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Experiencing Continental's DIRECTV from Seattle, WA to Houston, TX

Seattle, WA 13 Nov. 2009.  I was in Seattle, WA for a few hours and it time to head back.  I was intrigued as it would be he first time I would experience Continental Airlines’ take on DIRECTV.  Before I boarded I looked through the window at the airplane to ensure that it had the hug parabolic dish on top of the airplane.  This is one of the elements that makes it all possible.

The DIRECTV logo on the door as you enter the Boeing 737-900ERI was the last person to board this Boeing 737-900ER flight; at the door, there was a sticker with the DIRECTV logo, just in case you were not sure.  As I boarded, the flight attendant pointed me to a box on the right in the closet.  It said “Take a free headset,” so I did.  The flight attendant then advised me that there was a charge for DIRECTV and the directions were on the screen at my seat.

As I made my way to my seat, I noticed that everyone had headsets in and were all quiet and watching TV.  I remembered this same experience on jetBlue when I flew them for a month back in September/October 2009.  It was the quietest I’ve ever seen a boarded airplane.

I eventually got the attention of the passenger at the aisle as I had the middle seat.  He was really into the TV in front of him.  I moved into my seat and settled in then started sampling the offerings myself.  You can view the offerings at http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/content/travel/inflight/entertainment/directv/default.aspx on the Continental Airlines Web site.

The seatback TV on the Continental Boeing 767-900EROn the tip of the armrest to my left, the system has a GUIDE button which tells you what is available onscreen.  This is in addition to the normal channel and volume buttons plus a SELECT button and brightness controls.  There was a message on screen that advised that the charge was 6.00 USD and that you can use a credit/debit card to swipe on the right.  The same message also advised that you were receiving a free preview so you should go ahead and swipe your credit/debit card now so you don’t get interrupted later.

I played around with it for a bit checking out the channels.  There were lots of sports stuff going on as well as movies.  I did take note that Harry Potter was starting in ten minutes which would have been 3:00a on the East coast of the U.S.  I don’t have DIRECTV at home so this was all new to me.

I did notice that there is a power plug just under my seat to the right; yea.  I had run down both the computer and my phone batteries in the airport, so this would be very useful during the flight.  I had to wait to get above 10,000′ to plug in though.

The door soon closed, then the flight attendants gave the safety demo manually as there is not a recorded one on the system.  We then headed out to the runway and as it was so late, we departed fairly quickly into the cold night skies.

The meal on Continental Airlines 767 from Seattle, WA to Houston, TXMy free time had run out just before we left the ground, so I swiped my card when we got airborne and followed the instructions to activate the system.  There is no charge in First class by the way.  I was not really watching anything, just surfing channels.  It was late and not much to see on TV anyways.  I looked around and the folks I could see were not watching TV as they had the “your free time is up” screen up; I guess they were asleep. I was trying to find some audio channels, but could not, so I nodded off, just as the beverage service started.  I did have some cranapple juice, but not the pretzels before going to sleep.

I was awoken a few hours later as we were preparing for landing in Houston.  I put my stuff (computer, cell phone and electrical plugs) away and went back to sleep awaking when I got to the gate and heard the ding from the seatbelt sign going off.

All in all, it was a good experience; I have to plan a long flight during the daytime so I can experience it all without falling asleep.

Have you flown an airplane with DIRECTV?  If so, how was your experience?

10 thoughts on “Experiencing Continental's DIRECTV from Seattle, WA to Houston, TX

  1. I agree with Allexsa. On my flight yesterday perhaps 3 of the 150 people on board were watching, while everyone else in coach had the directv ad asking to swipe their card, or a blank screen (those like me who figured out how to shut the d*mn thing off. I really miss not having music for free; this seems like the bare minimum that should be offered to all passengers all the time. As someone else pointed out, the $6 applies whether it’s a 90-min flight or 6 hours, so why can’t they adjust the price? I just sit there on the plane I try to figure out how many people like me are being ticked off by the hard sell of this system. For the $18 that they collected on my flight, they could have charged all of us 15 cents to and given it to us all ‘for free’!!

  2. I just flew on Continental from San Antonio to Philadelphia with a stop in Houston and had Directv in all the flights which I really wish I didn’t have. The only good thing: you get fread headphones that you can keep…
    I was actually a little taken aback with the Directv thing because you are basically PAYING to watch NORMAL tv with ADVERTISING as well as REGULAR programming! If you think about it, the cost per day is huge! This is a great thing for Continental business but not so much for its customers, here’s why:
    Like many other airlines, and still in flights where Directv isn’t available, you get to watch a pretty recent movie that hasn’t yet been released on DVD (or maybe has only just started to), and you get a very limited number of ads. Sure, in some cases, if you don’t have earphones, you might need to purchase a set for 3 dollars, but you could still use your own. Sure, Directv allows you the choice of channel to choose from, but seriously? 6 dollars? No matter how long your flight is?
    If they really want to make it customercentric, they should add an option to watch a preselected movie, so that more people can take advantage of the little screen in front of them instead of feeling cheated for having to pay for yet another thing that used to be included in flight. The installation of the little screens is already a sunk cost, they might as well use them to help boost their image and give their customers the impression that they are getting a little extra oomph, not just an extra option to watch advertising for which they have to pay.
    I am personally a fan of Air France. They also have the little screens for all coach passengers with a choice of channels to choose from and little games and you don’t have to pay for them. It made a big impact on the brand image I have on them as well as with Continental and their cheap way of coning customers and making a cheap buck from directv, but that’s just my marketer’s perspective.

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  4. Flew on the IAH-BOS leg and back and both of the 737-800s had DirecTV installed on them. First was a evening flight, the return being a day time flight. I DID find that they finally had updated the system to include the safety briefing on their monitors. The F/A just stands there with nothing to do now really. On the flight to Boston we were flying thru remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine so the signal god pixellated for a bit but once we popped up above the clouds everything was peachy. Still no music selection available but most people have their iPods/iPhone/MP3 players anyways for that. The return flight was on Saturday so we did have college football on. The flight was also on 9/11 so a lot of the History/Discovery channels were running 9/11 related shows on them… which I figured wasn’t really appropriate to watch on a plane. So I spent most of my time channel surfing between Back to the Future and the Military channel. All in all it makes flights >3 hrs very bearable and painless. I just wonder what’s going to happen when Continental merges with United :

  5. I had to read your post twice to get the full impact of it. I appreciate reading what you have to say. It’s unfortunate that more people do not understand the benefits of coaching. Keep up the good work.

  6. I really enjoy having the opportunity to watch live tv on my flight.

    It’s definitely time sensitive as on late night flights you’re stuck with infomercials.

    I’m usually onboard during the weekends and like the option to watch a football game in the air.

    Here’s to a wifi option on Continental.

    Safe travels

  7. The DirectTV is kind of meh. I don’t watch much TV at home so I would rather watch nothing than dig around and choose what I want to watch. Flying on a plane is one of the times I’d prefer to be told what to watch. I have done DirectTV in coach (once) and in first (many). I like the movies, but don’t like the no-pause during announcement feature. I also (like others around me) don’t like the lack of music programming.

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