Design Briefs: 001 — Airbus A321s In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) System

For this series, I’ll highlight one design element of things that I encounter.

A couple of ground rules:

  1. Be brief.
  2. List one or both of: why the element works and/or why it does not work.
  3. Suggest how to fix what does not work.

Disclaimer: I know what a design brief is — the title is only a play on words.

Let’s do this.

CONTEXT + THING

I flew DFW — SEA (AA1610) on a fairly new Airbus A321s. The plane had an in-flight entertainment system consisting of touch-screens in the headrest of the seat in front.

The system is customized to show American Airlines’ branding and content — there is little information about the manufacturer (probably Thales) or version. Some light web searching showed a 2014 video that reviewed this system.

DESIGN — WORKS!

There’s a polarizing filter that minimizes the brightness/glare from others’ screens. Here’s a gif that shows it in action:

Even in low light, the screens on the side are barely visible.

This is great when you’re trying to nap, or focus on your movie rather that the one on the seat next to you.

DESIGN — DOES NOT WORK!

When the passenger in front reclined their seat, the screen remained static — there was no pivot or joint to flip out the screen and keep it parallel to you, which means you have to stare at the screen in an unnatural angle (unless you recline too, but not all seats can recline — such as emergency exit row seats).

I'm not really sure the issue at that point is caused by the polarizing filter, or by the natural capabilities of LCD displays, though.

IMPROVEMENT(S)

I’d add a pivot so that the screen can tilt a bit — that way even if the passenger in front reclines all the way one will still be able to see the display at an ideal angle.