Kevin Costner's Road Trip Audio App Will Now Be Available on JetBlue's In-flight Entertainment — and He Told Us All About It

The Oscar-winning star of ‘Yellowstone’ talks exclusively to Travel + Leisure about his travel app Autio’s newest partnership.

Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner . Photo:

Courtesy of Getty Images

When Kevin Costner travels by plane, he’s always focused on the journey ahead, usually mentally going through his checklist so that he can hit the ground running.

“But when I do look out the window, my imagination is full,” the Academy Award-winner told Travel + Leisure exclusively on Monday. “I wonder what went on down there on the land below.”

It’s that kind of thoughtful musing and curiosity that led the 68-year-old history buff to co-found the travel app Autio, formerly HearHere, which offers more than 10,000 pieces of audio content that bring American landmarks to life, as told by the most compelling storytellers, including former basketball player Phil Jackson, actor John Lithgow, and Costner himself. 

Launched in the midst of the pandemic in 2020, the travel story library was originally intended to accompany roadtrippers on their drives. But starting Wednesday, Autio is taking to the skies in a newly announced partnership with JetBlue, which will provide passengers with access to more than 250 stories in 29 American destinations that can be streamed on the Avant seatback screens, which are available on about half of its fleet.

“People want to be productive with their time, even in a leisurely way,” the Yellowstone star said of using the app aboard flights. “Even for world travelers, the only things you are going to learn will come out of the mouths of other people, out of the books you read, and out of some other experiences someone offers you.”

It’s that kind of connection with place that has driven Costner’s global travels, as less of a vacationer and more of a student of the world, he told T+L.

“I’m kind of an explorer or a treasure hunter,” he admitted, sharing that one of his favorite activities is diving around historical ships, which he has done everywhere from South Africa to Cuba. “I'm in search of the history of that ship…not just something shiny that I might find. I'm really interested in the drama of things.”

That mentality rings true on the ground too. Take, for example, one of his favorite regions in his home state of California, the Central Coast, which he recorded the Autio intro for.

“I've had a renewed interest in what's happened here,” he says, explaining that despite the Tribal Wars, the native communities had reached some sort of harmonious “equilibrium” before “we came and stuck our finger on the ant hole.”

"Now I find myself venturing out in the Central Coast just looking for early maps that overlay the great Spanish land grants," he said. "That’s become interesting to me.”

But just because he’s always scouring for historic clues doesn’t mean he’s all business. “I'm always trying to double up on my pleasures, which is scouting and then making my way to hot springs,” he said with a laugh. “There's something very medicinal about them — and you realize that everybody for the last 15,000 years knew exactly what to do when they came upon one: they took their clothes off and got into it!”

Universal human instincts like that are especially meaningful to Costner since it connects us to a time gone by.

“I can sit where early man may have sat for thousands of years and know exactly what to do,” he said. But it also demonstrates how important it is to preserve the land around us.

Costner’s innate passion for meaningful travel stems from childhood memories of car trips to California's High Sierras.

“We were camping on the lowest level,” he remembered of sleeping in tents and cooking on Coleman stoves. “Those things marked me forever.” And one mountain sense has especially stuck with him: “I remember the smell — just being with my pop and sitting on the rocks. It was a scent I never lost.” 

Nowadays, he has a different kind of road trip routine, with three kids and two dogs in the backseat — all who have no nose for nostalgia.

“I'm trying to get their noses out of their games,” he admitted. “I talk with them, but I am unsuccessful. They look at me and they go, ‘Yeah Dad,’ and put their nose right back in.” 

So he does the only thing that will work: he stops the car and nudges them to go read the historic markers. “They hate those signs and start to moan,” he admitted. “I go, ‘It’s only one paragraph!,’ but it’s tough.” 

That was exactly what sparked him to develop Autio — to lift history off of the static signs and into engaging stories that connect us with the lives lived by those who previously took those footsteps. 

And there’s something about the discovery on the open road that he can’t deny.

“It’s a throwback,” he said. “People used to see the country from the back of a horse. The car is the next best thing and these roads can take you to spots that you'll never ever forget."

Whether or not you get a taste of the app on your next JetBlue flight, download Autio in the Apple App Store for access to five free stories (or $36/year for unlimited access), which can be location-based for real-time storytelling or interest-based to gain a greater appreciation for America's greatest landmarks.

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