An important part of city life starts and ends with air travel. In the US, 642 million passengers flew on 8.4 million domestic flights during 2012. So how can network technology go from a gate-to gate experience to an enhanced door-to-door experience?
Frequent flyers have embraced electronic boarding passes to make their lives easier. Less frequent travelers might not appreciate this new technology but surcharges by low cost airlines for paper tickets and paper boarding passes have converted both types of travelers. We are now beginning to get more refined flight information on-line: notification of delays, progress on stand-by lists and alternative options. This means less work for the screen at the gate and more information in your palm about your trip.
Wi-Fi is widespread in lounges at airports and in the waiting areas inside the terminals. However, few are accessible without a special access code or even at all in the check-in area. As so much information is collected at the booking and required en route, the addition of effortless airport coverage is the next big thing off the plane. Who wouldn’t like to check the box for “Device connectivity at airports en route” when booking a trip?
The entertainment screen in the chair in front of you has been an integrated part of the flying experience for decades. It’s about to get seriously challenged by the tablets most travelers bring on board. The only aspect missing is network capacity on board to support streaming entertainment services. Investing more in network capacity and less on commercial rights and video/DVD/Blu-ray players on board is a mainstream trend.
Last but not least, the networked flight attendant will be updated in the air about the impact of any weather-related delays, mechanical problems or slot times. Tablets and super-sized smartphones are becoming the new work horse to serve you better as you approach the end of your flight. Will I make my connection? Will I need any support for expedited rush between terminals? How long is the immigration line? Am I re-booked on a new flight already?
My predictions for the future of networked aviation are:
– The journey towards connecting airports, planes and passengers is in its infancy and represents the single most important source of adding values to air travel.
– Our smartphones will remain the key touch point for updates on day of travel, and will take over as the primary booking tools for trips.
– Our tablets will become the new personal entertainment screen as soon as satellite capacity allows for streaming during flights.
– Integrating taxi/bus/metro transport with networked aviation will extend the gate-to-gate experience all the way to a door-to-door experience.