Time Travel to the Past - Today's Airline Cabins

During a recent flight, while I was suffering the indignities that befall travelers these days, I was struck again by how primitive the experience remains inside the cabin, particularly flying domestically on US carriers. This is not not the mindset of an Information Technology / CIO speaking, rather the thoughts of an experienced traveler.

Quite literally, it is as if time has stood still in those airline cabins. Thinking back to some of my earlies tmemories on the Lockheed ConstellationDouglas DC-7, and the Boeing 707 not much has changed, and what has, is for the worse
Domestic airline cabins today are the equivalent of technical “Death Valley” devoid of and hostile to technology life. It seems inconceivable that Wi-Fi broadband access is not available. Moreover, the lack of personal video screens for everyone strikes me as an opportunity lost for the carriers.

To begin, the screen’s absence, certainly impacts customer satisfaction in my view. I think this is especially true when there are delays. More importantly, there are a number of lost revenue opportunities for the airlines (maybe they could reduce bag fees!). Pay-to-view movies or even for basic access is just two examples. The ability to order food from the galley, take advantage of special from the in-flight magazine, book another flight or other possibilities.

The only airline flying in the US that seems to have figured this out, for the most part, is Virgin America. My few flights with them have been on new aircraft that were well equipped. I was impressed with how well they technology worked and its level of integration (cabin Wi-Fi, personal video screen, video-on-demand, food orders, and more).

On one trip, a coast-to-coast flight, I worked for a number of hours maintaining a VPN connection with the network of my employer at the time. The only downside, was that midway through the flight, I got a call on the soft IP phone which I had forgotten to turn off.

The situation is a bit better on international flights, even with US carries. I have flown a lot internationally over the years. I find the experience inconsistent and with significant room for improvement. Virgin Atlantic has been one of the leaders in providing the most consistently advanced technology environments to their passengers from my experience and the input I have received from colleagues.

Although I do not wish to be in the position of being expected to “work” throughout a flight, it is nice to have the option. Regardless of what is driving your travel need, business or pleasure, traveling back in time to a place technology has missed is not my idea of a good time.

I can only hope that Virgin America is inspiring other airlines to follow their example.


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