Photo via Netflix
Inflight Wi-fi has been with us for over a decade now, and since 2007, when Netflix began offering streaming movies and shows, passengers have longed for the day when we would be able to have our favorite shows on demand at all times. Well today, Netflix has finally given us that ability, and it’s completely independent of Wi-Fi availability on your flight.
Netflix has announced that they have begun offering downloadable content to your portable devices, which means you can take your favorite shows or movies with you and not have to worry about whether your flight will have Wi-Fi that’s robust enough to make it work. This is truly huge news for travelers.
Over the years, the biggest hurdle for Wi-Fi companies like Gogo and ViaSat has been getting enough bandwidth to the aircraft in order to offer streaming services. Video streaming is very bandwidth intensive, and can degrade the experience for other passengers who are just trying to upload or download documents or update their social media apps during the flight. Though both companies finally offer the capability of streaming Netflix on flights, there are currently less than 100 planes among the combined U.S. airline fleets that are equipped for that functionality.
Though not as popular, Amazon Prime Video has been offering downloadable content for a while now, and I have put it to extensive use during my travels with great success. If I know I’ll be on a three-hour flight, I’ll download three hours’ worth of shows, or a movie that I haven’t seen before. Once you begin watching the show, you have 24 hours to finish it. I expect that Netflix will have a similar restriction in place.
Airlines should also be jumping for joy at this news. Lackluster Wi-Fi has been among the biggest gripes from airline passengers, and in passenger surveys, many respondents have said they have switched airline allegiances based solely on Wi-Fi. Again, much of this frustration links back to the desire for streaming content.
For the low-cost airlines who offer no Wi-Fi or seat back entertainment system, it would be smart to coach passengers to download content before their flights. Several airlines do offer movies you can watch for a fee — but why pay an extra fee if you can bring shows with you that you’ve already paid for?
This is also good news if your flight is delayed, and you’re stuck in the terminal without any other entertainment. At most airports, the only thing on TV is CNN on a continuous loop. Netflix downloads will let you start your show while you’re waiting to board, and then finish it during your flight.
This is a blessing for parents as well. You can download a few episodes of your kids’ favorite shows to watch during the flight, or even later at the hotel, because the free Wi-Fi at hotels is often pretty lousy. There are so many possibilities! Netflix doesn't have their whole library available for download just yet, but this is only day one, and the options are very impressive. Go check it out and see for yourselves. All you need to do is make sure you have downloaded and installed the latest Netflix app for your device.