- In-flight entertainment is a big investment for major airlines.
- Airlines including Delta, JetBlue, and United have teams of people who choose content.
- Mark Muren of United says customers’ enjoyment is top priority when selecting titles.
Airlines carefully curate the movies and TV shows that passengers choose to skip, rewatch, or experience for the first time on their flights.
Scrolling through titles on an hourslong flight might sometimes feel like a mindless activity, but airlines have teams dedicated to providing the perfect in-flight entertainment.
Ekrem Dimbiloglu, managing director of in-flight entertainment and connectivity at Delta Air Lines, told Business Insider that the airline has invested $1 billion in entertaining passengers over the past decade.
Delta and its competitors work with Hollywood studios to secure blockbusters and indie films.
Dimbiloglu said the Delta Studio content team analyzes “usage data and our own research on box office performance, industry trends, and hidden gems.”
Mark Muren, the managing director of product, identity, and loyalty for United, said studios approach his team toward the end of the year to discuss titles to add for the following year.
One gem that both United and Delta passengers have enjoyed this year is “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” the latest installment of the classic movie series.
The airlines service a diverse set of clientele. They must consider different generations, cultures, careers, and more when choosing which content to offer.
“For example, we see that business travelers enjoy live TV and our Masterclass offerings,” Dimbiloglu said.
Mariya Stoyanova, director of product development at JetBlue, said her team looks for new releases like “Barbie” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” but they’re also sure to include comforting classics like “Friends” and “The Office.”
JetBlue’s team includes a content strategy crew member whose job is to analyze “trending, popular film and television content each month.” The airline inked a deal with streaming platform Peacock over the summer to provide exclusive content to customers.
To stay up to date, airlines must periodically remove and shuffle around titles depending on their popularity. For Delta, it’s every six to 12 months, with new content every month. Titles last about four to 10 months on JetBlue.
United tries to find content that would suit all its passengers — and the team avoids titles that might make the flying experience less enjoyable, Muren said.
One thing the team avoids: disaster movies, like “Snakes on a Plane.” That probably wouldn’t make it to your seatback, Muren said.
The most watched titles on United flights in 2023 were “John Wick: Chapter 4” and “The Last of Us.” Meanwhile, “Sound Therapy” was the most popular audio, according to a LinkedIn post by the company.