Making Use of In-Flight Time

My Inflight Plan: Unplug

Unplug and catch up on movies and reading. Huzzah — No wifi on this flight.

I have an 11 hour flight to KIK.  Kansai International Airport near Osaka.  This is a United flight on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  They surprised me with a gluten free lunch. 🙂  I am pleased.  Also, the flight isn’t full.

The United Dreamliner Interior

My Inflight Plan:  Unplug

Unplug and catch up on movies and reading.  Huzzah — No wifi on this flight.  As of this writing, United is 64% complete installing wifi on its fleet of 787’s.  There are no shades on the windows.  Cabin lighting is muted, and the windows are dimmed electronically.  The cabin is pleasant, cool air circulates.


However, when the cabin is dimmed, your individual overhead lighting button is also dimmed.  In other words, my dashboard is out.  I have to get out my cell phone light to find the overhead light switch.

Inflight Entertainment

However, the inflight entertainment system is difficult to use. United has clearly stressed content over usability.  “We offer up to 150 movies, 185 television shows, thousands of songs, 20 interactive video games, and even opportunities to learn languages during your flight.”  So, you can plan your time on the plane by researching the United In-Flight Content here.

The touch screen feels nothing like my iPad, which I consider the standard.  Buttons are tiny, it takes multiple touches to select a function.  Just making a volume adjustment stops the movie.  I need to make many volume adjustments as the sound is not the greatest.  It stops the movie every time.   In fact, anytime a menu pops up it blocks the subtitles.

The video interface is nothing like any other… so unfamiliar.   The library is impressive with lots of TV shows and James Bond movies and a number of new releases.   However, there is no way to sort search, and very little filter capability.

Too late, I randomly discover Silicon Valley, a favorite show.  I watch only a partial episode.  Still I have managed to pass the time reading my books and watching a few movies.

As an aside, the entertainment system is interrupted by cabin announcements, made in two languages.  An easy way to rewind the show ten seconds would help with these interruptions.

Simple ways for United to improve:

  1. Add a volume button to the hardware.  It’s the most used feature.
  2. Use lighting on my dashboard (on/off controls, volume, etc.) so I can find it in the dark.
  3. Add search, sort and filter capability to the library
  4. Make the touchpad feel like the iPad and standard touch pads.
  5. Let me plug my iPad into the seat back.

Bottom Line

Good selection of content, library, you can check the content ahead of the flight and set your expectations.

The 787 Dreamliner has a comfortable cabin, with muted lighting for most of the flight.  I wasn’t even aware of my neighbors.

However, the in-flight entertainment system controls are hard to use, the library is hard to search.

These problems were solved a long time ago. How could United get it so wrong?


Author: Cultural Explorer

Multi-Day Thru-Hiker. Cultural Explorer. Traveler of thousand-year old trails. Cool forests of Japan, South America, North America and Europe. The East and the West.

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