Unfortunately, for most of us, this is the norm, consigned to “coach”, “cattle” or whatever class it’s called in your country.
Of course with the current state of the global economy we (and our finance departments) are all watching the pennies (although you wouldn’t have thought that on my recent trip from the UK to Chicago..!) and economy isn’t “that bad” after all…
During an 8 hour transatlantic hop, you have soon had some refreshments, read the newspaper and watched the first in-flight movie – what to do with the rest of the time? This of course is a much bigger deal for longer flights to and from the Far East and Australia.
Of course, airlines have tried to get us to buy duty-free gifts etc., but have now realized they can turn a bigger buck by enhancing our seat-back experience to replicate sitting in front of our interactive TV or computer.
Audio-only music channels are now old hat as most people have smart-phones used in aircraft mode or MP3-type devices. We want or are being told that we want (and who are we to argue) video on demand, seat-to-seat or worldwide voice communications, enhanced in-flight shopping, a spin on the roulette wheel or a hand of poker, or just browsing the web, all at a price.
To make the experience a little more accessible, the format is becoming like using a smart-phone and/or a tablet device.
Availability of these applications of course depends on the class of travel. For some lucky first-class passengers, this now means never having to reach out of your seat to choose the next movie. Through hand movement, screen selections can be made while still comfortably reclined.
Holding a tablet in your sitting room is totally different to making the same actions in seat 3A – or is it?
Networks on airplanes are moving towards Wi-Fi and in the relatively-benign cabin environment; “ruggedized” versions of products we use day-to-day are not actually required.
So, how does that sit with the eco-friendly requirements of future air travel?
Weight (wiring typically is 50% of total weight for a 767 and IFE systems 20% of the total cost) and consequent fuel economy becomes an important determining factor.
Fiber solves this problem – FTTS (Fiber to the Seat) is already a reality for a select number of airlines, with the intrinsic benefits of enhanced bandwidth, small space, reduced weight and immunity to EMI and RFI.
Now some personal observations from coach: wall and ceiling-mounted screens taking in 5 rows (25 seats) at a time. Not at all suitable for viewing night-time sections or even subtitled scenes, both of which I experienced this past week.
In-seat connectivity – 3.5mm jack socket, 12 way audio channel select rotary switch, volume control, overhead light and cell membrane switches – a block of controls depending on the system employed by the airline.
Routing from these user controls is through a wiring harness to a D-subminiature connector in the foot-box, connected to the runs down the length of the plane from the concentration point.
Not very advanced, and not generating revenue for the airline.
IFE systems, however, typically tend to be upgraded every 5 years or so, about 4 times in the operational lifetime of the airplane – the numbers then start adding up.
In quoting a certain LA-based British pop star, the airlines are beginning to state: “Let Me Entertain You.” And if that includes Passenger 24C then that sounds good to me!
During the MILCOM show in Orlando Florida (October 29th through November 1st), visit Molex booth #634 to learn about some of the products that were mentioned in the posting and more solutions Molex can offer for the Aerospace and Military industries.