Millions of business and leisure travelers received a special “treat” this Halloween, when the FAA announced that passengers will soon be able to use their favorite personal electronic devices (PEDs) in airplane mode during all phases of flight – including take off and landing.
Many passengers won’t have to wait long to reclaim their precious few minutes of work, social networking or entertainment time on their mobile devices under 10,000 feet. The day after the FAA’s announcement both Delta and Jet Blue announced that the FAA had approved their implementation plans, allowing customers on select flights to begin using PEDs including tablets, e-readers and smartphones immediately.
Though The Wall Street Journal reported that some airline Wi-Fi networks would not be able to support this expanded connectivity right away due to current system design, you can almost hear the sighs of relief from flight attendants who’ll no longer have to nag passengers to turn off their personal devices at the beginning and end of every flight.
This expanded in-flight mobile device use comes at a time when demand for in-flight connectivity is greater than ever. PwC recently found that 70% of business flyers demand Wi-Fi access for long flights, and more than 40% of leisure traveler in-flight time is spent on Wi-Fi. The recent SITA/Air Transport World’s Passenger IT Trends Survey found that 85% of passengers want access to entertainment, and more than 70% want access to their email and to travel information via their mobile devices while in flight.
While travelers are clamoring for in-flight connectivity, the same SITA study found that mobile adoption on other parts of the passenger journey is building slowly, but is primed for rapid acceleration. The study found that while more than 76% of passengers carry a smartphone and more than 50% want to get flight updates and airport information via their devices, mobile still isn’t travelers’ first choice for check-in and boarding passes.
So why aren’t more mobile device users taking advantage of mobile-enabled services? SITA’s study found that phone usability concerns and less-than-stellar mobile app user experience may be the culprits.
Still, SITA and industry experts note that the use of mobile in the travel experience is set for a massive increase in the next three years, as device proliferation increases and services are enhanced. The coming roll-out of Next Generation Hotspot via airport networks will help ensure that travelers’ mobile devices stay seamlessly connected as they move from security to gate, allowing them to rest assured that they’ll have access to mobile coupons for their favorite concessions, and their mobile boarding pass. (Boingo recently launched the first commercial Next Generation Hotspot test bed at Chicago O’Hare.)
Soon fliers may be less worried about pulling up their mobile boarding pass and sending that last email before device lockdown, and more focused on keeping their devices charged.