I can still remember the days when the best you could expect from in-flight entertainment was a distant and partially obstructed view of a small screen or monitor showing a film. The sound quality from the uncomfortable headphones was generally terrible and the film was invariably something you had seen before or didn’t want to watch. I would spend most of the journey reading my book and that was the only choice you had on shorter flights anyway.
Seat Back Screens
It was a revelation when airlines introduced seat back entertainment systems with a choice of viewing and more tolerable headphones then even the longest flight could be passed happily with plenty of diversions on offer. Soon, of course, the landscape changed again as new technology saw almost everyone in the developed world with a variety of gadgets at their disposal with which to keep themselves happy. Most people have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or e-reader, some people have all of these things and as time has gone on we have all become much more reliant on these pieces of technology. We have become habituated to the benefits of having entertainment at our fingertips wherever we happen to be. This has all been great news except if you happen to be on an aeroplane.
The Electronic Age
Electronic gadgets have always been banned during take-off and landing leaving their owners without anything to do and business travellers unable to continue working. As someone addicted to my Kindle this situation was truly frustrating. I am always at a crucial and dramatic point of a story and sitting there happily engrossed when that awful announcement to switch off for landing is made. It is also really frustrating when you are on a plane and taxi off the stand only to encounter a big delay before departure. You can’t turn your equipment on and the inflight entertainment has not started so you are left staring blankly out of the window praying for salvation.
Changes to Regulations
Now I hear the welcome news that in America aviation regulators have cleared the use of electronic devices during take-off and landing. This move excludes voice calls and internet connections when flying below 10,000 feet but at least everyone will be able to read, work, play games and watch movies. I am sure that the practice will eventually spread across the globe and soon passengers will be able to enjoy their devices on any flight.
I always wondered how the rules could be effectively enforced anyway as I am sure that there have been many people who simply forgot to turn off their devices or even used them undetected. As new technology arrives seemingly every day the problem was only going to get worse and so the industry needed to catch up with the new reality.
Wearable technology is on the march and with more and more people using smartwatches and Google Glass and I think we are getting to the point where it would be a miracle if all travellers could remember to turn everything off! Talking of watches, that was another frustration. I rarely wear a wrist watch other than on special occasions. My electronic devices are my means of telling the time which makes it all the more irritating having to turn them off. At least now I will know how long I have been delayed!
The days of travelling simply with a book and using your watch merely to tell the time have long gone and it is good to see that passengers will now be able to make full use of their equipment when they are trapped in their seats.
Article by Sally Stacey