I’m starting to realize that I’m increasingly at the intersection of technology and travel. I may have gotten into a bit of a disagreement with an Air France executive at a conference a few weeks ago because he insisted that they’ve run studies and business cases and can’t justify the cost of installing Wi-Fi on their fleet.
This, to me seems insane.
I’ve heard from several of the people from Routehappy that Wi-Fi is a key feature that passengers book towards and book away from airlines that lack it.
I made the argument that installing Wi-Fi across the fleet (and making it free) has a huge hidden ROI in the form of more informed passengers (they can see their own connecting information, make fewer crew requests) and the myriad of other projects that it enables (entertainment ancillaries, tiering at different speeds and many others that no one has dreamt up yet) but it fell on deaf ears.
But it gave me a great jumping off point for a series of articles!
What would the future of travel look like? Like in 10 or 15 years?
There’s a number of predictions, partly based on what leading airlines are already doing, and partly based on what I’ve heard from airline executives, conferences, articles — but tempered with an eye of what is technically feasible to implement.
So here goes some predictions – some of this was grafted from a talk I gave at AGIFORS in May, but some of it is more pan-travel than airline-focused.
Prediction 1: Internet Connectivity – End to End
We’re pretty close to this already. Airports already are getting better about offering free Wi-Fi, though it doesn’t quite reach the gate and jet bridge in many cases. That will likely change and new airports are investing in blanket, fast, free coverage.
In flight, domestic Wi-Fi is being upgraded to useable speeds and I’m currently typing this article while connected to satellite Wi-Fi on a transatlantic flight, for a a reasonable price (thanks SAS!). Speeds will continue to increase, more providers will give more airlines more options.
This enables both passengers and crew to be aware of things on the ground while they’re in the air. Fewer people will miss their flights because they can’t find their connecting gates.
IFE will become “the internet” complete with an onboard browser on a touch screen so you don’t have to rely on a phone battery for 14 hours – though I could see airlines implementing some sort of IP blocker to filter out objectionable content and to develop policies against having phone calls inflight — (as an aside, you’d be surprised what people access in a relatively public cabin, not for the faint of heart)
You’ll likely see speed options become tiered, similar to how hotels approach the problem of rationing finite bandwidth. Email and simple browsing are free, but you want to stream HD video or play a hi-res game, you’re going to have to pay for it. This way, airlines can invest in newer and faster systems, but allow the slow/free option to solve many travel logistical problems like connecting gate info and rebooking.
Frankly, I’ve made the argument that unlike other upgrades like mood lighting or espresso machines, there needs to be less scrutiny on the ROI of basic wifi, since it enables so many soft, elegant solutions to many of the problems passengers and crew face in the air.
More and more carriers are signing on to transoceanic contracts, so I think it’ll start to become the norm (think of it like filling the water or fuel tanks, nobody really questions the utility of those things) and fewer airline IT departments will waffle at the prospect of installing it. Most of the things it enables haven’t even been invented yet.
How do you think Wi-Fi will be rolled out? What other innovations in technology and process will become the norm in 10 or 15 years? Comment below!
I’m going to try to turn this into a weekly or biweekly series – so check back for new predictions coming soon!