Why I gave up inflight 'binge viewing'

By David Flynn, June 29 2017
Why I gave up inflight 'binge viewing'

TALKING POINT | Let me tell you a secret. I used to love binge viewing on flights. All those hours of uninterrupted time were ideal for immersing myself into a favourite TV series.

My first inflight binge-session was on a Qantas flight to San Francisco in 2006 – long before iPads and before the term binge-viewing was even coined – when I spent every waking hour of the flight glued to Aaron Sorkin's superlative Sports Night.

An addictive precursor to The West WingSports Night ran for just two widely-acclaimed seasons totalling 45 highly-crafted half-hour episodes – all of which I loaded onto my laptop.

This unique comedy-drama hybrid – complete with Sorkin's scripting gymnastics and characteristic verbal tics – had me from the get-go, and kept me on the "just one more episode!" treadmill not just during the flight but in my hotel, in the early hours of the next few mornings when jetlag sees you wide awake at 2am.

Yes, I was my own worst enemy – and I paid for that indulgence during the day.

But I didn't quite learn my lesson, and for years following I'd often queue up entire seasons of a new show and save them for the flight – and all too often with a similar result.

When I became a full-time 'business traveller', that had to stop – or at least I had to discipline myself to a handful of episodes so that I'm not tempted to break my routine and short-change myself on sleep.

(In case you're wondering – yes, I subscribe to Foxtel and Netflix, but for anything more than one episode of a must-watch show I prefer to use the downtime of travel than night-time on the couch.)

So what's my new inflight video option? I still prefer the 'BYO Content' model, preloading my laptop or tablet with video rather than rely on the movies and TV shows of the airline's own system.

These days I scout around for some engaging documentary shows, or rewatch a favourite movie but with the commentary track from the director and actors (so  on next week's Virgin Australia inaugural flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong, I'll be the guy in business class watching La La Land on his laptop).

This gives me content that's fresh and enjoyable, but with a defined end-point when both my laptop and myself can power down.

What's your approach to inflight video: do you watch a movie, take in a few episodes of a favourite TV series, or get stuck into an entire season from the moment the flight takes off?


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 691

Preloaded content on the iPad is the way to go, but the problem is I've watched everything I want to watch?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2543

There are always amazing series being recommended to me, series I've never heard of but find to be first-rate viewing. We should start a thread in the Community section!


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 691

Sounds like a good idea, there are a lot of good shows on HULU etc that us in OZ don't know about.



23 May 2014

Total posts 129

Preloaded TV series on my iPad is a fave. I use the airline's IFE for movies, and it's great when they also have series 1 of new or older hit TV series so I can try something new (which if it's good I'll end up buying and load into my iPad)...

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

31 Oct 2016

Total posts 73


I like to always be learning. The Dollop, Stuff You Should know, a whole bunch of other educational ones, and then there's the comedy ones as well. 

When I get sick of those: Music and a book. 

I'm that guy you walk past who's perpetually got the AirShow on his screen

27 May 2015

Total posts 24

I love to get into a series as opposed to watching a movie. The shorter, sharper story lines keep me glued and the hours just while away. Unfortunately, it seems as though there are only ever several episodes of any one series loaded onto IFE systems and not nearly enough to keep me going. 

Will have to learn to be more prepared and BYO content in future, I think. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1272

I have BA to thank for getting me hooked on The Walking Dead.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 373

I am a lover of the Air Crash Investigation series and found myself watching a couple episodes on the plane once, before realising how horrified the people around me were. oops

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1272



11 Jul 2014

Total posts 691

Sometime when you get those real arrogant painful  people seating next to you and thats when you start explaining how the plane crashes. It's like when your on a cruise ship and you start talking about the amount of people in the freezer.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 469

I'm a fan of those too. Your experience sums up why I would never consider watching my own movies/shows on a plane but instead use the inflight entertainment system hence why I disagree with the author. First of all, a plane isn't a bus - getting rid of inflight entertainment (except on low-cost carriers and very short flights of less than 1.5 hours flying time) downgrades the whole flying experience and turns it into another bus ride. Making the assumption that everyone has an iPad (I don't BTW) is the first fatal mistake that airlines considering getting rid of this and then continuing to charge the same or more for a seat make. Secondly is the issue of privacy - as you said, people around you noticed that you were watching ACI and were in your words "horrified". I don't want people to know what I'm watching - it's OK if it's part of an airlines' entertainment system as everyone has access to that, but to have a stranger intrude into the privacy of what's on my laptop (or iPad) is just too much. I don't think it's too much to wait until you've arrived at your destination to wait to watch your favourite shows. Much better than having all those uncomfortable prying eyes.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 691

In a busy life that most of us have these days, any free time is good time to watch or do something you enjoy.


24 Jan 2016

Total posts 27

For me, the IFE stays permanently on the moving map, and I immerse myself in my e-reader. I much prefer reading books to watching videos on flights, and reading makes it much easier to nod off as well. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 181

You and me both..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 176

Bravo David. Me? I'm all routine and discipline. I board into the incoming time zone and work my way from there. Sleep & Non-Stop H20. Land with a clear head and hit the ground running.

05 May 2017

Total posts 4

May and June same me travel more domestically than I ever had before. I ran out completely of anything I was interested in watching on in-flight entertainment on both Qantas and Virgin. I concur that flights are now for me a great time to catch up on podcasts. I just finished S-town. That was a great bindge listen. 

01 Mar 2017

Total posts 10

I watch my 12" retina MacBook for either 1x movie or a read.

after that, I take my eldest son's advice - half a valium, washed down with a double JD, then I sleep the sleep of the innocent for the rest of the way …

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

11 Sep 2015

Total posts 41

I prefer to catch up on reading. Remember that?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

On long haul flights, the most I manage is 1.5 movies from the IFE catalogue, a few chapters of my book and a quick catch up on the latest news and current affairs from my destination. My focus is on getting into my destination time zone as quickly as possible and getting as much sleep as possible. 

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