I still haven’t seen the end of Invictus. I know how it ends, of course. South Africa wins the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) comes out onto the field in the Springboks’ green and gold uniform (a symbol of pride to the country’s whites and a symbol of oppression to the country’s blacks) and a nation is united. Well, the jury’s still out on the united part.

But I haven’t seen the end of Invictus because my recent flights have been short. Since the majority of my flights are perhaps an hour long, this is how I watch my movies now. Now, I’m not just “going to Toronto” I’m “watching the last half of The Tooth Fairy” (don’t judge me).

Meaning that the way I prepare for a flight has changed. Why? I have a 10 year old. Any parent with a child knows what I mean. It means you watch way too many computer-generated movies in 3D and not enough of anything else. The airplane becomes my catch-up time. That used to mean reading. And it still does – an airplane is the only place I might be able to sit down and read a newspaper. But more and more often, it means movies and television.

It’s on an airplane that I first get to watch the TV shows I hear people talking about. Same with movies (in a recent post I suggested movie theatres for airports as well). My flying schedule is the reason I can join in on water cooler talk. How odd is that?

Airplanes have long been content delivery systems. You may bring the content on board with you, and many people do, but on an airplane you can read a magazine, you can watch the IFE or listen to music, you can catch up on work; you are absorbing content.

Airlines that understand this keep their passengers informed and entertained. The flight itself is a service. You have to get from Point A to Point B. But what you do on that flight is something else. That’s why there are ads on the airplane (let’s face it, content isn’t free). We live our lives surrounded by the content of the world, by stories.

When we say we are media saturated what we’re really talking about is how much bad content there is out there. If all the stories vying for our attention were good, we wouldn’t use words like “bombarded” or “saturated” to describe our world. An airplane is a relatively “quiet” space from which to filter what’s out there. Outside of flight attendant announcements, there’s really nothing to interrupt you.

I’m still thinking about my next flight, not in terms of why I have to take it, but because I’d like to see the crowd’s reaction when Morgan Freeman’s Nelson Mandela walks onto the field in that Springboks track suit. My recent (short) flights thus have an odd sense of continuity to them. It’s like one long movie-watching experience “interrupted” by work. Or real life. Or not flying. And it makes me want to fly again. Soon.

So tell us, what do you think of airplanes as entertainment centres?

First published in Air Canada’s enRoute online, a Spafax publication.