Live television. Internet access. Dozens of movies and video games on demand. Sound like a good home-entertainment system? Think again. Those are just a few of the latest innovations in in-flight entertainment, and they're coming soon to an aircraft cabin near you.
"It's getting to the point now where you can do everything in an aircraft that you would in the office," says Terry Wiseman, publisher of in-flight entertainment industry newsletter Airfax.com. "The changes are happening quickly-and they're going to be good for the business traveler."
Already, Legend Airlines and JetBlue Airways passengers can access DirecTV programming on personal, flat-screen Live-TV monitors installed in the back of each seat. New, onboard "intranets," such as the Airsoft Travel Kit, offer passengers access to a variety of digital information, including destination info and foreign-language guides. And to date, you can even play Nintendo in approximately 47,000 aircraft seats worldwide.
But the in-flight innovations are just getting started. Plans are underway to offer Net and laptop connections from aircraft seats. Companies such as Primex Aerospace Co. have rolled out technology that would make a steady power supply and 12Mbps connection in-flight standards. And best of all, many airlines aren't charging passengers for these amenities-whether they're logging on to check e-mail or just playing Tetris. Don't expect every aircraft to be wired within the year, however, or for that matter, every section of the plane. Warns Wiseman: "For now, it's first class and business class that are going to get the improvements. It may take some time for them to make it to coach."
Christopher Elliot is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at www.elliot.org.