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United’s Personal Device Entertainment – Update

My first experience with United’s Personal Device Entertainment (or bring your own device) was on our way back from Zurich over Thanksgiving – well, technically it was from IAD to ORD, but you get my point.  My first time using this service, I was extremely happy.  The selection of movies, tv shows and other entertainment options was pretty good – as good as you would get in BusinessFirst seats and the playback was top notch, no delays or skipping whatsoever.

Personal Device Entertainment - Photo Courtesy of United.com

Personal Device Entertainment – Photo Courtesy of United.com

Since November, I’ve flown three additional times where the plane had the Personal Device Entertainment (PDE) as an option.  Each time, I’ve noticed it getting worse and worse.  For example, this past weekend, I was coming back from Phoenix and the PDE took quite a while to get connected. None of my three devices (Samsung S6 Edge phone, iPad Mini or Motorola xyboard –yeah, I need a new Android tablet) would connect until after about 20 minutes at cruising altitude, which means we were about 40 minutes into  a 3 hour flight.

Once I finally got connected, the system would stop and reset every 15 or so minutes.  On my other flights when I had an issue, the app was smart enough to know where I was in my film or TV show and give me the option to continue from that spot.  Not so much on this flight.  I had to restart the process, find the show and manually find the spot I was last watching.  This was extremely frustrating, as it happened 5 times – the 5th time, I said screw it and watched a TV show on my tablet.

This was my biggest concern when I first used this service – I was afraid with more people using it, we’d have technical issues.  Now, I have no clue if the issues were driven by extreme use on this flight, but I do know I wasn’t the only one having these issues.  Everyone in my aisle had the same issue at the exact same time.  You could hear the frustrated sighs from my row and rows around me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m here complaining about free in-flight entertainment, on a 3 hour flight, in coach.  Engaging entertainment systems are so low on the priority list when it comes to air travel (safety and security are tops on my list).  I really do love the idea of BYOD entertainment on United and I think it is something I’d use on every flight, if it worked.  My fear is that once United works out the kinks in this system, they’ll end up charging us for the service – at which point I will not use it in the future.

Have you experienced United’s Personal Device Entertainment (BYOD)?  Did it work for you?  Did you experience any hiccups?


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