Posted June 11, 2008 by Carl Unger
Late last week, JetBlue announced a new deal with six big-time Hollywood studios. Judging from JetBlue's press release, the move should have elicited banshee screams of delight and countless red carpets unfurling across our proud nation. More choices! First-run movies! Horton Hears a Who!
Except the movies still cost $5 a pop.
Now, don't get me wrong, better films equals a better entertainment experience. Imagine flying from New York to L.A. with nothing but Paris Hilton movies playing on your seat-back screen. Yeah, it's terrifying.
So JetBlue's new movie package is definitely a welcome addition. Too bad about the cost, but it brings up an interesting point: Is it really fair to expect airlines to offer amenities such as first-run films for free? With oil prices at unfathomably high levels, carriers today are quite literally in a life-or-death battle with seemingly unstoppable economic forces. Can we seriously ask these airlines, engaged in fisticuffs with an unrelenting foe, to put on a first-run movie? For free?
It's an interesting question, and one that could quite convincingly be argued in either direction. On the one hand, you have the "tough luck" crowd, which justifiably blames poor business management and exorbitant executive salaries for the industry's financial woes. "$5 for a movie?" they might say. "Give me a break!"
On the other hand is a more sympathetic crowd, one that points to a wild economy as the root cause of the industry's sorry state while acknowledging that, sure, most airlines kinda sorta didn't make things any easier on themselves. "$5 for a movie?" they might say. "Maybe I'll just read a magazine."
In my opinion, this is something JetBlue has to do. It's providing a premium service (first-run films), so it has every right to make a few bucks off people that use it. Yes, onboard movies were free in the old days, but this isn't the old days anymore. For whatever reason, airlines today have to scrap for every dollar, and passengers will probably save themselves a lot of grief if they simply accept this paradigm shift: The old days are gone, my friends. Time to face the future.
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