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TPG reader Thuyen sent me a message on Facebook to ask about how to determine in-flight amenities:

“I was recently on a transatlantic flight and had no seatback entertainment. How can I ensure I’ll be on a newer plane, especially on longer flights?”

In-flight amenities can make the difference toward having a comfortable and productive flight, so it’s important to know what you can expect when boarding a plane. However, airlines operate a wide variety of aircraft, which come in a number of different configurations that are continually being updated, so keeping track of onboard amenities can be tricky.

There are several ways to check for in-flight amenities. The best place to start is by paying close attention during the booking process, as some amenities (like personal televisions) are indicated when you select your flights (depending on the airline). You can also check SeatGuru for details about the aircraft layout and your individual seat, though I recommend cross-referencing that with information provided by the airline to avoid mistakes. Google Flights also recently added in-flight amenities to its search results, so you can get a sense of what’s offered there.

Unfortunately, you don’t always get what’s advertised. Airlines often have to substitute aircraft due to delays or mechanical issues, which can lead to changes in amenities. Even worse, these substitutions frequently come at the last minute, when it’s too late in the game for you to alter your flight plans.

747 Refresh Ground Trial September 11th 2015 British Airways Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways
In-flight amenities (like seatback entertainment) can make a huge difference, especially on longer flights.

If you’re really depending on a certain feature (like Wi-Fi or power outlets), it’s worth checking your itinerary for equipment swaps in the days or hours leading up to your flight. If you’ve been moved to an aircraft that doesn’t meet your needs, you might be able to negotiate a free flight change, especially if you have elite status. However, note that airlines generally aren’t obligated to accommodate you, as most contracts of carriage stipulate that aircraft substitutions are part of the deal.

In either case, if you don’t get the flight experience you paid for, it’s worth letting the airline know. I’ve received compensation for service that didn’t live up to its billing, including amenities that weren’t available after an equipment swap. You probably won’t get much sympathy for a minor inconvenience (like your favorite wine being out of stock), but you may receive miles or a voucher if your complaint is substantial. At worst, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

For more info, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

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