Watching a movie on a plane

What was once a novelty is now a pain

When I was a kid, I frequently spent my summers in Austria, the country I was born in and my mother’s homeland. We would fly out early June and stay with my grandparents until August. My first summer trip to Austria was in 2011 when I was ten years old. It was my first real flight and the first flight that I would be able to remember. I was wowed by the on-flight meal, which I asked to have packed up, and was eager to watch an in-flight movie. At that point, the movies were shown on central TVs placed above the aisles, and passengers would have to plug their earbuds into the ports by their seats to listen to the audio of whatever movie was on display at the time. 

As the years passed, in-flight movies became more advanced. Now each seat has their own TV! By age thirteen, I was happy to be spending my seven hour journey watching recent blockbusters that were not available on Netflix. 

Now that I am older, we do not spend summers in Austria anymore. I haven’t been since 2016. 

My family lives in Moncton, so I do not have to fly home for breaks. Before this summer, I had not flown since 2018.

Over reading week, I took a trip to Ontario with someone who hadn’t flown since 2012. Like me, they would often spend the summers of their youth staying with their grandparents in a country overseas. 

TVs on planes aren’t as novel anymore. Most people have access to a streaming service and a device that allows them to download their favourite content before takeoff. Some people even splurge for in-flight Wi-Fi. In comparison to 4K streaming and bluetooth audio, plane TVs and crappy plane earbuds do not seem appealing. 

For the person I flew with, however, the on-flight TV was a thrill. While I listened to music and read books on my iPad, my flight partner watched a movie without sound. They didn’t bring wired earbuds, so they watched Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile—a musical—with subtitles. On the way back, we got a pair of the on-flight earbuds and watched Minions: The Rise of Gru. The sound and picture quality were terrible, but it was nice to experience the movie through the excitement of my partner. 

I heard that some American airlines are going to be offering free Wi-Fi on planes soon. I do not know how to feel about that. I think maybe it’s good to spend those hours above ground away from the world. I think it’s good to get excited to watch a movie in 360p. 

Next time you’re on a plane, consider this. Maybe pack the wired headphones you got from your 2015 iPhone 6s and go back in time, when watching a movie on a plane was enough to get you excited.

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