Apple TV+ comes to American Airlines flights

Binge-watching Apple TV+ no longer requires a subscription, but you will need a boarding pass instead.

American Airlines added 11 Apple TV+ series to its free streaming-entertainment menu at the start of August, allowing any passenger with AA’s app to watch such Apple originals as the alternative-space-history series For All Mankind and the TV-news drama The Morning Show. Apple TV+ titles are also available on the seatback screens on some of the Dallas-based airline’s aircraft.

The Points Guy travel-news site spotted the change Sunday.

It’s an unusual move for Apple, which launched the service last year at the low rate of only $4.99 a month—half of what some analysts expected—and then made it free for a year to buyers of Apple phones, tablets and computers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook called that free-year arrangement “a gift to our users” in its fourth-quarter earnings call last October. Now it will also be a gift to American’s passengers, although they represent a much smaller potential audience than AA’s pre-pandemic business would have allowed.

RELATED: Apple CEO calls Apple TV+ a ‘gift to our users’

“The streaming media space is incredibly crowded, and Apple doesn’t have a huge content library like Netflix or beloved IP like Disney,” said Avi Greengart, founder and lead analyst at Techsponential. “Apple is seeking exposure for Apple TV+, and giving people a chance to watch a show at 30,000 feet seems like a reasonable way to hook people on the service.”

It does fit into a pattern of airline media tie-ins that can differentiate the onboard experience and help make the hours in the air go by.

“JetBlue had Amazon Prime and as partners as FlyFi launched and added Showtime and Spotify late last year,” said Seth Miller, an aviation-industry analyst who focuses on the passenger experience. “American Airlines' add of Apple Music in January 2019 is similar. So is Delta's partnership with Hulu and Spotify and, most recently, Disney+.”

The Atlanta airline announced its exclusive with Disney in December, bringing a limited selection of Disney+ content to its flights.

“There is certainly a history of this type of partnership, but scant few details on how well they work,” Miller said. “Obviously, measuring against those that involve enrollment is much easier, but the content companies continue to pursue the joint marketing deals, so they must see an upside, even in this era of massively reduced demand.”

Miller said these deals typically involve “a hefty cost to the airlines,” but one they can offset through joint marketing agreements that include advertisements for the service on board. American did not answer a query about the financial arrangements of the deal.

Apple, for its part, seems more intent on building an audience for Apple TV+ than monetizing the service, yet. As Cook said in that earnings call last year: “We’d like as many people as possible to view it.”