The UX Critic: Alaska Air Inflight Entertainment

For this inaugural edition of The UX Critic, I’m going to show how Alaska Air could do a little better with their inflight entertainment. And by “a little better” I mean “actually useful”. Earlier in the year I took two trips with them, and neither time was I able to get their service to work. The second time was even more irritating because I already knew of one of the blockers to the system.

Part of the reason I’m picking Alaska Air for the first critique is that I really like them. There’s a few airlines I actively avoid. In May this year I actually paid quite a bit more to fly with Alaska – partially because the whole family was going, including my two & six year old kids. Having traveled often for business, I knew Alaska’s service could easily make the flight be enjoyable while other airlines have proven to me a track record to the contrary.

Alaska Air is always improving. I hope this critique will help them continue the pattern of great service.

Getting Setup

Alaska provides a quick setup card to get you rolling. There’s four easy steps:

  1. Turn on WiFi and connect to the “gogoinflight” network
  2. Launch your web browser
  3. Click on Watch Now
  4. Select a video & enjoy

alaska air inflight instructions

But wait, that’s not quite right. If you do that, it won’t work. I tried this on my Mac laptop and it didn’t work. As you can see in the photo of the instruction card to the right, there’s another step that first time users have to take.

Tip #1: Put the first steps first. I know George Lucas got away with Episodes IV, V and VI before I, II and III, but at least the middle three made sense together.

The other important step is to install the free Gogo Video Player. Unfortunately, that requires internet access.

Tip #2: Make it work with the browser without requiring plugins. Admittedly, I have used the Headspace/Beatnik plugin, so I’m speaking from experience.

Tip #2b: If you’re not going make it work in the browser, all required installations should be easily accessible. Update: Their website currently says the install is available in flight. However, I tried it multiple times and couldn’t access it.

Getting Setup, Again

I had to drop that attempt and tried again on my next flight. This time I connected to the airport WiFi and installed the Gogo Video Player.

We took off and I tried it again. Should work fine, right? Nope. No dice.

Device Unsupported

alaska chrome not supported

But you said you did. Ok, I’ll read the fine print. Since I’m on a Mac, Safari is the only supported browser? Argh. Ok. I get that Safari is just barely the top browser on OS X and comes installed by default. Still, this harkens back to the late 90’s when sites would say “Best viewed with Internet Explorer”. So I give Safari a try.

It still doesn’t work.

alaska flash required

Why? Because I need Flash. What’s worse, I have to connect to the internet to download the Flash installer. Chrome supports Flash by default, but since I don’t do much with Flash nor use Safari, I don’t have it installed in other browsers.

Tip #3: See Tip #2.

But hey, I see over on Windows it supports Firefox. So I try Firefox on Mac. Still, I get the unsupported device message.

alaska firefox not supported

Okay, okay. Yeah, I’m on a Mac, but I’ve got Windows in a VM. Actually, I’ve got Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.1 VMs. And I’ve got multiple of those with IE6-11 installed. Yes, my laptop is basically a swiss army knife of browsers. They say Windows 7 & 8 are supported with IE 9+ and Firefox 19+. Great, I’ve got all those.


No. Same basic issue. I don’t have Flash installed and I can’t get the installer.

Tip #4: Support the most popular browser – Chrome. I know it’s slightly less popular than Safari on Mac, but for Windows I just pulled numbers from multiple large scale sites that target your average consumer, and Chrome > IE. Not only that, but it’s been widely publicized that Chrome surpassed IE, years ago.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Alaska Air may know its audience. Maybe amongst those traveling with laptops on Alaska’s flights, IE is the winner. Hopefully they know their audience.

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