JetBlue and Amazon now offer free in-flight video streaming

There is a growing trend of companies offering free streaming access as an incentive for customers

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
November 24, 2015
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For the first time in years I'm not going home for Christmas. First, I spent a week with my family over the summer, so I feel like I fulfilled that obligation. Also, I'm saving my vacation days for a trip to Iceland at the end of January. So don't feel too bad for me (as if you were at all!)

If I were flying, though, there are only two airlines I would choose from: either Virgin or JetBlue. And the reason for that is simple: they are the only ones that actually give you things anymore. And by things I mean entertainment, like free television and movies (Some food would also be nice, but I'll take what I can get).

JetBlue just upped its game considerably in that department through a partnership with Amazon that will allow its flyers to access unlimited content for free, it was announced on Tuesday.

Start this week, over 150 JetBlue aircraft will be equipped with free Fly-Fi broadband Internet, allowing Amazon Prime members to access tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes, including Amazon Originals like The Man in the High Castle, Transparent, and Tumble Leaf.

Non-Prime members will also be able to sign-up and access the content, and if they don't want to do that they can rent or purchase titles in the Amazon Video store.

If there is one caveat to this, it's that customers have to use their own devices to access this content. We all know much quickly a battery can drain from streaming video, and planes still don't have plugs so that you can charge your stuff, so just be mindful of that while you're watching your shows. 

The partnership between the two companies was first announced in May, and its no coincidence that its finally coming to fruition right before the two busiest flying days of the year.  This kind of deal should net both companies a slew of new customers.

On top of giving customers free WiFi, Amazon and JetBlue are integrating their services. Amazon on JetBlue has been integrated into The Hub, JetBlue's entertainment portal that customers access on their personal devices. And, starting next year, customers will be able to earn TrueBlue points for their purchases in more than 40 categories on Amazon.

JetBlue is not the only airline to offer this kind of service. Guess which other airline does. It's not hard to figure out.

In September, Virgin partnered up with Netflix to provide complimentary in-flight WiFi access that allows new and existing Netflix members to enjoy the entire Netflix catalog. That partnership only seems to last through March of next year, though, while the deal between JetBlue and Amazon does not seem to have an end date. 

Either way, giving free streaming access seems to be a growing trend, as video usage continues to grow exponentially.

report by Gartner from earlier this year found that global mobile data traffic is set to reach 52 million terabytes (TB) in 2015, an increase of 59 percent from 2014. By 2018 they are estimated to reach 173 million TB.

That growth is being driven by video usage. In the U.S. alone, 47 percent of the 45 to 54 year olds surveyed by Garnet streamed 15 minutes or more of mobile video apps over cellular networks per session, while 40 percent of 18 to 24 year olds stream more than 15 minutes.

Mobile video is also showing absolutely no signs of slowing down Each year until 2020, mobile video traffic will grow by 55 percent per year and will constitute around 60 percent of all mobile data traffic by the end of that period, according to a study from Ericsson in June.

It's not just airlines that are starting to offer free streaming, its the carriers themselves. Earlier this month T-Mobile revealed that it was now offering a new service called Binge On, which will stop video streaming from major streaming services from counting toward customer data plans.

Last year it did the same thing with streaming music, making it so that services like Pandora, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Slacker, and Spotify would not count toward data plans.

As we spend more and more time on our phones, businesses will use that as a way to lure us in with perks and free things. And who's going to complain about that?

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