I don’t fly that often, perhaps four return trips a year at most, so I always try to look out for social changes in airports. Over the last fifteen years I’ve noted the decline in smoking (first pods, then nothing at all), the influx of coffee and fast food chains, and now the almost ubiquitous use of personal technology by staff and customers.
It was an early start this morning for the flight from Aberdeen. I noted on the aircraft that they still ask passengers to turn off the devices – not just turn on airplane mode – and wonder why this is still the case ( http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/thinking-tech/the-real-reason-you-cant-use-the-ipad-on-planes/9627 ). I’d heard rumours of airlines beginning to allow full use on flights and articles about the benefits to pilots using iPads during flights ( http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/american-airlines-ipads-reduce-pilot-injuries/ , http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2346273/Pilot-lands-plane-using-IPAD-inflight-navigation-fails.html , http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24347893 ) are presumably, by now, well known. It wasn’t an issue for me as I had magazines to read and imagine that going to an iPad summit will involve copious use of edtech, but there were some anguished looking stereotypes fidgetting in their seats until the flight took off and they could resume their work email/document.
On arrival at Heathrow it wasn’t difficult to notice nearly every passenger had a smartphone, tablet or laptop. The shops were notably empty as a result. Even the staff who await passengers off the flights to escort them to their tight connection held small tablets with the name and flight number displayed brightly – no more wipable show-me boards for them! I also noted an increase in charging stations, free to use as well.
British Airways were accepting boarding passes shown on smartphones ( http://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/checking-in/mobile-boarding-pass ): what a change from just a few years ago when airlines demanded everything was printed. They are even looking at introducing digital luggage tags that work with their BA smartphone app! ( http://www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?news_id=2008620 )
One thing I noted, with surprise given the recent news reports about light from electronic devices affecting sleep ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/sleep-immune-system-body-clock_n_4235943.html , http://www.aasmnet.org/jcsm/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=27769 ), was that every four metres there was either a television fixed on the news channel or an electronic advertising board. Little chance for those looking to escape the screen glare and catch a quick nap.
I’d forgotten my BA Executive Club card but thanks to the 90 minutes of free wifi I was able to log in and grab a temporary copy. Unfortunately I don’t quite have enough points to try out the Executive Lounge… so I’m off to find a nice cup of coffee and let the iPad rest a while instead.