Remember when nearly all planes had in-flight entertainment for free? These days the screens have begun to disappear, and even if you bring your own device, you’ll be lucky to find sketchy Wi-Fi at $10 per session. However, JetBlue is looking to bring back in-flight distractions via a new deal with Amazon that provides access to its Instant Video catalog along with Amazon Prime Music streaming, shopping, and more. The new service rolls out this week on over 150 JetBlue planes.
Prime subscribers get the best end of the bargain: unlimited access to streaming through JetBlue’s speedy Fly-Fi broadband. But Amazon’s not leaving out non-subscribers, necessarily — they’ll be able to rent from Amazon’s video library without ponying up for onboard Internet.
The entertainment options don’t stop with video options, either. Amazon’s music streaming will allow Prime members to stream the same free selection of tracks as they can anywhere else. Additional albums and songs will be available for purchase a la carte.
Amazon says it worked with JetBlue to integrate its music and video storefronts into the Fly-Fi Hub. The system launches today on all Airbus A321 and A320 aircraft later this year, and the system is being developed for JetBlue’s Embraer E190 to roll out sometime in 2016.
The partnership with JetBlue is the latest in a string of upgrades Amazon’s made to its video streaming service. Instant Video most recently gained the ability to stream in high-definition on iOS devices, and last month came to Android tablets outside of the company’s Fire device ecosystem. Amazon has also been working to expand its library with new display technologies, including 4K UHD and HDR titles, as well as building up popular original content, including Transparent season 2, Ridley Scott’s thriller The Man in the High Castle, and the coming of age comedy Red Oaks.
“We’re excited to bring our unlimited on-demand entertainment to JetBlue and offer it over a fast and free internet, just in time for the busiest travel season of the year,” said Michael Paull, Vice President of Digital Video at Amazon. “Customers can binge-watch their favorite series on Amazon Video, including the new critically acclaimed Amazon Original The Man in the High Castle, catch-up on the latest movies or stream top rated children’s programming, instantly while in the sky.”
The convenience is undeniable, and the value proposition isn’t bad — JetBlue normally charges $9 per hour for high-bandwidth Internet access. But the deal does seem to fly (no pun intended) afoul of the FCC’s recently revised net neutrality rules, which prohibit the kind of preferential treatment Amazon’s service is set to receive (Netflix subscribers, for example, have to pay for faster access). Whether the agency’s regulations apply to onboard Wi-Fi is another question, but the partnership is likely to rub some companies the wrong way. As for the consumer, it’s a nice win in the fight for better in-flight accommodations.
Updated 11/24/2015: Amazon Prime Instant Video and Music lands in 150 Jet Blue planes this week.