The original Connexion by Boeing in-flight internet service in use in China, shortly before Boeing pulled the plug because it was uneconomic
The original Connexion by Boeing in-flight internet service in use in China

It’s one thing to pay airlines extra to choose your seat, and extra to check a bag, and extra for more legroom in the over-wing exit rows, but what about a much faster internet connection?

This could be what Brett Godfrey, Virgin Blue CEO had in mind, when he mentioned the ‘airline of the future’ project recently.

After all, its already more $$$ for a checked bag, a snack, and the Blue Zone roomier economy seating. Qantas long haul, Tiger, Jetstar and Singapore Airlines are also goug…, offering customers a range of optional pre paid small mercies when it comes to amenities.

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In the ‘airline of the future’ project all aircraft will have the internet.

In fact trying to buy an airliner without internet and mobile phone pico cells and antennas already fitted will probably be like trying to buy a car without radio and CD player today. The airlines might have to pay more to Airbus and Boeing NOT to have the internet send-and-receive hardware built into the jets on the assembly lines.

The tricky bit will be dividing the spoils, with the network or connection provider or telco trying to gouge the airline, which in turns seeks to gouge the consumer.

Just ask Qantas. It has a number of jets ready for iPhone and Blackberry connectivity tomorrow, except for the sticking point of a ‘realistic’ commercial agreement with the telcos that results in a price saleable to the passenger and bankable for the airline.

Godfrey also mentioned offering ultra low priced (tight) seating on every jet as well as much roomier economy seating.

But how much roomier? Contemplating this issue on a Virgin Blue flight the other day, the answer was obvious.

Roomy economy (trade mark applied for) will be in seats with space to unfold a standard 15 inch laptop and use the key pad.

Compacted economy (also with trade mark pending) will be where this is anatomically impossible even for the anorexic, indeed, you might struggle to manipulate the Blackberry, since it will be a few centimetres from your face, in a space where drinks are only sold with straws through lids to avoid spillage.

Of course for those corporate flyers that hate being told to fly dirt cheap or else by penny pinching travel account managers, the bandwidth + and legs + options will be essential to maintain productivity and connectivity on the fly.

And the cheap seats might not come with broadband speeds but something like the fraudband currently experienced by many Australians lied to by their internet service providers in regards to speed with a panache that makes ski resort claims about snow depths look like trivial fibs.

Life for the frequent flyer of the near future could thus begin to creep back toward the good old days of business travellers getting special treatment by new world employers, sort of.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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