American Airlines A321 with now seatback IFE. An A321 safety card is slotted into the upper literature pocket.

American stays the course with wireless IFE for most narrowbodies


Continuing to eschew seatback IFE for the lion’s share of its narrowbody fleet — even as rival United joins Delta in embracing it — American Airlines says it plans to carry on investing in wireless inflight entertainment and connectivity for these single-aisle work horses. It remains to be seen if a free Wi-Fi option will in time be offered by the carrier.

An outlier in American’s narrowbody fleet, its A321T twinjets flying transcon offer in-seat IFE from nose to tail. American receives “great customer satisfaction reviews” for that aircraft, company vice president of customer experience Kimberly Cisek told media at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg.

The US major’s forthcoming new premium-heavy A321XLR aircraft, which are set to operate both transatlantic and transcon routes, will also feature embedded IFE across classes. Passengers can look forward to availing of Thales’ latest generation AVANT IFE system with 4K high dynamic range (HDR) screens enhanced with Samsung QLED technology. At AIX, Cisek shared a video of the sparkling new A321XLR interior, which includes doored business suites up front and a 12-seat section of premium economy recliners.

But when asked by your author if American is considering bringing seatback IFE to any of its other aircraft, noting for instance that rival United is going fleet-wide including on its narrowbodies, she said: “As you can see on the A321XLR we will have seatback entertainment so we’ll be flying that both on transatlantic [and] our transcon flights, so customers experiencing that in the US will have the seatback entertainment. As for the rest of our flights that we have on our narrowbody aircraft, we do not have the seatback entertainment available to our customers.”

American Airlines A321XLR economy class with seatback IFE

American’s new A321XLR twinjets will feature nose to tail embedded IFE.

Cisek continued, “What we have invested in is having the most high-speed Wi-Fi on all of our narrowbody aircraft as well as entertainment for our customers so we’ll continue to invest in that space as we move forward.” American offers in-seat IFE on its widebody aircraft.


The airline has taken a dual-source approach to connecting its mainline fleet, using Viasat’s Ka-band satellite-based solution on a large share of narrowbodies, and elsewhere, Intelsat’s 2Ku solution. Though it offers free wireless IFE, with entertainment streamed to passengers’ own devices, it charges for onboard Internet. Pricing varies, but the carrier boasts that passengers on almost all routes can avail of a connectivity tier for as little as $10. In contrast, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways, which offer in-seat IFE to every passenger, do not charge for Wi-Fi. And United offers free messaging.

Asked by RGN contributor Jason Rabinowitz if free Wi-Fi is in the cards for American passengers, Cisek said at AIX: “American Airlines does offer and operate the most high-speed Wi-Fi aircraft in the world actually. And so, as we continue to invest in this space with our customers, we are providing our customers then not only Wi-Fi which we know connectivity is important but also with free entertainment options, both from podcasts to videos to movies — over 1,500 selections for our customers to choose from. So, as we move forward, we’ve also launched miles as a form of payment on our aircraft for customers to select Wi-Fi and we’ve seen a great reaction from our customers for this new option.”

Pressed by Rabinowitz if that is a “no” then on free Wi-Fi for American passengers, she said: “More to come. Right now, we just launched miles as a form of payment.”

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Featured image credited to Mary Kirby