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“Fly the friendly skies” with United Airlines – but don’t expect to be entertained….

By on February 12, 2015 in USA

As I boarded the United Airlines plane for the 12-hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco one thing struck me…. Can you spot what it is in this photo?

Fly the friendly skies with United Airlines

“Fly the friendly skies” with United Airlines – No screens in the seats

Yep, no screens in the back of the seats and old-fashioned drop-down screens. I can’t remember the last time I was on a long-haul flight that didn’t have a personal screen in the back of the seats.

As we taxied out for take-off there was a short video message telling us that the plane was “wifi enabled” and we could connect to the Internet for $17, and that we could also watch streamed movies on our mobile devices for FREE using the onboard streaming service.

Excellent I thought, a solution. 12 hours of movies on an iPad. Better than nothing, but a bit rich it is BYOD (bring your own device). No tablet or smartphone and you are stuck with the drop-down screens. Plus, there are no charging points at the seats so you better have a full battery or more than one device on a 12-hour flight.

Got the iPad out and fired it up, and success, connected to the plane’s wifi and I could see the movie list… But it didn’t work. Every time I tried to play one I got an error. OK, I thought, try the iPhone. Again, connected to wifi OK.

Fly the friendly skies with United Airlines

Went to the movies page.

Fly the friendly skies with United Airlines

And again nothing would play. I got an error message about a poorly formatted URL.

Turns out that the key (pun intended) to the problem is the little blue key (see above image) on the movie. This blue key means the film will only play through the United App.

Now, this was the first I had heard of this. There was nothing mentioned when I booked the flights, and the ground staff at Singapore didn’t mention this to me… a little “oh sir for your long-haul leg across the Pacific you will need the United App installed on your mobile device”… would have been helpful. Weirdly the movie trailers play okay without the App.

So the solution to this is to install the App. However, to do that you have to connect the Internet and that will cost $17.

I asked one the cabin crew about the problem with playing movies and they didn’t seem to understand the system and why the movie wouldn’t play. I later asked them about getting the App and they just shrugged and said I would have to connect to the Internet and download it.

Luckily for me, I do have the App installed on my iPhone, if I didn’t then I would be stuck with 20 or so (mainly foreign) films I could watch, or 5 rather odd looking TV series.

I must admit the selection of movies is pretty good…

Fly the friendly skies with United Airlines

Movie selection

However, there is a problem in that the onboard wifi kept crashing.

So much for the friendly skies….

Bored now… Going to try and sleep.

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Nick's continued wanderings can be followed on Twitter: @nickswanderings.
Photos from this blog are available for purchase via Shutterstock and Eyeem

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