Happened to me a few weeks ago, on a U.S. Airways Airbus. But I’ve seen it happen on other airlines over the years.
The safety briefing was broadcast to all screens. Then, a few minutes after lift-off, the in-flight entertainment menus appeared and everybody started making movie selections. The screens had quirky navigation and didn’t respond well to the touch (no immediate feedback), so you pressed twice and got the wrong selection, etc.
5 minutes later, all screens went black and never came back. We didn’t even get a word of explanation, and all the passengers silently went back to reading books or SkyMall catalogs, or watching movies on their iPads.
So, in effect, the only use of the IFE system was to broadcast the safety briefing and give people a glimpse of the content they would miss.
I know it’s a lot to process when 180 people are selecting different movies to watch or games to play. But I also know the size of the airplane has not increased since the system was installed, and that it’s possible to design computer systems so that they won’t be overwhelmed by a fixed number of interactive sessions. And so that they’ll give appropriate warnings or errors instead of crashing.
I would have expected the whole mess to be sorted out by now. Do these systems get upgraded or are they left to age with the rest of the plane?
Can anybody recount a truly marvelous experience with a IFE system?
Have IFE systems become redundant now that passengers have their own tablets?