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Over the last few years, a disappointing trend in commercial aviation has been that a number of airlines are backing away from providing seatback entertainment. While some planes and airlines certainly still have seatback screens you can just sit down and enjoy, the current trend is to provide inflight entertainment that is viewable on your own tablet (that is fully charged with the airline’s app previously downloaded). That’s an easy enough thing to manage as a single traveler, but a much different task when traveling with a whole family.

Photo courtesy of Flugzeug
Photo courtesy of Flugzeug

Alaska Airlines, TPG‘s top airline for 2018, has had a relatively unique hybrid solution for those who found themselves in need of inflight entertainment. They don’t have seatback screens on Alaska planes, but they did have tablets available and pre-loaded with movies, TV shows, music, a kid’s zone and Xbox games. These tablets cost $10 to rent for the flight, or were provided complimentary to those flying in first class or with top-tier Alaska 75k elite status.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines
Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Unfortunately, Alaska’s tablets have recently become more scarce. Over the weekend, Alaska tweeted that tablets are no longer offered on all flights in order to make room for more food and beverage options.

However, after contacting Alaska (and consulting the TPG Lounge), the reality isn’t that Alaska’s tablets have been eliminated entirely, but that they have been reduced. Alaska states to TPG that:

Tablets for purchase are only available on Premium Long-Haul markets (coast-to-coast and Hawaii flights). We previously offered tablets on nearly all flights over 3.5 hours. This change went into effect Nov. 1st.

We continue to invest in our in-flight entertainment. The service now offers over 500 free movies and TV shows that guests can stream to their own devices. Guests are showing a strong preference for the service with continual growth in usage and a decline in usage of tablets – particularly on the shorter flights.

That said, there are reports in the TPG Lounge of recent Alaska Airlines trans-con flights over 3.5 hours (such as from Los Angeles to Newark) that did not have tablets. Relying on Alaska to provide a device for your family at 36,000 feet entertainment is now a far-from-guaranteed situation, so the safest solution is to pack your own or prepare for a tablet-free flight.

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