Turn your iPad into an airplane seat-back video screen using 2 cents’ worth of materials

Andrew Hearst says:

I’ve been flying more than usual the last couple of years, partly thanks to my job, and my iPad has made these travel experiences so much more enjoyable. I just load up my iPad with episodes of Top Chef, Downton Abbey, and other stuff and immerse myself for a few hours. Even after an intercontinental flight, I have plenty of charge left.

Unfortunately, an iPad propped on a seat tray doesn’t provide a very good viewing angle. You’re forced to crane your neck downward quite a bit. During longer flights, this can get uncomfortable. The best position is obviously eye level: right where a seat-back video screen is always mounted.

Earlier this year, on a flight to London on Virgin Atlantic, it occurred to me that I might be able to use a piece of string to hang my iPad’s case from the crevasse at the top of the seat in front of me. Since I didn’t have a piece of string, I used my iPhone earbuds cable instead. It worked great.

Turn your iPad into an airplane seat-back video screen using 2 cents’ worth of materials


  1. Anything is better than some of the crap offered up on many flights. Funny to that it isn’t always top shelf entertainment & ads, because there is no audience like a captive audience.

    1. Yep, it is the advertising I can’t stand. There is a bank I will honestly NEVER use because they drove me crazy with incessant in-flight ads during a period when I was doing a lot of international travel for work. Just the sight of the logo makes my blood boil.

      1.  I’m often surprised by how often some companies repeat their ads in a given timeframe, on the same channel. Pissing off your intended audience is a very real danger

  2. Because hey, it’s not like you couldn’t pick up any crappy old headphones anywhere in the world and have a better listening experience. Apple should start advertising them as “Air Hangers with built-in micro speakers”

    (Disclosure: Mac and Android and Sennheiser user)

    1.  Yes, like for two hours before takeoff while planes are lined up to be de-iced and then another 10 hours for the duration of the flight (with a couple of brief meal breaks when the jerk in front of you puts his seat back up). Don’t get me started!

  3. I missed it if it was in the write-up, but the pictures DO show a different set of headphones plugged in. PLEASE don’t try this without headphones – no one wants to hear you catching up on Vampire Diaries…

  4. I don’t know about anyone else but most of the planes I fly on don’t have that kind of plastic on the seat in front of me to wrap the string around, the whole thing is fabric with a smaller video inset into the back.  Somehow I don’t think the person in front of me will take kindly to me wrapping a string behind their head to make this work.

    1. Ask nicely.

      Actually, if there is an adjustable headrest there should be room between the headrest and actual seat back.

  5. At last, a use for those white ear-buds that I swear are breeding at our place. Put two pairs in a drawer for a few months and they multiply into a tangled mess of white cables and non-ear-shaped white bulbs. Looks like some sort of parasitic worm infestation.

    Seriously though, and iPad on a tray table is just fine by me. I wouldn’t bother with this.

  6. I’ve done this before. It really depends on the construction of the seat. In some cases- you can also hang it off the little hook for the tray-table. It doesn’t put the iPad much higher, but it frees up some space on the tray-table if the seat isn’t reclined back too far… :)

  7. With the smart cover, you can prop it up near vertical.  Don’t lie it flat with the hinges away from you-  stand it upright with the triangle and hinges at the bottom.

    Problem solved for $0 more!

    (Unless there’s something wrong with standing it upright on the tray-  you lose a few inches as opposed to hanging it, but not neck-craning angles.)

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