N321GG – Gogo’s 737-500 testbed – Photo: Gogo
Like most business travelers, I have grown accustomed to looking for the familiar WiFi symbol while boarding a plane. Just a few years ago, in-flight connectivity was a luxury and something one could not depend on, whether through spotty deployment across fleets, or because the cutting-edge technology delivering said connectivity wasn’t terribly reliable.
Over the years, however, following increased adoption among carriers, this luxury has morphed into something closer to a necessity. Business travelers like consistency, yet as comedian Louis CK accurately pointed out in one of his more popular skits amongst AvGeeks, we are more entitled than we should be. While I have grown increasingly dependent on connectivity, the underlying technology has always been a bit of a black box to me. You’ll be happy to know the hardware is in-fact encased in black boxes.
Some of the hardware required to power Gogo’s IFC and IFE systems – Photo: JL Johnson | AirlineReporter
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the Gogo team at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) Expo in Portland to learn all about in-flight connectivity. For two days I mingled with PR folks, engineers, and even some of Gogo’s competitors in an attempt to get a solid understanding of IFC basics. Now that I have had a few days to digest the the technology and various initialisms, I’m excited to share what I learned.
Air New Zealand’s “Pleased to Seat You” truck on display in Terry Fox Square in Vancouver
Air New Zealand is in the midst of refurbishing its Boeing 777-200ER fleet, and is showcasing the planes’ new Premium Economy and Economy Skycouch seats during a North American “Pleased to Seat You” tour.
The seats are on display in a 26 foot, 5 ton, glass-walled truck that will cover more than 7,000 miles, giving the public a chance to see and sit in the -200’s new seats. The airline introduced the innovative Skycouch in its Boeing 777-300s – the footrest in a row of three seats can be positioned at the same height as the seat cushions, giving a flexible space for passengers.
With the update of the -200s, all of the long-haul aircraft in Air New Zealand’s fleet will include the Skycouch, along with the new Premium Economy seats also found in its Boeing 787-9s.
WiFi is becoming common, but doesn’t mean it isn’t complex – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
A few weeks ago, Gizmodo ran an article claiming to rank and explain every major U.S. carrier’s WiFi system. At Routehappy, a big part of my job is to do exactly that. I need to know exactly what WiFi system is installed on every airline fleet and subfleet in the world, how it performs, what its limitations are, and how it ranks in the overall ecosystem. When I read through this article, I couldn’t help but notice it contained a few errors.
It’s a very complicated ecosystem, but not so complicated that it can’t be figured out. While the article does a great job of explaining how in-flight WiFi works and the technology behind it, I felt it was necessary to clear up which airlines currently offer what systems. Gizmodo’s 1-9 ranking is unchanged.
Below are excerpts from the original Gizmodo article, with my comments added under each.
Updating the gate area means seating that can be enjoyed by everyone – Photo: United
On my recent trip to Chicago with United to experience their new United Club cuisine, we were shown something that the airline had been working on. Something that would have been obvious to so many, but that not so much to others. United has been working on many different ways to improve their boarding experience.
We have all had a bad boarding experience. A delayed flight, people massing at the gates (gate lice), no order at all, bad communication, and confusion. Airlines all board aircraft in different fashions, and each airline has someone (or a team) of people, who are consistently re-evaluating how the boarding process can efficient. Some new methods work well, others are silently stopped and never spoken about again.
But what is sometimes forgotten about in the boarding process is what that gate area looks like, how it is handled, and how passengers actually feel about it. United has decided to take a look at all of these factors and decided on trying a new boarding experience — one where even passengers had some role in the decision-making process.