Bored On Board

Since the dawn of commercial air travel airlines have been trying to keep passengers happy, distracted and content on board. And so the relationship between Hollywood and airlines goes way back. In fact it goes much further back than many would think.

It’s well documented that the first commercial flight took off on January 1, 1914 setting in motion the era of air travel and the age of miracle and wonder (to paraphrase Paul Simon). However a short seven years later, passengers were already bored with this amazing new technology and so the first in-flight movie was shown in 1921 on a screen hastily erected at the front of the cabin on a small hydroplane. The movie was called Howdy Chicago! And it listed the various sights to see in the Windy City. I guess it was also the first in-flight commercial as well.

lost world

In 1925 Imperial Airways upped the stakes immensely when they showed a full-length Hollywood movie on a flight from London to Paris. Weirdly they chose The Lost World, a silent adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic novel. Apparently it never dawned on the airline execs that showing a film with “Lost” in the title might scare the already skeptical passengers of the day. After all, ninety years ago a transatlantic flight was a very different experience than it is now.

Undaunted those brave trailblazers helped to pioneer the age of in-flight entertainment. Of course there were no iPod, no thousands of hours of on-demand HD movies and (shudder) no SkyMall. Yes back in those days airlines had to try to make money off of only ticket sales, not ancillary fees, credit card tie ups and duty free.

But fast forward to current times and we can see just how far the world of air travel has come. In the greater scheme of things ninety years isn’t that long. In terms of commercial aviation, it makes the early days and the early pioneering efforts at creating in-flight entertainment seem like a Lost World.