Good news appears to be en route for road warriors, leisure travelers and Candy Crush addicts.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the FAA may soon loosen up regulations on electronic device usage at lower altitudes, potentially allowing passengers to use some devices – like e-readers – the entire time they are on a plane. Imagine not having to miss even one email or news update, and not having to end a favorite online game right when you were about to beat your highest score.
According to a draft report by an FAA advisory committee, the FAA is feeling the pressure to update standards set in the 1960s due to the overwhelming popularity of consumer electronic devices and an increasing bending of the rules by connected consumers. The draft noted that less than 60% of travelers surveyed turn their devices off completely when asked to do so in flight.
Travelers today simply expect to stay connected throughout their journeys. SITA recently found that more than 70% of passengers carry a smartphone today, and 9 out of 10 passengers want flight status info on their mobile devices. And this trend shows no signs of slowing – ABI Research recently projected that there will be 10 billion Wi-Fi enabled devices shipped by 2015. Airlines are racing to keep up with connectivity demand, with The New York Times reporting that 38 percent of all domestic flights now offer connectivity.
When implemented, the FAA’s relaxed standards could represent not only what the Journal calls a “major cultural shift” for travelers, but also major opportunities for airlines and airports. With the coming launch of Next Generation Hotspot standards, which will enable seamless roaming between Wi-Fi networks with no user action needed, a passenger could conceivably maintain a Skype conversation from the gate to their seat, and right through in-flight drink service, or watch a favorite flick without interruption. This seamless, continuous connectivity could improve passenger satisfaction, allow airports and airlines to stay in constant contact with their travelers, and potentially net airports and airlines additional Wi-Fi revenues.
This gate-to-gate connectivity experience won’t happen overnight – the latest reports point to a phased integration following thorough safety assessments – and the roll-out will necessitate significant investment from airports and airlines in their Wi-Fi networks. The New York Times recently reported on the high consumer demand, and high costs, for high-quality in-flight Wi-Fi systems – with experts noting that they’re rapidly becoming the cost of doing business for airlines. The Journal also asserted that the FAA standards review presents an opportunity to create global Wi-Fi standards to reduce complexity and provide a more consistent experience to electronic device users worldwide.
With the cooperation of industry regulatory bodies, the coming launch of Next Generation Hotspot standards and the anticipated easing of the FAA rules, the sky may no longer be the limit when it comes to connectivity.
Are you looking forward to a 100% connected in-flight experience, or will you miss a few minutes offline under 10,000 feet? Are you one of the estimated one-third of travelers who already leaves their devices on throughout the flight?
Be sure to share your comments below.