Can I watch my own films and TV on a plane’s in-flight entertainment system?

We’re so used to choosing our own entertainment on the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime these days, that the idea of not having near total control over what we watch in all parts of our lives is increasingly alien.

Yet when boarding flights, we usually do concede that control. Whether flying short or long haul, we’re typically in the hands of the airline when it comes to what we watch for the duration of our journey – although the entertainment packages provided do vary wildly depending on the carrier and length of flight.

As with most other parts of our lives though, technology is reshaping how we experience flying. In this article we explore what this evolution means for the degree of autonomy we can now have over our in-flight entertainment options.

Can I watch my own content in-flight?

Well, yes and no. Let’s get the bad news out the way first; if you’re expecting to be able to be able to choose any film, TV show or album from the seatback entertainment systems, then you will be disappointed.

However, many airlines – especially on long-haul flights – carry a selection of the latest films and series, as well as classic albums and TV shows. So the odds are that you’ll find something to occupy your time while travelling to your destination. Although, it’s worth checking before you board that your plane will actually have seatback entertainment, as a number of carriers have started to remove screens from seats.

If you are set on watching the latest episodes of your favourite show or catching that film you’ve been meaning to see, then it might be worth downloading it to your device in advance. If you have a Netflix subscription, for example, you can download content to watch when offline, as can you if you’re an Amazon Prime member – albeit only through a few channels.

It’s worth noting that downloading HD content can take up a lot of space on your device. So do factor this in when curating your in-flight entertainment choices.

Can I just stream films or TV in-flight?

While many carriers offer WIFI on their flights, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll be able to stream series as you can on terra firma. This is due to a couple of things; for one, while in-flight wireless is improving all the time, it isn’t always up to the challenge of more strenuous tasks like streaming. If you want to see if your flight will have internet that is up to the task, you can check out apps like RouteHappy, which can give you a good view of your flight’s internet capabilities.

Secondly, in-flight WIFI isn’t always free. Streaming films or TV shows can be data-intensive, so you might find that catching up on the latest series of The Last Kingdom or Community while in the air can be prohibitively expensive if you’re paying for a 20Mb package of data from the airline.

Prepare for take-off

The overriding message when planning a trip is preparation and research – and this applies to your entertainment options too. Airlines are upgrading their fleets all the time and the rise of handheld devices – from tablets, to smartphones and games consoles like the Nintendo Switch – means that there’s less of a need for screens built into infrastructure on board. So do check your flight and WIFI options before you head to the airport to make sure you’re not disappointed as you settle down for your journey.

For more information on flying and air travel, check out some of the links below: