Calgary-based airline prefers to leverage laptops and tablets carried by fliers

There are advantages to carrying around a laptop, tablet or smart phone when you travel, and one Canadian airline is picking up on it.

WestJet will soon stream its in-flight movies and entertainment to passengers’ mobile devices after taking out the seat-back screens on its aircraft.

Those who don’t have a tablet won’t be let down: The airline will have a few on each flight for them.

The strategy comes as WestJet signed a multi-year deal with Panasonic Avionics Corp. to provide a new inflight entertainment system that downloads free and paid content from satellites. Through Wi-Fi the TV and on-demand movies are transmitted through the plane. It also gives passengers Internet connectivity.

“We are very excited to take the next step in the evolution of our inflight entertainment system,” Marshall Wilmot, WestJet’s vice-president for product and distribution, said in a statement. “We were proud to be the first Canadian airline to offer live television on board our aircraft beginning in 2004, and today we are announcing a completely new system designed to offer WestJet guests a broader selection of entertainment options than ever before.”

No pricing details were available.

It will be a while before WestJet passengers will be able to take advantage of the service. Panasonic will install its system on one of the Boeing Next Generation 737s before the end of the year, allowing the airline to calibrate the platform. Then it will be rolled out across the fleet.

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