Comparing Flights – How to Find the Best In-flight Experience


When searching for flights online most travelers simply conduct a search for the best price.  However, you can get a lot more bang for your buck by doing a little research on the best in-flight experience.  On long haul flights a personal video screen with movies on-demand is a must for me. Business travelers might be looking for airplanes that offer WiFi and power outlets for their laptops.  Tall and long-legged travelers might be more concerned with leg room.

Conducting this type of research is easy and can be completed in a few simple clicks. Prior to booking any flight I always take a quick look at SeatGuru.com to compare the following aircraft amenities.

VIDEO SCREENS

  • None – The most basic aircraft don’t offer any type of video entertainment.  In this case be sure you charge up your laptop, iPod, tablet, Kindle or other such gadget.  Or just bring along an old-fashioned book.
  • Shared Video Screens – Mid-range aircraft offer several video monitors throughout the plane.  In this case you can expect some basic entertainment.  Short-haul flights usually offer a few TV shows while long-haul flights provide an in-flight movie.
  • Personal Video Screens – The best aircraft offer a personal video screen on the seat back of standard seats or folded inside the arm rest in the case of bulkhead seats.

It’s worth noting that regardless of the types of entertainment options that are provided on board you should always come prepared to entertain yourself.  I learned this lesson the hard way on a 14 hour Transpacific flight in a seat with a fancy video system and a malfunctioning audio jack for the earphones.  If the flight is not full you can always request to change seats, but if you’re stuck without any audio you’ll be grateful to have charged your iPod or laptop.1 FREE Audiobook RISK-FREE from Audible

VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

  • Video Channels – With a personalized video screen you can expect a selection of channels including a movie and a few TV shows.  However, if they are not available on-demand the videos play on a loop.  As such you might wake from your nap and be forced to start watching a movie from the middle, or worse yet the finale, only to have the movie start over from the beginning a few minutes later.
  • Personal Entertainment System – The best aircraft provide a variety of entertainment options on-demand including movies, TV shows, music and games.  Some of the more advance entertainment systems allow you to create a playlist from an extensive music library, sort of like a built-in iPod.  This type of entertainment system can be a great electronic babysitter if you’re traveling with the mini-me’s as a selection of children’s movies and games are often provided.
  • SeatGuru.com simply indicates whether an aircraft offers shared screens or personal video screens.  To determine if the aircraft offers videos on-demand, consult the airline’s website for details.

POWER OUTLETS

  • None – If power outlets are not provided on board be sure to charge up your laptop before the flight or bring along that extra battery.
  • Some Seats – If the aircraft offers power outlets for only select seats be sure to consider this when making your seat selection.
  • All Seats – If the aircraft offers power outlets for all seats be sure to check the type of power outlet provided to determine whether or not an adaptor is required.

WIFI

  • A growing number of airlines are offering in-flight WiFi. If you need to be connected to stay on top of business during your flight, be sure to look for a flight that offers this service.

SEAT TYPE, PITCH & WIDTH

  • Seat type – For those of you flying in the fancy class be sure to check which type of seat is offered.  First and Business Class seats can include anything from a Suite or Flat Bed to a Standard Seat.  There’s nothing worse than paying for a premium class seat only to arrive on board and find that the first class seats closely resemble the coach seat a few rows back.  Full details of the seating should be provided on the airline website.
  • Seat pitch – The seat pitch is a measurement which gives you a good comparison of leg room on flights.  Obviously, the more seat pitch the better.
  • Seat width – While leg room is a common concern you might not realize that the seat width also varies among aircraft.

For a quick comparison of these amenities check out the following comparison charts on SeatGuru.com:

Photo Credit: PhillipC on Flickr

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