Etihad To Ditch Seatback Screens In Economy Class

Etihad Airways, a UAE-based airline, is in the midst of a major cost-cutting effort after years of serious financial struggles and failed investments. Now, Etihad’s next step is one that many airlines have undertaken to reduce overhead and maintenance costs. On narrowbody aircraft, Etihad will be removing seatback screens in their Economy cabin.

Etihad will be removing seatback screens from some aircraft as part of a cost-cutting effort. Photo: Etihad

Etihad’s new inflight entertainment system

Etihad isn’t removing their inflight entertainment system from A320 family aircraft entirely. Instead, Etihad will move to offer entertainment wirelessly. This new system will be accessible through Etihad’s wireless internet connection.

According to Etihad, this system will have close to 300 hours of entertainment available for streaming. However, if you like choice, Etihad is offering a wider selection through the E-BOX STREAM app. Customers will have to download this app to their device prior to departure, but once onboard and connected, the system will allow passengers to access a wider range of movies and TV show options.

Etihad wants passengers to use their own devices to access inflight entertainment. Photo: Etihad

Which aircraft will lose seatback screens?

If you’re worried about whether or not Etihad will offer seatback screens on their long-haul flights to destinations like Sydney or Los Angeles, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Etihad has indicated that all their widebody aircraft will retain seatback screens. Only the narrowbody A320 and A321 aircraft in Etihad’s fleet will see economy cabins without seatback screens.

Etihad’s A320 and A321 aircraft will lose seatback screens in Economy. Photo: Venkat Mangudi/Wikimedia

The retention of seatback screens on widebody aircraft mirrors the practices of other full-service carriers. After all, if you’re going to spend 8-14 hours on a plane, it is nice to be able to watch some entertainment while eating or reclining.

Etihad’s A380s will still have seatback screens in Economy class. Photo: Etihad

If you’re flying on some of Etihad’s shorter routes operated by A320 family aircraft, you can expect to see these planes lose the fixed inflight entertainment. This is all part of the carrier’s new cabin experience on their A320 family aircraft. This includes a new seat designed by UK-based firm Acro. This extra-spacial design seat sounds great on paper, but in reality, seems more like a way for Etihad to reduce costs and increase profits.

What do I do with my device?

On a Virgin Australia flight, I recall having difficulty finding a location to place the tablet provided to me in order to continue my film during the meal service. Etihad and Acro seem to recognize the potential frustration for passengers and have introduced a slight fix.

Etihad’s new narrowbody seat is expected to have easy access for USB charging and a phone and tablet holder. It is nice to see Etihad thinking ahead and focusing on improving the passenger experience. However, not all tablets and phones are the same. It will be interesting to see how Etihad’s new seat tablet holder will adapt to phones and tablets that vary in size.

Is this actually good for passengers?

Most passengers will probably find these changes detract from their overall flying experience with Etihad. I would agree with those passengers. Regardless of cabin class, I really do prefer having seatback screens for entertainment. It saves on space, time for connecting to the online portal, and is one less thing I have to take with me to travel. With some of Etihad’s A320 family aircraft flying on routes up to five hours, I would much prefer an alternate carrier with a fantastic inflight entertainment system.

As Etihad continues to cut costs, some passengers may find other carriers to offer a better experience. Photo: Etihad

Naturally, Etihad is trying to bill this as a positive change, saying that they are installing “modern and refreshed” cabins on their aircraft. While USB power outlets and tablet holders are relatively modern in aircraft seating, the lack of IFE on newer A320 family aircraft does lack a little modernity.

Do you prefer flying with a seatback screen? Would you avoid Etihad’s narrowbody aircraft once they remove seatback screens? Let us know in the comments!

6 comments
  1. Etihads Wifi on their planes is already pretty poor, I cant see adding this IFE experience as an improvement in any way, especially with their current infrastructure. What was once a growing international airline is definitely on its way to becoming a regional, value player.

    1. Yes, remove the hard connection and replace with an unreliable wifi connection where everyone is going to be competing for bandwidth.

      Remove the TV so passengers necks are even more ruined after a long journey.

      Not that I’ve ever flown Etihad (I’ve had the option now and again but chose Emirates instead) but now I won’t even consider them. I dont’ fly anything less than business class when I go to India, but this dereliction of duty to their economy passengers is a disgrace

      Passenger comfort just isn’t a high enough priority

  2. Personally I would pick another airline – ‘refreshed cabins’, yeah, but in this day and age, passengers want to be connected, watch movies etc, so forget ‘refreshed cabins’ and give people a screen

  3. The underlying idea is appealing: replace the relatively bad screen in the seat back (with its horriblly unsensitive protective cover, and scratches/germs) by your own 4K device…which you can view looking downward (on your lap) — much better for your spine than craning your neck forward. They’re not the only airline considering this. But the execution is going to be a challenge. Technically possible, but how will it be in practice?

  4. I have experienced this on American Airlines and it worked well. We were in the first row with a bulkhead and I did n ot findit to be a. Problem with an iPad.

  5. If it is just for 2 hours i can easily go for a nap or read a book or some magazine but for 5 hours, i prefer to have a personal Tv.
    Now if Etihad is financially struggling it does not have the choice to get rid of personal Tvs for their A321 (and keep them for longer haul s) because it is said to cost $10 000 per month PER BACK SEAT for the personal TV s maintenance)…

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