MIAMI – It looks like in-flight entertainment (IFE) is going to become even more passenger-friendly – and wireless – at a major US airline.

Digitaltrends.com this week looked at United Airlines’ (UA) recent orders for 270 Boeing and Airbus airplanes. Part of the requirement for those aircraft is that they will have Bluetooth-enable seatback entertainment systems in every seat. UA also said it would retrofit its entire mainline fleet so that current aircraft have similar wireless capability.

Up to now, to use a plane’s IFE, passengers had to bring along a pair of wired headphones, use a pair provided by the airline (perhaps for a fee), or use a headphone to Bluetooth adapter.

United’s move might be seen as a turning point for the industry that has typically seen wireless capabilities in the cabin as a safety concern. Everyone turn off your laptops and put your phones in airplane mode, please.

Apparently the proliferation of wireless technology throughout society has alleviated those concerns.

Confusion Ahead?


But there may be some problems to work out. How will hundreds of people in a confined space all pair their wireless devices simultaneously without interference? Typically, when you pair a Bluetooth device, there are few to no other nearby devices to pair it with. But now with perhaps 200 seats within 20 yards of you, it may become a difficult task to find your seat’s connection.

Likely, there is an IT group deep in the airline’s headquarters working on a solution.

United appears to be the first major carrier to commit to Bluetooth. But others will likely follow quickly due to passenger demand. After all, electronics companies are all but banishing wired connections, making wireless entertainment just another common aspect of daily life.


Featured image: United Airlines’ new Boeing 737 MAX 8. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways