t have issues with buffering or skipping, just perfect playback.

But United needs to add power outlets if it plans on offering streaming entertainment over our devices.

Honolulu to Guam is an eight hour flight. My laptop had an 80% charge when I got on board, which is about four hours worth of power. In economy, there were no power outlets. (I’m not sure if the plane had them in First Class, but many United planes do.)

That means I couldn’t use the entertainment system throughout the flight like I could if it were a seat back monitor.

If power outlets are added, this is a big improvement over seat back monitors because ditching them saves a lot of weight, which saves a lot of fuel, which saves a lot of money, which means lower fares or a higher return for investors or both.

For now, the flight attendants were describing the entertainment system as a test, and the seatback monitors have not been removed, though they have been covered in fabric.

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Bottom Line

I think in the near future all airlines will feature something similar for all passengers because of the choice it offers and the weight saved. (First class passengers will possibly be provided a tablet to use on board.)

I think the stream-on-your-own-device system works really well, but the power situation must be addressed.

Also: go watch Searching for Sugar Man if you like 70s music or a good old-fashioned mystery.




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