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American Airlines Begins Phasing Out Seat-Back Entertainment

Given that the vast majority of airline passengers now fly with one or more portable smart devices (phones, tablets, laptops), it has become clear that the days are numbered for those little screens embedded in the backs of airplane seats.

And sure enough, a new batch of 100 Boeing 737s that will be entering service for American Airlines by the end of the year will not have seat-back entertainment

Installing the systems is expensive and the bulky seats and wiring they require make the plane heavier, thus increasing fuel costs. If customers are going to be glued to their own iPads anyway, what's the use?

The carrier says that customers will be allowed to download movies and TV shows from American's online library for free—though there is a charge of $16 per day for logging onto the Wi-Fi. 

Of course, since we're talking about an airline, there's no telling how long it'll be before you start getting nickel-and-dimed with fees for accessing premium content or renting tablets if you don't have one or who knows what else.

Then there's the matter of airplane Wi-Fi, which is pretty slow and unreliable across the board. American says it's working to address that issue by dropping current internet provider Gogo for a new one, Viasat, that uses satellite connectivity.

There's an easy way to get around paywalls and buffering on flights, however: Simply download your preferred movies and TV shows to your device before leaving for the airport.

But even if you go that route, one thing you're definitely going to need, especially on long flights, is a place to plug in your charger. Are airlines going to outfit planes with more of those?