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TravelHaven News Brief – Mobile Gadgets Doom In-flight Entertainment?

Airlines around the world spend millions of dollars annually upgrading in-flight entertainment systems. But iPods and other mobile gadgets are rendering that pointless, according to a recent Reuters story. Passing time on overseas flights with airline-provided movies and games on a minuscule 5-inch screen provided by the airline will soon be a thing of the past, as more and more airline passengers carry low-cost netbook PCs and other mobile devices, especially MP3 players, when they travel.

With USB ports and power sockets increasingly common even for economy class on many foreign carriers, the concept of in-flight entertainment is changing quickly. Delta Air Lines has begun offering Internet connection on board so that passengers can continue Tweeting and Facebooking instead of flipping channels on an in-flight entertainment system. This content customization allows passengers to pick and choose what they want to watch or do during their flight.

Airlines that face weak travel demand and rising costs for fuel (among others), should embrace the technology, saving licensing fees to production studios and maintenance on their own systems. There is also fuel to be saved by jettisoning the on-board weight of an in-flight entertainment system. This all adds up to a considerable ongoing expenditure by airlines.

Airlines can save money in tough economic times and simultaneously trumpet a product enhancement. Passengers with a power socket at every seat can use laptop PCs and mobile devices without regard to battery life, which also frees up cabin crew. And carriers at the low-cost end of the industry, always looking for fresh revenue, could charge for their use.