I’m no stranger to malfunctioning entertainment equipment on airplanes. Most of my flights are five-hour-long trips across country, and though I’d like to use that time to read or write, I’m usually not motivated to focus much in the confined space. I find myself preferring to listen to music or watch television when it’s available. On several occasions, my in-flight entertainment did not work right. Since I travel in economy coach class, the entertainment in almost always an additional cost. If the system is not working properly, I can opt to not buy the add-on service.
The situation is different for different travelers, apparently. If you are the royal family and you’re traveling in first class, the rules are different. Prince William and Kate Middleton experienced trouble with their entertainment system on a British Airways $8,000 per seat first-class flight from Los Angeles to London. Not that they need the money, British Airways was kind enough to refund the Royal Couple $300 for the inconvenience.
The refund is a bit excessive. $300 could pay for cable for at least six months in the United States. I’m not sure how the airline determined the couple’s suffering was worth this much, but I’d be happy with a refund of half that if my entertainment options malfunctioned for a ten-hour flight.
Is there any situation where a $300 refund for a malfunctioning entertainment system for as long as ten hours is warranted? Does it cost the airline more to deliver entertainment to first class than to economy? Even if every seat in first class were to have its own 3D HDTV, the refund is excessive. What would be an appropriate refund? On Continental, the price for in-flight entertainment is about $5 per seat. That seems like an appropriate refund amount.
Updated November 2, 2016 and originally published July 26, 2011.