Air travel improving with in-flight technology

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An American Airlines commercial jet soars through the air. Many modern airlines are implementing new technology to enhance the travel experience for passengers. (Photo by American Airlines)
An American Airlines commercial jet soars through the air. Many modern airlines are implementing new technology to enhance the travel experience for passengers. (Photo by American Airlines)

International student Julia Aspelin always thinks carefully when selecting which flights she will take for her journey home to Sweden. She crosses oceans every year and has flown internationally with many major airlines, but her favorite is Delta. She says the in-flight entertainment has won her over.

“Delta’s international flights have the best technology with nice, high-tech entertainment compared to many others I’ve flown with,” Aspelin said.

Like Aspelin, many BYU students take flights home for the holidays. Some airlines are making traveling a little less painful by implementing tech-savvy features for their passengers.

Department Chairman of UVU’s School of Aviation Sciences Jim Green is a former Navy pilot and retired United Airlines Captain. The BYU graduate has seen many changes in air travel since he began flying 33 years ago.

New customer conveniences are being installed in many airplanes, but the Boeing 787 has some of the coolest cabin technology, Green said. The creators of the 787 have foregone the plastic shades on plane windows. Instead, these planes have an electronic dimming switch that can be adjusted to let in more or less light depending on passenger preference.

Tech-savvy airline Virgin America has a food-ordering system that allows customers to select food through their seat-back monitors. Technology advances like this are being implemented in various airlines around the world. (Photo by Virgin America)
Tech-savvy airline Virgin America has a food-ordering system that allows customers to select food through their seat-back monitors. Technology advances like this are being implemented in various airlines around the world. (Photo by Virgin America)

Green also mentioned alternating mood lighting inside the 787 and several other new planes that can help passengers adjust to time changes during flight and relax even in a cramped plane.

“There’s not a real clear, defined feeling above you,” Green said. “You feel like you’re actually floating on air.”

Virgin America has some of the most tech-savvy in-flight features, according to Digital Trends. Its planes offer WiFi, a food-ordering program and video-on-demand monitors with live television. The airline also launched the first in-flight social network this year. The free app allows its users to connect with travelers at their destinations, with passengers on their own flights or with guests on other Virgin America flights in air.

Other airlines, like Southwest and JetBlue, are implementing technologies such as faster satellite-based WiFi for their passengers and are planning more upgrades in the future.

Virgin America offers their passengers WiFi, live television and a recently launched in-flight social network. BYU students going home for the holidays may have the opportunity to enjoy technology like this as they travel. (Photo by Virgin America)
Virgin America offers passengers WiFi, live television and a recently launched in-flight social network. BYU students going home for the holidays may have the opportunity to enjoy technology like this as they travel. (Photo by Virgin America)

“The next generation of commercial aircrafts that are currently being produced and designed will make the experience more comfortable,” said pilot Joe Szucs.

Future commercial flights will most likely have the technology to lower cabin altitude pressures, which means travelers won’t feel quite as dehydrated or tired during flights, Szucs said. He also predicted planes will eventually increase cabin humidity to help with dryness for passengers.

“Anything that makes people want to travel more and improves the experience for them is the way we need to go,” Szucs said. “That helps the airline business, and it also helps the consumer. The more people that travel, the better.”

Aspelin is content for now with the progress being made in airport entertainment. Her long flights become a little less mundane when she can enjoy video-on-demand on a touch screen with advanced sound quality.

“The time just goes by so much faster if you have a good entertainment system,” Aspelin said. “Technology is making traveling more comfortable and fun.”

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