As someone who has experienced various in-flight entertainment systems when going on a long-haul flight, I can’t help but realising that I never get the full experience as they are not accessible.
And that applies to various airlines across different countries.
Sure, I can read books or maybe even do some work. But sometimes, you just want to relax and watch a few films to make the time go by quicker.
So I thought of sharing my own story and experience when I travelled to Australia and how I was not able to watch what I wanted because they were not accessible, much to my disappointment.
You can watch the video…
…listen to the podcast…
or read the transcript below:
Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to go to Australia. It’s a long flight. It’s from Edinburgh to Melbourne, and it takes around 21 hours approximately, depending on the stopover.
So 21 hours approximately, and as you can imagine, the majority of it is obviously on the plane. So what do you do? Because obviously you need to keep yourself entertained along the way.
Now sometimes I like to do some work. Sometimes I like to read a little bit, my book. But then sometimes I just want to watch a film.
Nowadays, I think it’s quite impressive that the in-flight entertainment system that they have is quite, quite good, isn’t it?
It’s quite a wide variety of things that you can watch, or listen, or read, and it’s a good time for me to watch things that I’ve always wanted to watch, because I just don’t go to the cinemas at all, because of the lack of caption availability, and it makes it hard to find one that you see, in the right time and the right place.
So I thought this would be a good time for me to watch all these movies that I have never seen, because I couldn’t watch it in a cinema.
So I thought, “Okay, let me watch it on the plane.” Or that was the original plan.
The thing is, on most occasions, those airlines, they tend to provide the latest films, movies that are in the cinemas, or recently been in cinemas, and I said, “Great, I want to watch these, and let’s go for it.”
But they’re not captioned. And that makes it very tricky, because I’ve talked about it in a separate video, where I’ve talked about the problems of a person like myself, who is either d/Deaf or hard of hearing, and they got on the plane, go to the airport, and you have all these challenges that you have to go through.
And part of that is, when you’re on the plane, it’s so hard to hear anything, because of the background noise. And I struggle with that massively. It’s hard enough to be able to even hear anyone, a person sitting beside me, let alone hear what is said on the app on your phone.
So that means that I couldn’t watch the majority of the films on there, and even none of the programmes, because in my experience, very, very few of them tend to be captioned, in terms of films.
And again, in my experience, none of the programmes that we always see on TV, none of them are captioned either. Normal are just accepted. That’s what I’ve been doing all the time.
All these times I’ve been travelling on a plane and just thought, “You know what, I’ll just watch something else that you never wanted to watch anyway,” or watch a foreign film where sometimes I don’t mind walking foreign films, but there are two things wrong with that.
The first of all is, I want to want to watch a foreign film, rather than because I have no other option. If you chose it, because of your choice, that’s okay.
But if it’s because you don’t have any other option, or you’re limited, and you’re forced to watch that, when you want to watch something, that’s different. That’s not really something that I wanted to do. I want to be able to be saying, “Yes, I want to watch that foreign film.”
But that didn’t happen on this occasion, because none of them really are something that I wanted to watch.
And then on the other hand, those foreign films that I did watch, it kind of frustrated me, because yeah, they have the captions at the bottom, and it’s actually subtitled, because it’s translated, and I’ve talked about that, the difference between captioned and subtitles.
I’m just going to assume that they’ve done the right job. But the frustrating part is, (1) there is a particular scene in the foreign film, and they speak English, and they don’t even caption that, and I’m lost completely, and that was oh, oh, just oh.
I just got really frustrated, because I was like, “Okay, I’m following along, watching the story line. And then there was a scene where there was a character who actually speaking English, and they didn’t caption it at all.”
Part of the irony is that I read an article about the top 10 airlines with flight entertainment they talked to, were Qatar and Emirates.
And I flew with both of them over the past few years, and they were awful, in my experience. I’m sure for other people they’re delightful, in terms of the inflight entertainment.
But for me, terrible. I had very little options, and it made me wonder, are they all like that? Are all the airlines like that? Is it possible to have 100% captioned films and programmes, because the programmes were, literally zero were captioned. Literally zero when I flew with them recently.
So I thought I’ll do some research, and look at the website, and just pick a few airlines, and see what they have to say about their inflight entertainment, and whether they are accessible or not for many people, not just for d/Deaf and hard of hearing.
So I’m on my phone, looking at it. This one is Qantas. I’m trying to find the information about whether they are captioning the videos at all. You can see it right there. It says, “We provide captioning on some of our inflight entertainment programmes and movies.”
That’s true, because I flew with Qantas recently as well, and “some” the correct way of saying it, is just some of them.
Just have a look up Virgin Atlantic, and they have a section called Assistance If You Are Hearing Impaired. Great, “hearing impaired”, that’s a nice way of saying it. Let’s look at the onboard entertainment –“There is also a selection of captioned movies available throughout your flight.”
They didn’t really say how many, did they? They said, “a selection.” That implies again, that is some of them, as well.
Then let’s check out Emirates, who could have done a lot better with their website by making it responsive. So let’s just zoom in, and I can see right there, it says, “The closed caption, the technology that shows active dialogue as well…”
It’s like they’re trying to tell us, what is closed captioning. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. “We typically offer about 13 new released movies with closed captions each month.” I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure about the movie.
Maybe it’s movies from different countries, and different places. That’s fair enough. But if it’s those Hollywood blockbuster movies, then that’s not true, because I again, recently flew with them, and I had various options of those that we’ve seen in cinema, had very little option of seeing them in captioned as well.
Let’s check out Qatar as well. And if we go down, to see what we could find about sensory, there we go, “Sensory Impairment”…”Hearing Impaired Passengers”. Great, nice, nice way of saying it.
So it says, “Onboard, our crew offers safety briefing, and inflight safety video display subtitles in English and Arabic.” And I can’t really find anything else about their entertainment system.
And I did look for that. I literally couldn’t find anything about that. And Qatar didn’t do a good job, in terms of making their videos available to everyone as well.
Let’s try another one, British Airways. Let’s see what they have to say about this – “Do you offer programmes with audio description or closed captions?” And here’s what they said:
“We try to provide as many programmes with audio description or close caption as possible, depending on what is available from the distributors of the content. We are constantly evaluating our programme to ensure we are doing all we can to provide a more comprehensive entertainment experience for everyone.”
So again, that’s all dependent on other factors. And I’m going to come back to that, about distributors in a second. But again, that also implies some, because they say they try to provide as many as possible, but not all of them, they said.
Let’s try one more, with KLM, because I flew with them recently as well. And I can’t really find anything. And this section here says:
“More than 200 films including recent releases, classics and world cinema. Many of those you can view in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese or Spanish.”
And then they mention television programmes, and albums, and kids’ channels, games. But it doesn’t really say anything about caption, it just says, “You can view in those languages,” which I’m assuming, that means you can hear them, but not really watch them captioned in those languages.
And guess what? In my experiences, that is because not a lot of their films are captioned, and none of their programmes are captioned at all.
So I’ve done some more research about it, and it seems like technology played a part, because a lot of those planes, and a lot of the technology that the broadcaster use, they’re kind of old-fashioned, which means that they’re not able to provide closed-captions on some of the movies, which doesn’t really make sense, because if you can do it for some, why not do it for all?
But that’s what I’ve been hearing a lot, which is kind of frustrating again, because there have been a lot of articles written back in 2012, 2013 and even those are recently, the past couple of years, and they’ve mentioned about the lack of accessibility for these videos, and they’re not captioned.
And there’s even a journal out there talking about this very topic as well, and mentioning the lack of options available. It just seems like it’s been talked about for a long time, and we are nowhere near where I think we should be.
And that’s kind of frustrating, really for me, because it means that I don’t have the same experiences as everyone else.
Now I get it. I know what you’re thinking. It’s like, who cares? Let’s just get on with it. It’s not really that big a deal, is it? We can survive all these things. Of course we can survive without those films on the plane. Of course I can. We can get on with it. But that’s not the point.
The point is, first of all, I had other options. I did some work on my laptop. I read my book. But then I just wanted to have the option of watching a film. But I didn’t have the option. Which means that it’s not particularly right, if you are paying the same price as everyone else, and they’re not cheap.
But if you’re paying for the same thing, like everyone else, but you’re not getting the same experience, is that correct?
And you just have to ask that yourself as well.
If you’re paying the same price as everyone else on the plane, in a restaurant, entertainment everywhere, anywhere, anywhere you go. If you’re paying the same price, don’t you think you should be getting the same thing as everyone else?
And if you hear that one or two persons are getting more than the other, more than you, is that right? You just have to put it in that perspective as well.
On a plane, for me, if I was going on a plane, and I wanted to watch a film, and I pay for everything that you’ve included in the flight, the food, the service, getting to the destination, and the entertainment facilities. I paid for that. So I want to have access to them. And I would love to have the option of watching a film, even if I don’t want to. I just want to have the option when I feel like it.
But I don’t.
So that’s why I think right now, the airline, the broadcaster, they all need to catch up very very quickly, because it just doesn’t seem like they are anywhere near where they should be.
One thing that obviously I should point out is, that it’s different for the safety videos that we see, and it seems like back in 2009, the US Department of Transport or something like that.
They have made it compulsory that you provide closed caption and it needs to be visible. So for example, maybe white font and white text, then black background, whatever it is, to be visible.
So those videos, the safety videos, it is compulsory to have the captions on them, which makes sense, because they are there for safety reasons. Everyone have to watch them, and everyone needs to access them. And imagine if they’re not accessible, it’d be ridiculous. So those are compulsory, which makes sense. I get it.
But then I think as well as that, why not also look at the overall experience, and how can we improve the inflight entertainment system better? And all these airlines that I’ve travelled with, I’ve never ever had a good experience, if I want to use the entertainment system.
And I think that needs to be changed.
And I think, I’m sure, you would agree with me. Let me know what you think. Let me know in the comments, in the description, and let me know on social media.
Let me know by email, whatever you want to use, let me know. I’m really, really curious to know, and I’d love to know your opinion.
And it’d be great to see you again, and of course, I will speak to you again soon, another time.