We've been covering the FAA's committee to ease restrictions on electronic usage during flights and the group made a decision last week. JetBlue and Delta, upon hearing the announcement, immediately said that each company would be willing to implement the changes as fast as possible, with a rep from JetBlue saying it could've been done "yesterday." Well, I have some good news for those of you wanting to keep reading your e-book or listen to music to calm your nerves during take off and landing.
Upon flying into Newark Airport this weekend on Delta Airlines for CES Unveiled New York, I was able to successfully use my phone's media player from "gate to gate" as Delta has been putting it on both of my flights so far. Just like the FAA's statement, there are still some rules. First, any device with cell service must be placed into Airplane Mode. Next, larger devices like laptops and DVD players (do people still carry those around?) must be stowed during take-off and landing, just like old times. However, I was also able to watch TV shows I've loaded onto my tablet without problem during the entire duration of the flight, so tablets, even 10-inch ones, seem to be fine. It was nice to see, just days after an announcement like this, companies jumping on board to allow passengers to take advantage of a federal change right away.
This also ties into in-flight WiFi services, which haven't been so great on many flights across the country. Or, more commonly, the service simply isn't available. Because of the restrictions being lightened on portable electronic usage, I'd expect to see airlines start to adopt WiFi on more flights. IHS data indicates that wireless connectivity should be available on over 4,000 aircraft globally by the end of this year, which accounts for just over 20 percent of the entire fleet. Comparatively, WiFi has only been available in 12 percent of planes in 2011 and 15 percent in 2012. By 2022, IHS predicts that half of all planes in the world will have this feature onboard, allowing business to be conducted during long or short flights, and even letting parents calm their kids down with a favorite TV show or movie.
Analysts have said that this low number of adoption isn't surprising, as many customers don't even use the WiFi on a plane. That reason is probably two-fold however, and my team here at PLuGHiTz Live can definitely speak as to why. First, the WiFi isn't very good and you can't do much on it. Recent tests on our previous CES flight saw a laptop net .4 Mb/sec download speed and .1 Mb/sec upload. Can't get much browsing done on a device when it can't even load the front page of Yahoo or Bing. Secondly, much like the rent, the price of WiFi is just too high for what it deliver. Combined with the low speed, the sometimes $10 or even $20 service, for maybe an hour of access, simply isn't worth it. Customers aren't willing to pay a premium for poor connection speeds and quality, especially when there isn't much recourse after purchase if the connection doesn't even worked, which has happened to us in the past.
In the end, all of that probably ties into the slow rate of penetration to start. But as we progress into the new realm of less restrictions while in-flight, it seems that trips across the country might be more bearable if we can get some work or browsing done while we're waiting to get back on the ground.