Alaska Airlines quietly cuts inflight entertainment tablets

Aug 3, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, airlines are doing everything they can to reassure customers that it’s safe to travel.

All major U.S. carriers are requiring passengers to wear masks, most have stepped up cleaning procedures and some are blocking the middle seat.

And when it comes to the inflight experience, almost every carrier has made adjustments to minimize crew and passenger interactions. Boarding processes have been modified, food and beverage service has been cut to a bare minimum and inflight entertainment options continue to evolve.

For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter!

In the latest move, Alaska Airlines has permanently removed its inflight entertainment tablets.

Per an update to Alaska’s inflight entertainment FAQ’s, Alaska writes that “in order to minimize contact between guests and crew, we’ve permanently removed inflight entertainment tablet rentals onboard.”

Related: First class on Alaska Airlines flight review

This is definitely a blow to Alaska flyers who are looking to stay entertained during some of the carrier’s longest flights. We’ve reached out to the airline to learn more about the move and will update the story when we hear back.

Related: Complete guide to Alaska Airlines elite status

Though I definitely understand the concern around keeping devices clean and minimizing interactions, the fact that these tablets are being removed permanently appears like it’s also designed as a cost-cutting initiative.

An updated cabin on one of Alaska’s A320s. (Image courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

After all, as demand for travel has plummeted — and is expected to take years to recover — airlines have posted some significant quarterly losses in recent weeks.

Related: Alaska Airlines launches new buy-miles promotion: Should you even consider it now?

To account for that, carriers are understandably looking to trim costs. One major cost-cutting measure is expected this fall, with airlines planning involuntarily furloughs en masse, as they lose essential government aid.

But there are other smaller costs throughout an airline’s operation. The entertainment tablets likely took up too much space in the galley (added fuel burn) and had high maintenance costs.

IFE tablet on Alaska Airlines (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

The availability of inflight entertainment tablets was already significantly scaled back in Nov. 2018. Previously, they were available on all flights over three and a half hours, but Alaska needed to make room for more food and beverage options.

Related: Flight review on Alaska Airlines in coach

So, the carrier kept them around for some of its longest flights — most coast-to-coast hops and Hawaii flights. The rental cost $8 to $10 per segment but were provided complimentary to those flying in first class or with top-tier Alaska 75k elite status.

The tablets came pre-loaded with movies, TV shows, music, a kid’s zone and Xbox games.

Related: American Airlines adds free inflight Apple TV+ streaming

In addition to the tablets, Alaska offers streaming entertainment to your own device. This service will remain after the tablets are retired and will be the primary way to stay entertained onboard.

Through the inflight Wi-Fi portal, Alaska offers over 500 free movies and more than 550 episodes of 80 TV series. This streaming entertainment is free, but you’ll need to bring your own device (and keep it charged).

And as many airlines continue to remove seatback entertainment, the “new normal” post-pandemic will likely be one in which you’ll need to BYOD (bring your own device) to stay entertained onboard.

Featured photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.