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5 tips to bring air travel into the 21st century

No matter the plane, no matter the class, they should all have the following five things to make flying a more enjoyable experience for its passengers.

No matter the plane, no matter the class, they should all have the following five things to make flying a more enjoyable experience for its passengers.

Online duty-free shopping
(Credit: Google, CBSi)

While Jetstar is looking into having iPads implemented aboard its flights, it had us thinking about what all airlines should have tech-wise. In this day and age where we can have the internet in our pocket, it's rather embarrassing to realise how slow the airline industry is when it comes to catching up with current technology.

Some airlines, such as Singapore Airlines (which has iPod/iPhone connectivity, in-seat power supply and audio/video input on its A330-300 and A340-500 planes), V Australia and Air Canada (which have USB connectivity and in-seat power supply on some of its aircraft), have some form of in-flight tech for your gadgets, but others do not. Mobile phone usage is even available onboard some planes.

Here we've listed things that aeroplanes should have as a universal standard across all planes and classes.

1. 3.5mm headphone ports

Why hasn't this been done? It's a simple request. Most passengers already have their own pair of headphones, so rather than handing out headphones to passengers, airlines can save on the expense in one of two ways. They can replace the old-fashioned two-pin port with a 3.5mm port, or they can hand out adapters for passengers to use. They won't need to be cleaned or thrown out for hygiene reasons, either, unlike the sponge on the headphones they supply.

2. Replace touchscreens with tablets

Most airlines have implemented touchscreen displays attached to the back of seats, with the exception of older aeroplane models (you know the ones — where you have to share a TV screen with your fellow passengers). However, it would be fantastic if they took it to the next level by removing the remote controls and allowing those touchscreens more capability so that they're like tablets. While an iPad would be fantastic, any tablet would suffice. The tablets should be able to be removable off the back of the seat, but still be tethered to prevent theft, and should allow passengers to jab it to their heart's content without disturbing the passenger seated in front.

3. USB ports

Let people have the option of entertaining themselves via a USB stick or portable device, by having a USB port on the side of display screens (or touchscreen tablet as mentioned previously, which means no Apple iPads!). An added advantage is that it lets people charge up their devices at the same time!

4. Online duty-free shopping

We're not going to list Wi-Fi access on a plane while it's airborne due to some of the difficulties it may cause in-flight, but we will list online shopping. Let passengers purchase duty-free items via their screens, which can be purchased from the flight attendants and/or have it wirelessly hooked up to the terminal so that upon landing the ordered items will be ready for delivery when going through customs.

5. On-screen airline apps

Smartphone apps cover just about anything these days; from farting apps to games to utilities. They can all be implemented in some form to suit an airline. Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Toilet indicator — an app that lets you know when a toilet becomes available and where it's located on the plane
  • Flight attendant assistant — have the menu, duty-free products and other offers available under this one app, so that passengers can select what they want, which pings the flight attendant, who will then supply you with said item. It'll save them the to-ing and fro-ing between each passenger.
  • Flight tracker — just like the Flight Tracker app for smartphones, this one could show the plane's flight path, destination and estimated time of arrival. Some airlines currently have this, but they're not quite accurate.
  • E-magazines — every airline has their own flight magazine, so why not put it on the touchscreen? It'll save the company money on printing costs and fuel from the weight of carrying the magazines onboard.

What other tech gizmos and gadgets (or apps) would you like to see onboard aeroplanes to make your time aloft easier?