WestJet’s ill-advised move to tablets

Rent one for $10 or stare at the clouds for hours


Larry MacDougal/CP

The winner of the “Dumbest Move Involving Technology Award” this week goes to WestJet for the airline’s plan to ditch its in-flight entertainment system in favour of renting tablets to passengers.

Yup, you read that right–for the low, low price of $10 to $12, WestJet will rent you a tablet pre-loaded with movies, TV shows and possibly games. And if you don’t want to pay? You’ll be stuck looking at the clouds for hours. Unless your flight is at night, in which case you won’t even be that lucky.

The airline is considering deploying the tablets on four planes by the end of the year while it searches for a more permanent solution to a lacklustre entertainment system that includes live TV, which one aviation consultant has called “a complete failure.”

Trying to incorporate tablets is an admirable ploy. Indeed, I used to hate flying because of the inevitable boredom; there’s only so much you can read in one flight, and if there’s nothing good on the entertainment system (and there rarely is), you’re screwed. Now, thanks to my tablet, I look forward to flights as quality me-time where I get to catch up on all the TV shows, movies and games that I’ve loaded onto it and that I normally don’t have time for.

Still, not everyone has a tablet. By way of rough estimate, only a small portion of people on most flights I’ve been on in the past year have had them. The reality is, many passengers depend on the plane’s in-flight entertainment system, as bad as it may be, to get them through their journey. Taking that away and presenting them with only one option–pay up or be bored–is a bad idea that will only anger people.

On the other hand, such a move might also spur tablet sales. If travelers know they have a trip coming up and they’re faced with the prospect of staring at the seat in front of them for hours, they may just pull the trigger and get that iPad they’ve been thinking about.

If so, that might just prompt aviation authorities to fast-track their reviews of the ridiculous rules regarding electronic gadgets, which require them to be shut off during take-off and landing. If it takes the elimination of airline-provided in-flight entertainment and passenger revolt over tablet rental charges to trigger this, then so be it.

Filed under:

WestJet’s ill-advised move to tablets

  1. “Not everyone has a tablet” but many people have smart phones, which are just as good (albeit on a smaller screen), or decent MP3 players capable of displaying videos as well as music.

    Personally I’d rather use my smart phone in-flight than watch the usually lame choices presented by the airline on its entertainment platform.

  2. Kobo, and my knitting (on bamboo needles, of course). I have yet to be taken in to pay a monthly fee to these providers. I have a virgin mobile which costs me about $10 a month,and an internet provider but that’s it. No cable-tv. In any case, I fall asleep on airplanes, sometimes before take-off. I once slept between Toronto and Vancouver, walked for an hour, then boarded a flight to Sydney AU and slept all the way. Walked about the airport for a couple of hours before catching to Perth, and slept all the way. When I arrived Perth, thankfully my final destination, my relative said, poor you, you must be tired – I wasn’t tired one bit!

  3. I don’t see the connection between “WestJet is deploying in tablets” but “merde, not everyone has a tablet.” The two aren’t even remotely connected. Frankly, WestJet offering tablets for people to watch movies of their choice seems inspired–likely cheaper than sticking TVs on everyone’s seat and installing a VOD system, and better than having one screen (that’s several rows ahead of most passengers) showing the same movie on loop (which is also annoying for those who don’t want to watch it). This strikes me as a good thing, not a bad thing.

  4. Way to make a story out of nothing. We can pretty much summarize the real story with this line:

    “The airline is CONSIDERING deploying the tablets on FOUR flights by the end of the year while it searches for a more permanent solution”

  5. I don’t understand why live TV has been such a “failure” for Westjet. Would have been nice to see that fleshed out a bit in the article.

    I once booked specifically with Westjet because I knew it would be the only way for me to watch a live sporting event that I wanted to catch.

    • Fabulous, but will the pilots showup for work?

  6. I rarely see an article with so many uninformed opinions and incorrect facts. You’ve outdone yourself – congratulations!

    WestJet would like to beef up their entertainment system. It’s a few years old, and as quickly as technology changes, it is now out-of-date. They haven’t decided yet what the new system will be, so in the meantime, there is no point in spending the money to install the existing TVs in their brand new planes – only to rip them out again in the near future. However, they also don’t want to have NOTHING on these 4 new planes, so they decided to go with a TEMPORARY solution to the problem and are bringing in some tablets to rent.

    This is a trial, and depending on how it is received, they may continue to do it as an OPTION once they have decided on their new on-board entertainment system. If you don’t like what’s playing on the TVs, then you can rent a tablet with a bunch of movies.

    As for the “ridiculous rules” about electronics on board planes – all I can say is, do 5 minutes of research before you post such an absurd statement. I’m not even going to bother correcting your misconceptions because if I do, you’ll never learn.

    • Please, educate the rest of us on why the rules about using ordinary consumer electronic devices on modern aircraft are not ridiculous. If “forgetting” to turn off phones and tablets actually interfered with avionics, plane should be dropping from the skies on a regular basis.

  7. Are we now so poor in our imaginations that the only choice is between staring at clouds or paying to rent a tablet? Besides the fact that clouds are pretty, how many other ways can you occupy yourself without electronics. You could read a book–or even write a book, for heavens sake! Knit, do crosswords, write letters, challenge your seat mate to tic tac toe or twenty questions. There are lots of options that don’t involve a screen.

    • Sorry knitting is illegal for safety reasons …

      • Yes, you might be knitting an afghan

    • It really depends on how long your flight is.

  8. Before the days of tablets, I would pick a new book, purchase it, and bring it with me on a trip. What a chump I was. ;)

  9. Westjet is smart to try this idea on a few of their aircraft, however the concept itself is not ideal. An open system would be better if this is the way they wanted to go. Lufthansa’s BoardConnect seems like a brilliant system provided you have your own device. It’s odd how aside from Condor, no other airline seems to be interested in it.

  10. who are you and why are you sharing yor thoughts?

  11. “And if you don’t want to pay? You’ll be stuck looking at the clouds for hours.”

    Or, say, reading a book…. I know, I know, crazy talk.

  12. I flew Montreal-Calgary return on WestJet a few weeks ago and was actually looking forward to a pleasant trip (my last flight with WestJet was a few years ago). Was I ever disappointed! No more smiling and joking flight attendants, no food and no movie (unless you pay for it – $6.99 for a movie? – it’s $5 on cheap nights at the cinema!). I would have preferred not having any movie available than being asked to pay $6.99 for it. But we were twice offered a free beverage (in a very small glass). Why don’t they just add $20 to the fare (and a smile to the faces of the flight attendants)? Then maybe I’ll consider flying WestJet again. Getting there used to be half the fun.

  13. well, I guess I will be bringing a book with me

    Not a good idea, but oh well, some will call it progress

  14. The writer is pretty low on intellect if he gets bored on flights.
    Anyone today whow is wide awake mentally has lot to do. If nothing else, do some work (personal accounts, businness, improve your education, write friends etc) that saves you time at home.
    By far the best entertainment possible on a flight is intenet access. That opens, literally, more than a million doors.

  15. “…And if you don’t want to pay? You’ll be stuck looking at the clouds for hours…”

    What did we do in the old days? Read a book, dummy.

  16. You’re going to look pretty stupid with a tablet when you find out it doesn’t have the shows or movies you want to watch.

  17. Humans have been dreaming of flight for hundreds if not thousands of years.
    We FINALLY have it and your sitting here whining because you don’t want to look out the window and bask in the epicocity of human technological achievement? No, Instead your furious at the choice of paying an extra 10$ to stare at a stupid tablet and ignore the hundreds you’ve coughed up to enjoy the experience and view.
    How quickly the universe owes you.

  18. Tablets on WestJet? Are you starting to feel like Moses, anyone? If I knew that this was the only choice on a long air flight, I’d part the Red Sea, before I’d take it! WJ probably thought they were being ‘cool’, but they’ve only made me hot under the collar…..

  19. That IS dumb.

  20. What is the problem? Bring your own tablet/kindle/paperback.

  21. Or, why rent when you can sell! WestJet could probably get a great discount – especially if they worked with a company OTHER than Apple.

  22. Peter, Peter… who are you again?? And why does your ill-informed rant matter?? Please do your readers a favour and do some research before unloading your rants on the public.. Thankfully, most comments have seen through
    your drivel. As pointed out already..
    this a Trial on only 4 new planes! Out
    of what.. 90 or so planes? The Live TV
    system was cutting edge when it was first installed and is now showing it’s
    age. But thank goodness Westjet is doing
    the right thing by testing the market before jumping into a long contract with
    the wrong system. Geez… I’d hate to be
    your coffee server at Starbucks and heaven forbid, get your order wrong…. I’d
    like to see that rant! Take a pill buddy
    and do your homework…

    And no..
    planes would not be falling from the sky because someone left their phone
    on. But “occasionally” they “can”. I’ve
    been on planes on the ground where a phone was completely messing with the PA
    system. Why take the risk! Does your little electronic device really
    have that much power over you???

  23. Charge me for wi-fi but not a tablet in place of standard tv/movie offerings. Bad move.

  24. i’ve got lots of good baseball / football games while on Westjet….so i don’t mind the live TV

  25. WestJet charges the same rate as Air Canada and you get free movies. So why fly WestJet in Canada. You pay the same and get less, something is wrong with this picture,

Sign in to comment.