Friday, November 20, 2009

Flying Innovations

I'm not really sure how we got on the subject, but my boyfriend and I were talking last night about flying: how expensive flights are, and how much time it takes to fly places. I was telling him that if I had the time and money to spend on flights, I would travel everywhere, and all the time. Unfortunately for both of us, money is the biggest issue and there is no way we could afford all those flights, with fees, taxes, etc. But then he said something interesting about how if the airlines could figure out ways to cut costs or create planes that were more fuel efficient, pricing could be improved.

This intrigued me, and today I actually found an article from Budget Travel that discussed the many innovations that airlines and airports are introducing. It was my luck that fuel efficiency was not mentioned anywhere, but there were plenty of other innovations that seemed interesting.

1. Cathay Pacific Airways, based in Hong Kong, has reinvented the coach seat. When a passenger reclines, the seat bottom slides forward rather than the back moving. This prevents the person behind from having the seat right in their face. My concern: would this cut down on leg room?

2. In cabin mood lighting. Not that kind of mood lighting. Rather softer light on long trips to help people adjust to time change. Apparently the harsh cabin lights can have negative effects on the brain as it is trying to fight jete lag. But better lighting could help travelers.

3. Worried about losing that boarding pass among your many bags and coats? Well, if you're anything like me, this next innovation will be most helpful. Mobile phone check-in. My dad mentioned this to me a while ago, but he said it did not work very well. But after some improvements, it seems like it could work well. When checking it, one enters their cell phone number and their boarding pass is automatically sent via email or text with a scanable bar code. The people at security and the gate simply scan the screen, and you're good to go. Now just don't misplace your phone.

4. Don't you hate it when you're working on an important document on your computer during a long flight and then your computer dies? In flight power sockets to the rescue! Virgin America was smart by providing Wi Fi on all flights, but to go along with it, there are individual power plugs at every seat. Needless to say, this will be helpful to those workaholic business types.

5. Upgraded radar is the newest innovation, but it is still in the early stages. Basically, radar is outdated, and it can take an airport up to 30 seconds to locate a flight--which I guess is pretty slow considering most planes travel at over 500mph. The FAA is rolling out NextGen, a GPS based air traffic control system, that gives real time plane locations to pilots and air traffic controllers. With this technology, planes will no longer have to fly those crazy zig zag routes, and flights will travel more efficiently.

Obviously, there are more innovations people would like implemented. (A few I read included sleeping compartments rather than seats for long flights, heated massaging seats, bigger windows, and letting passengers who didn't place luggage in the overhead bins leave the plane first.) Some are pretty out there, and others are just plain crazy. But isn't it nice to see that some things are changing?

Now if only we could discuss this free flight thing...

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