July 31, 2012 at 9:18 AM ET
Many people think that it doesn't matter which airline you fly domestically; they're all the same. When it comes to in-flight entertainment, however, that couldn't be further from the truth. On the heels of Frontier announcing it was lowering prices on its video entertainment, we've put together a rundown of what domestic airlines offer in the U.S.
AirTran will adopt Southwest's satellite Wi-Fi once the two airlines finish merging, but for now it offers Gogo service. Pricing varies depending on the length of the flight and the device you use.
Alaska has a simple setup: Nearly all aircraft have Wi-Fi onboard, and on flights longer than about three hours, you can rent a DigEPlayer ($8–$10) to watch video on demand.
American was one of the first to put Wi-Fi onboard, but it's been slow with its progress since. The plan is to have Wi-Fi on all domestic airplanes (not including the American Eagle regional aircraft) via Gogo, but we're not there yet. If you're looking for old-fashioned entertainment, American has overhead video screens on its 757s and 737-800s. If you're on an MD-80, you're out of luck. Instead, American is slowly rolling out streaming video via Gogo. Check before departure to find out if your flight will have Wi-Fi.
Delta has been the most progressive when it comes to installing Wi-Fi and video options on its fleet. You can now get Wi-Fi via Gogo on just about every domestic airplane with more than 50 seats. Many airplanes also have personal video screens. Live television is free, and on-demand viewing options range from $1 to $6. The best part: You can see what your flight will have when you're making reservations.
Frontier offers different entertainment depending upon the fleet type, but there will always be something available. The airline recently changed its pricing for LiveTV and movies; they range from $3.99 on shorter flights to $7.99 on the longest.
JetBlue not only has satellite television or movies on its whole fleet — it bought the company that provides it. No flights have Wi-Fi yet, but it's expected soon.
Southwest has been installing Wi-Fi across its fleet for some time. Today, the installation process has moved into overdrive with well over 150 aircraft, but there is still a lot of work to be done. For now, Wi-Fi access is $5 per flight, and you can see whether or not your aircraft will have Wi-Fi when you check in online.
United is the furthest behind when it comes to Wi-Fi installation: it installed Wi-Fi only on the 13 airplanes that fly between New York and LA/SF. But there are plans to add it to aircraft with satellite television. The effects of the merger with Continental are pretty clear here; you'll find very different entertainment options depending on the aircraft you fly.
US Airways installed Wi-Fi via Gogo on its A321 aircraft, and it recently announced that it will hook up the rest of its fleet. There are no video screens on the domestic US Airways fleet, but it will have streaming video soon.
Virgin America is relatively new, so it provides a uniform offering: Every airplane has Wi-Fi and satellite television, plus movies.
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