Developments in In-Flight Mobile Tech

Late last year we published a blog post about developments concerning the use of mobile devices during take-off and landing.  We catalogued in that post consumer complaints, the measures being taken by the FAA to guarantee flight safety, and the FCC’s recommendation that passengers be allowed to use their devices from the moment they board the plane.

As far as government turf wars go, this seems to be a pretty polite one.  The recent kerfuffle concerning air traffic controllers and sequester money demonstrated that our government goes out of its way to be kind to fliers.  On the one hand, the FCC and Senator Claire McCaskill are working to improve passenger access to their mobile tech, while the FAA is reasonably skittish about doing so until all their data is in.

Most recently, however, a survey released by the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association revealed that as many of 30% of us forget – or rather, “forget” – to turn off our mobile devices when we’re told to at the beginning and end of every flight, and only about 5% of us actually go through the process of completely powering down (that is, holding down the power button and sliding the bar to shut down the device completely).  Many are using data from this and similar studies to argue that the FAA’s testing is superfluous at best.

Additionally, last week the FCC proposed auctioning off the rights to newly available airwaves to increase Wi-Fi speeds in flight.  This is, of course, a very welcome development.  Just as our smartphones are proving themselves to be better GPS devices than the ones that come with our cars, with better connections our tablets could obviate the need for the individual monitors embedded in everyone’s headrests.  At the moment, Wi-Fi equipped aircraft offer in-flight movie purchases, but they struggle mightily when passengers try to use video streaming services like Netflix or Hulu.  Giving the customers freedom, choice, and capability in their in-flight entertainment would be a welcome development indeed.

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