IFE Historical Firsts

Whereas history and historical "firsts" are always subject to opinion and subjective interpretation, to the best of our knowledge this list represents an accurate account of key "firsts" and "milestones" for the IFE industry. We welcome your comments and your suggestions for additions to this list.

To read more about the history of Inflight Entertainment, click here.

1921 - First Inflight Movie - The promotional film “HOWDY CHICAGO” shown to Chicago  World’s Fair “flight-seeing” passengers aboard an 11-passenger Curtis F5L amphibian  aircraft.
1932 - First Inflight TV - A "media event" on Western Air Express Fokker F-10 aircraft.
1961 - David Flexer of Inflight Motion Pictures develops 16mm film system for commercial  aircraft. Mechanics required to change 30-inch-diameter film reels.
1961 - First feature film exhibited on a regularly scheduled commercial airline flight (TWA  B707) - MGM's BY LOVE POSSESSED, starring Lana Turner and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
1962 - American & Pan Am install TV monitors in first class of a Lockheed Electra Aircraft.
1962 - Pakistani International Airlines becomes the first international carrier to show movies  inflight.
1971 - Trans Com develops the 8mm film cassette. Flight attendants could now change movies  inflight and add short subject programming.
1975 - Braniff Airways introduces Atari video games onboard flights. 
1979 - AEA (Airline Entertainment Association) formed and holds first conference in Palm  Springs. Name changed in 1985 to WAEA (World Airline Entertainment Association)
1978 - Bell & Howell (Avicom Division) markets first video-tape system (VHS)
1979 - "Electronic" headphones introduced on selected aircraft and premium cabins (Air France,  Air Canada, Pan Am), replacing "pneumatic" headphones. (Today, while electronic  headphones are now fairly standard, pneumatic headphones are still in operation on some  short-haul aircraft.)
1984 - Airfone introduces the world's first inflight telephone system on American Airlines.  (Nearly 5000 aircraft worldwide add telephone service by the year 2000.)
1985 - Avicom introduces the first audio player system, based on the Philips Tape Cassette  technology.
1988 - Airvision introduces the world's first in-seat video system, using 2.7-inch LCD displays.   Northwest trials the system on a B747 with positive passenger reaction.
1989 - First IFE noise-cancellation headphones introduced by Sennheiser.
1989 - American Airlines makes first fleet-wide installation (B767) of in-seat video in first class  (Avicom).
1991 - Virgin Atlantic Airways offers seat-back video in all classes (including economy).
1993 - First Inflight Fax - Avtech's Facsimile units installed on Singapore Airlines.
1995 - First noise-cancelling headphones (Sennheiser) introduced on Air France in first/business  class on long-range flights.
1996 - First installation of Inseat Power Outlets, on Delta Air Lines.
1996 - Live television premiered on a Delta Air Lines B767 to support the Atlanta Olympics.
1997 - Swissair installs first interactive Video-On-Demand entertainment system installed on an  entire aircraft.
2000 - In April Jet Blue introduces live (via satellite) inflight television fleetwide in all cabins.
2000 - First fleetwide introduction of hand-held DVD-players on American Airlines and Swissair
2001 - First Inflight E-mail transmission: Air Canada during a "Press Demonstration" flight, 17  January 2001 from Montreal to Toronto.
2010 - First fiber optic distribution system operational on flydubai aircraft (November 10)

Source: Design Associates


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