July 15, 2010
Airlines & Airports Need to GET Technology FasterThe New York Times has a piece on technology and social networking for travelers - how airlines, airports and travelers are using social networking as a way to what, make traveling easier? Perhaps a little less painful if you can connect with a like-minded person when you're stuck at the Detroit or Delhi airport for hours.
Yet, the article references a survey of 84 of the world’s largest airports done by the Airports Council International earlier this year, which found that 96% offered Wi-Fi connections, and 73% had connections throughout their terminals. The survey reports that 45% offer the service free; the rest charge an average of about $8 an hour. Hmmm, so if I'm stuck for 6 hours because of a technical difficulty, I have to pay $50 to stay connected and get my work done, more than I pay for a month's service at home.
The piece talks about increasing availability of Wi-Fi at airports yet I still struggle to find 'reliable' connections even in places that tout they have it and then, they overcharge. Thanks to Verizon Wireless (AT&T obviously has also in the states but only half as reliable in my experience), I don't have to be hostage to airports' expensive connectivity plans that are often sketchy anyway. And while we're at it, what about the lack of power outlets? On every trip, I am on my hands and knees looking for the only one or two power outlets in the waiting area and 9 times out of 10, someone is charging their iPhone on it.
So I learn that "more than 10 airlines in North America, including American, Delta and Southwest, are wiring their planes for Internet access, and major foreign airlines like Lufthansa are introducing new technology that will let customers connect on transoceanic flights. And, as many as 1,200 commercial airliners in the United States will have Wi-Fi capability by the end of the year, according to Chris Babb, senior product manager of in-flight entertainment for Delta Air Lines."
Apparently Lufthansa has consulted with members of the FlyerTalk service to potentially develop an iPhone app so people can tap into the power social networking from anywhere. (a Blackberry version coming later). How it would work? A built-in GPS allows users to find fellow fliers who might be nearby. It also has a taxi-sharing feature that travelers can activate upon landing. I LOVE THIS ONE BTW and this is so logical and overdue I can't believe no one has launched something like this earlier.
It's great that the travel industry is starting to embrace technology, but frankly, they need to embrace it faster AND make it less painful to use - more power outlets, free wifi in airports and hotels, and easy-to-find and use mobile devices where you can connect locally at your new destination without the need to go through weeks of advance research to figure out the best mobile option for your four day stay. It needs to be easier and it needs to be cheaper so that not only the business traveler who can expense his $100 for the day wifi charge can benefit.
Mobile warriors have to stay connected in order to be productive on the road otherwise, staying home and doing a Skype call or virtual conference may prove to be a more productive and less stressful alternative.
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