Browsing Tag: Amenities

Delta Air Lines's in-flight entertainment system

Delta Air Lines's in-flight entertainment system. pic.

On a recent flight from Tampa, FL to Seattle, WA, I stopped and observed the other passengers on-board and what they were doing to entertain themselves. On each flight you normally can find the following:

* Sleepers: They don’t want overhead announcements, they don’t want food/drink service, they just want to sleep.
* iPodders: Just sit there listening to their iPod, sometimes with the occasional head-bob to the music.
* Readers: The flight provides a good opportunity to catch up on some reading.
* Talkers: Will talk to someone they know or spend the flight trying to make new friends.
* Laptoppers: Working on projects and now some on the internet.
* Gamers: With their mini-game systems or using their phones to play games.
* Thinkers: People that spend the time staring at their seat back thinking about who knows what.
* Movie Watchers: Will watch any movie being played by the airline.
* Seat back Players: Passengers who will use the airline’s in-flight entertainment to pass time.
* Combos: Tries to do as many of the different activities as possible before the flight ends.

Over the years, there has obviously been a shift. Years back, there would only be the readers, talkers, sleepers, and occasional movie watchers (if it was offered). Now airlines are providing many more options for flyers. From in-flight entertainment, to movies, to now having the internet, there are quite a few options.

It is not easy to fit a laptop on the tray to blog

It is not easy to fit a laptop on the tray to blog

I often wonder if the millions invested in in-flight entertainment is going to pay off. With so many hand-held gadgets available(iPod, iPhone, laptops, etc) and the addition of Wi-Fi on many airlines now, are flyers still going to be interested in using the airline’s content?

With a device hooked up to the internet, options are almost limitless and on par with entertainment options on the ground. Airlines are able to charge for internet and movies, but so far, power (which will be available on many more planes in the future) and the ability for a passenger to watch something on their own gadget, are free. As the line between phone, mp3 player and computer continues to blur, it seems less likely that passengers would have an interest in paying for limited content on airlines.

I don’t think the concept of in-flight entertainment provided by the airlines will die, but I think it needs to evolve with the times. Is it worth squinting at a small iPhone screen or dealing with a big laptop in front of me to access free entertainment? If airlines would be able to provide more than just TV and movie options (maybe provide the option to interact with other passengers or order food from their seats) could it sway users back to in-flight entertainment? With the addition of Wi-Fi, it would also be beneficial for airlines to integrate the internet into their in-flight systems and charge customers for using it.

However, is it worth it to airlines to pay to keep up with gadgets? In-flight entertainment systems do not come cheap. Airlines, having to foot the initial set-up cost to get airplanes retrofitted with the new technology,  still must pay to keep them updated, they pay for additional fuel burn from the weight, and they pay for licensing fees to show certain TV shows and movies. Is it worth it to put that much money into a system, when passengers can provide the technology themselves and airlines can charge for access to the internet, possibly rent movies onboard (either DVD or via network download), and maybe even charge for power usage?

Ryanair Boeing 737-800 in March 2005 showing off the airline's first winglets

Ryanair Boeing 737-800 in March 2005 showing off the airline's first winglets

Normally one has to take whatever Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says with a grain of salt. He says a lot of crazy things, most likely to get a few news stories written about him. When he first started talking about charging passengers to use the bathroom, I thought it was another crazy publicity stunt, but…

Ryanair plans to add credit card readers to the bathrooms in their Boeing 737-800 jets and even remove two of the three bathrooms to provide more seats. O’Leary is quoted as saying, “We are flying aircraft on an average flight time of one hour around Europe.” Is it crazy for this to start making a little sense to me now? I mean, some people ride buses and trains without bathrooms for longer than an hour on a daily basis. 

The airline plans to charge about $1.50 for each bathroom usage and no word on emergency situations for people without credit cards. They plan to have the new system in place within 2 years.

Source: NYT Image: jordi757

Virgin American's RED where you can order food and drink right at your seat.

Virgin American's RED where you can order food and drink right at your seat.

In an age where almost everyone has an Debit or Credit Card and that airlines are charging for more things on flights than just movies and alcohol, it seems obvious that airlines should be taking credit cards in flight.

Going cashless has many benefits (not having to have cash on the plane, don’t have to ask for change, encourages people to spend more, etc), but some flight attendants are worried what happens if the card reader doesn’t work? And there are concerns that the credit cards will slow down service.

Although airlines that have already implemented the service show there is a learning curve, but once learned, service can actually pick up.

Virgin America probably has the coolest system where you can order items on the entertainment module in the seat back and actually swipe your credit card there.

Current American cashless airlines:
* United Airlines: Since late April
* AirTran
* American Airlines by June 1
* JetBlue
* AirTran
* Southwest Airlines
* Sun country Airlines
* Frontier Airlines
* Alaska Airlines
* USA3000
* MidWest Airlines
* Virgin America
There could be more — there doesn’t seem to be a full list of airlines and I tried to search down as many as I could.

Although the additional charges might be bothersome, at least most airlines are making an effort to make paying them easier.


McDonnell Douglas MD-11, N1767A, Approaching r/w 27L, London, Heathrow,

McDonnell Douglas MD-11, N1767A, Approaching r/w 27L, London, Heathrow,

At a time where airline’s frequent flier programs are becoming less friendly with higher charges, more miles required to redeem free flights, and more restrictions, American Airlines has decided to try something new and make it easier for its fliers to redeem their miles.

American Airlines is now allowing passengers to easily redeem one-way tickets for half the miles a round-trip ticket takes. This will open up many more options for those that only need a one-way flight, but wasn’t able to easily or cheaply do it with their miles. This should also make it easier to find a free seat on an airline. For if a person was booking a round trip “miles flight” and one of the legs had no more free slots, the entire itinerary would be denied. Now, it allows more flexibility.

Airline analysts think American Airline’s move will help to booster their AAdvantage membership by millions and will cause a ripple effect to other airlines, forcing them to follow suit. This should bring up revenue for additional passengers who want to build up their miles and also via partnerships with hotels and rental car companies who purchase miles for airlines.

It took about a year for American Airlines to make the changes to their system to handle the one-way ticketing and they expect it to take another year before seeing other airlines providing direct competition.

Source: MSNBC Image: Bonedome

My laptop on the AirTran flight - 2min ago - looking of course at

My laptop on the AirTran flight - 2min ago - looking of course at

I am currently on a special media promotion AirTran Boeing flight over 10,000 ft in the air while posting this, not even sure where we are flying to (but that is ok, because we have the internet to entertain me). That’s right folks, welcome to the next generation of airline amenities. 

 AirTran Airways is working with Aircell’s Gogo Inflight Internet to upgrade all 136 of their Boeing 737’s and Boeing 717’s by mid-summer to have wi-fi service. Having this service on every flight, frequent fliers don’t have to wonder if their flight will have internet or not. After hitting 10,000 feet, you can open your laptop or turn on your wi-fi enabled phone and be taken to the Gogo page where you can use your credit card to get access to the service. It takes less than 3 minutes to get set up and logged on to the internet and it isn’t slow.  Talking with Thomas Weigman, Executive VP with AirCell, he stated it is a 3G network able to easily handle up to 80 laptops with no problems (a more extensive interview about the future of airline internet will be posted in a later blog entry).

Pricing isn’t too bad either. $7.95 for handhelds, $12.95 for over 3hr flight, and $9.95 for less than 3hrs. Considering how much more productive you can be, that is quite the deal!

This should be the start of a new trend. The concept of Wi-Fi has been around for a few years and it is about time for an airline to dive in headfirst. With business travellers, people wanting (or needing) to check their email constantly, or for something to cause some distraction, this is a perfect solution.

Kevin P Healy, the Senior VP for AirTran’s Marketing and Planning reassured me that AirTran is blocking certain sites, like porn, and Skype-type sites. Meaning you won’t have to hear someone yelling into their laptop during your 5hour flight across country. When asked about if there are any policies in place for when AirTran might shut off the internet (ie an emergency situation), Mr. Healy stated that there are none currently in place, but it is up to the Captain to make that decision and he has a switch in the cockpit to shut down the internet.

Although new and exciting, it seems about time to be able to access the internet from a plane, when I can access it almost anywhere now-a-days on the ground.

This puts an end to the advertising campaign, from which AirTran got more than 30,000 suggestions. Although I am a bit disappointed that slip n slides will not be on every AirTran flight, I think having Wi-Fi is much more beneficial.

My 5.5 hour flight back to Seattle leaves early tomorrow morning and man I wish this WiFi was already live on the plane. Oh well, soon enough it will be.

UPDATE:I found out that my flight back home tomorrow WILL have the internet tomorrow! Expect some more 40,000 feet postings.

MEDIA: Lots of pictures of this experienceToday Show video (which was a live feed from the plane – and you can kind of see me in the background with being mostly blocked by the reporter’s head).

MULTI-PART BLOG: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4