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How to Watch Movies on Your Phone on a Plane

How to Watch Movies on Your Phone on a Plane (No Internet)

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Let’s be honest.

The in-flight magazine advertising jewelry we don’t need, or the often cartoonish safety card is barely enough to entertain us before and during departure when electronics are often forbidden.

Though having silent time in our minds is a healthy thing to practice, there’s a time when some entertainment makes sense.

Hint: Especially when one of our fellow young passengers starts crying.

And today you don’t even have to limit yourself to the in-flight entertainment sometimes offered on flights.

It’s never been easier to watch movies, shows, or even live TV on a plane.

Let’s begin to cover all the possible options you have.

1. Watching Movies and Series Offline With Streaming Apps

This is my to go-option for watching anything during flights. More specifically Netflix.

All the popular apps have the option of downloading their content onto your phone or tablet.

We’ll cover which apps in a second.

iPhone
The headphone design that never stays in your ears

They even format the size of the content you download to specifically fit the smaller screens so it doesn’t take up unnecessary memory.

Though do notice if your flight doesn’t offer in-flight Wi-Fi streaming this might be the only option you have.

If you’re not familiar with in-flight Wi-Fi streaming, don’t worry, we’ll cover that in the next step.

Pros & Cons of Using Apps:

βœ… There’s no need to rely on the quality of the Wi-Fi signal or other potential technical issues compared to in-flight Wi-Fi streaming (if it’s even offered on your flight in the first place)

βœ… Using an app on your device means you don’t have to rely on an airplane headphone adapter such as these for your headphones

βœ… You’ll have more watch time before, during, and after the flight. You don’t have to wait until you’ve departed and are mid-air, and you won’t get interrupted by the share of trivial messages or commercials during the flight (though in this case, you might want to keep your seatbelt on all the time in case of missed notifications on upcoming turbulence)

❌ Downloading content requires space on your phone. Though most phones today have more than enough space, and it’s only temporary since you can delete the content after watching it

Why You Should Download Before Heading to the Airport

I highly suggest downloading your movies or series before heading out.

First of all, it’s hard to predict the quality of the Wi-Fi at the airport. And even if you have enough cellular data not to be concerned, it might still increase battery usage.

Avoiding the usual busy time before boarding a flight, chances are you’ll also have more time to browse the app’s libraries.

Sitting with phone at home
Let me just sit here and pretend no one is taking a photo

Quick Tips on How to Free up Storage on Your Phone

  1. Empty the temporary folder/bin with deleted photos and videos
  2. Back up photos and videos to a cloud, laptop, or hard drive
  3. Delete old messages not needed anymore (including shared media)
  4. Delete apps you don’t use

If you’re looking for a more thorough guide on how to free up space on your phone, both Apple and Google (Android) made official guides on how to do so here:

Most Popular Apps for Offline Streaming:

  • Amazon Prime
  • Amazon Video
  • Disney+
  • Google Play Movies and TV (works on iPhone too)
  • Hulu
  • iTunes
  • Netflix
  • HBO
  • VUDU
  • YouTube (requires a premium subscription)

2. Watching Movies, Series, and Live TV With In-Flight Wi-Fi Streaming (Offline)

Now to the other popular option, you might have on your flight.

Not to be confused with streaming with an actual internet connection like at home. But limited to connecting to the in-flight entertainment library through Wi-Fi on your flight.

It’s like the more traditional in-flight entertainment system usually found in the seat in front of you, which you’re probably already familiar with.

And many airlines offer this service for free.

Phone on flight
Challenge accepted

Pros and Cons of Using In-Flight Wi-Fi Streaming:

βœ… Pro: The biggest plus is that it often includes more recent movies and shows than the popular online-streaming services (and sometimes live TV too), also giving more space for a change of mood

βœ… Pro: If the Wi-Fi is stable and no other technicalities hindering your connection, it’s an easy and flexible option that doesn’t require any preparation

βœ… Pro: It’s often free meaning that you don’t have to pay or rely on a subscription (though many online-streaming services offer free trials)

❌ Con: To have proper audio you need to connect with your headphone adapter as mentioned earlier. The ones provided on planes are usually close to horrible, except if you’re flying premium, business, or first-class.

Popular Airlines Offering In-Flight Wi-Fi Streaming (USA):

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Delta Airlines
  • Hawaiian Air
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Southwest Airlines (movies and shows must be downloaded before departure)
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United Airlines

I try to keep the lists here as updated as possible, but I still recommend checking with your airline for the latest updates. And aware that availability might depend on the routes or aircraft as well.

Do notice that most airlines require you to download an app as well.


3. Watching Movies, Series, and Live TV With In-Flight Wi-Fi Streaming (Online)

For the most part, this is not an option, due to the high-speed internet required for streaming being fairly limited at this time.

But if you have the option, I doubt it would be superior to the other options due to price, limited speed, and usage.

Headphones
For entertainment, engine noise and fellow passenger’s crying kids

Which Option Is the Best?

The one doesn’t exclude the other.

Therefore I recommend you download content for offline use to the app(s) of your choice no matter what.

Then you can always access the inflight Wi-Fi streaming if the option is there while having a backup option in case something doesn’t go according to plan.

And if you’re not currently subscribed to any of the popular online-streaming services, most of them offer a free trial anyways as mentioned earlier.


Bonus Tip 1: Remember to Charge Your Bluetooth Headset

If you’re gonna go with option one of using your phone or tablet chances are you’ll use a Bluetooth headset.

In that case, remember to charge it.

It might sound trivial, but it would be sad if you were to miss out. Especially if you’ve spent time browsing for the perfect movies or series, clearing up space on your phone, and downloading it, just to realize you have to settle with the subtitles.


Bonus Tip 2: Consider Getting a Phone Holder

If you have a cover made of silicon or some other material that creates friction on surfaces, you might not need it. The one I have on my iPhone is sufficient if I just let it rest upon something.

Though getting a dedicated phone holder would still provide a higher quality experience for a low price. Especially for longer flights.

But if you’re on a tight budget or nerdy about the amount of weight you carry while traveling, you’ll probably be fine without it.


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Global Dane

I'm the guy behind Global Dane. Everything I create is purely motivated by a passion for traveling (preferably on a lower-end budget). Join me on my authentic travels on YouTube or here on the website. And if you have something on your mind, don’t hesitate to send me a so-called electronic mail. I’m always up for a chat.

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