Sunday musings: Safest airline seats in the back, Web in the sky not used, future of in-flight entertainment

by Charlie Leocha on September 30, 2012

There is always something to think about in terms of flying and trade-offs. Better service is available in the front of the plane, but it is safer in the back. More and more airlines are installing Web access for passengers, but usage is a woeful 5 percent. Finally, with better Web access will airlines be changing their in-flight entertainment models?

Safety in the cheaper seats

With recent stories about the widening gulf between first and worst when it comes to airline customer service, here is an analysis of airline crashes that shows the worst danger is in first class or the front of the plane.

If you want to survive an aeroplane crash (and, frankly, who doesn’t), you give yourself the best chance by sitting at the back. As part of a TV programme, a Boeing 727 was crashed on purpose into the Sonoran desert in Mexico in April, and thanks to a variety of crash-test dummies, sensors and cameras on board, various aspects of the impact have now been analysed.

…as the Daily Telegraph explains: Experts concluded that none of the plane’s first-class passengers would have survived the crash, but 78 percent of the other passengers would have, with the chance of survival increasing the closer they were sitting to the rear of the aircraft.

We have Internet in planes now, but few passengers use it

Delta and Southwest are leading the way with Internet connections in the sky, but passengers don’t seem to be using the services. Just more than 30 percent of the planes flying domestically have wireless connections. Gogo is the largest provider of wireless connections to passengers. The filings show just over 5 percent of passengers are using the services when they are available.

Gogo, in an August U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, disclosed that as of June 30, it had outfitted 1,565 commercial aircraft with wireless Internet capabilities — a 36 percent increase from the same period in 2011.

For the first half of 2012, Gogo reported a 5.4 percent usage rate among commercial airline passengers flying on Gogo-equipped aircraft. That figure had grown from 4.3 percent during the same period in 2011.

Passengers asked for Web access in the sky, Now they aren’t using it. I wonder if it will be the same when cell phones are permitted? Will passengers chat up a storm, even at higher rates?

In-flight entertainment arrives at a crossroad

This piece about the crossroads with which airlines find themselves dealing, goes together with the article mentioned above about the spread of in-flight Web access and the low usage rates.

Even though passengers are not adopting Internet connections, they are carrying on individual electronic devices in greater numbers than ever before that can provide movies, ebooks, TV shows and music that they themselves choose. What’s an airline to do? Keep building out Web connections with the belief that eventually the public will be using these connections to stream entertainment, or invest in the traditional back-of-the-seat installations?

Back in April, Ned Levi chimed in with his thoughts. Here is the NYT’s take.

…in-flight entertainment is at a crossroad. At a time when about a third of passengers are flying with their own devices like tablets and smartphones, how do airlines respond?

Do premium carriers continue to invest heavily in hardware — in expensive in-seat audio and video systems that provide packaged offerings like hundreds of on-demand movies, television programs and video games, but need regular upgrading as technology improves?

Or do other carriers concentrate mostly on improving in-flight Wi-Fi for those passengers who prefer to use their own hardware?

Here is yet another article on this issue from the Wall Street Journal.

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  • Merv Hallows

    The “experts” say the back is safest based on an unrealistic TV show? How about some real world accidents like United 232 in which most of those who died were in the back?

  • Anonymous

    People aren’t using GoGo because it’s horrendously slow. You might as well wait until you hit the ground if you have to pay for a WiFi hotspot.

    Improve the speed, people might pay for it.

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