Airlines Are Advancing Airborne Adventures

© Peter Linder 2013 – All rights reserved
© Peter Linder 2013 – All rights reserved

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.

Travel Transition To Total Trip Treasures


Planning our vacations and trips is already networked. We book flights, cars and hotels online. We find our way with GPS, and we share the daily highlights of our trips through social media. So what else is around the corner that can simplify our travel plans?

As more and more of us become smartphone owners, I think local tour companies could send short promotional videos about their offerings to visitors upon arrival at our hotel, so we don’t have to flip through paper brochures in the hotel lobby and maybe miss theirs.

When you book a tour, each tourist’s mobile number could be registered in the host’s mobile computer, so they can send us details about pickup and drop-off times, delays and other additional information via text.

Social-media tools have the potential to be used to check in for excursions, replacing the handling of paper vouchers and booking receipts. Enhanced driving directions through GPS could allow drivers to drive in less developed places, and perhaps even translate foreign road signs as we pass them. And while the printed guidebook will still be with us for a while longer, I expect most of them will be distributed online, optimized for smartphone rather than PC access.

In addition to all of the above possibilities, wouldn’t it be wonderful if taxis all around the world accepted payment by card or smartphone. I think this is one of the main reasons why people still need to change money into local currencies. Taxi drivers in many countries still do not accept credit cards, even in London, and most travelers don’t like to carry cash. Perhaps new smartphone-based payment applications such as the taxi app in New York will allow us to meet halfway.

What would make your next trip run a little more smoothly?