Staying Connected at 30,000 Feet
Today’s article is written by Matthew Levenson, who is interested in aircraft from a passenger point of view rather than the pilot’s. But I think this is a subject close to most of our hearts: staying connected at 30,000 feet!
Over the past decade, the rollout of free Wi-Fi services in our towns and cities has delivered all of us with unprecedented connectivity so that we can stay in touch with loved ones and even play online games in our downtime.
Most of our airports now have Wi-Fi facilities to make the inevitable airline delays a little more bearable. But until recently, our airlines have proved relatively resistant to including complementary Wi-Fi with their online entertainments.
However, there are signs that this could be changing. It’s thought that nearly two-thirds of all flights in the US now have Wi-Fi facilities, and this number is slowly increasing across the world.
Such technologies are becoming increasingly important for airlines as they seek to improve their position in the evermore competitive global flight market. As recently as last week Air Canada announced that they would be extending Wi-Fi to all international flights, whilst Qantas have also unveiled their new free high-speed Wi-Fi plans.
These moves will be widely-welcomed by global travellers. Despite passenger entertainment services now including an impressive range of TV shows and movies, for the 21st century traveller to have their workplace and entertainment opportunities curtailed by lack of Wi-FI certainly seems somewhat backward.
Already, passengers are using availability of Wi-Fi to choose who they wish to fly with and over time we’ll see more comparisons such as Gizmodo’s ranking of airlines by Wi-Fi Service.
Apart from the possibilities of increased productivity through being able to host a video-chat session with a colleague over Skype, the commuter or holiday-maker would also be able to play online roulette games that work on a mobile phone from sites such as Betway so as to pass the time in a relaxed way whilst earning some extra travel money.
However, if these online possibilities seem welcome, it will certainly be some time before effective Wi-Fi on our planes becomes a problem-free reality. Many a global commuter has experienced a good deal of air rage thanks to substandard Wi-Fi, and American Airlines recently sued the Wi-Fi firm GoGo as a result of their online ineptitude.
In addition, Wi-Fi does you very little good if you don’t have power, and not all airlines are offering power points to their passengers, which is a rather obvious issue.
Such teething troubles are perhaps unsurprising given the complexity of the task of installing such new technologies in passenger airplanes.
Although the road to achieving universal free Wi-Fi on our planes is still some way off, it’s becoming easier for the passenger to check to see if an airline has the service. This is because travel sites such as Kayak now include the relevant Wi-Fi information so that passengers can book a hotel or play multi-player games whilst travelling at 30,000 feet.
If I had access to online roulette before we arrived at our holiday destination, I doubt we’d have any holiday money left! It sure would make the flight more interesting though.
Welcome to the future!