The golden era of travel. A time when people would dress up in their best suit and tie and were treated like royalty just for stepping onto a plane. This then moved to the era of comfort, bigger planes, bigger seats and in-seat movies to make the Oscars look small time. Nowadays you are more likely to see people in sweatpants than suits and ties and whilst this is not a fashion blog we can surely all agree that a onesie is not appropriate regardless of the length of flight! But for me, an even more upsetting trend is starting, and that is the rise of on-board Wi-Fi.
An article in Reuters has highlighted that only 6% of flights with Wi-FI have speeds that are comparable to home broadband, but that is about to change. There are leading equipment manufacturers betting big on satellite technology and some have even indicated that the quality of Wi-FI will be one of the key battle grounds of the future. So it is likely that in the next few years you will have more and more chances to stay connected in the air.
But let us think about this. Why do airlines want to invest in putting in Wi-FI into their planes? Part of the reason behind the ongoing investment in Wi-FI is actually for cost savings. There are estimates that each in-seat screen costs $10,000 and with many people bringing their own tablet or laptop onto a plane (which are invariably bigger, higher quality screens than the ones built into the seat back) many in the industry feel that the time has come to change priorities. On-board entertainment streaming services are growing (I am actually writing this while sitting on a Silkair flight, where the entertainment can be streamed directly onboard).
However, my biggest fear is that this onboard streaming becomes fully fledged internet access. For me, the best thing about a flight is the chance for productivity. A time for switching off from the ‘always-on’ emails and a time to catch up on a to do list or long-term project. Writing blogs is one such task that is much easier to do when the alternative is flicking through the in-flight shopping magazine for the 16th time. In my opinion the longer the flight the better – and over time I have developed 3 failsafe techniques for making sure that I get the most out of any flight trip.
- Offline inbox & out of office. An out of office is a magical tool that buys you time before you have to respond to a client email. A simple – ‘I am travelling overseas and will not have access to my email’ lets clients know why you are not replying. Then, on the plane, take your time to delete emails, reply to emails and file emails. Imagine the joy upon landing when you have taken care of everything pressing.
- Excel is your friend. A plane (regardless of the class you travel) does not easily allow for freedom of expression, creativity or design work. However, there will always be an excel sheet that needs checking, formatting, inputting or analyzing. This is the best time to go through finance documents as it requires a clear, processed head. And with nothing more interesting to distract you!
- Thought pieces. Regardless of your profession, the chances are you could be doing more to get your opinions out to your clients (and potential clients). LinkedIn is a wonderful avenue for blogs and ideas, but it is always tough to find the time. A 12 hour flight should give you all the time you need to get your thoughts on paper.
If the Wi-Fi onboard trend continues – and you can no longer claim you were ‘in the air’ as a reason for a late email reply – I might lose my sanctuary. But for the time being, the next time you get on a flight, forget the onesie and reach for your laptop!