Wireless connectivity during commercial flights was once seen as a luxury, but it is about to become an expectation. With the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s October 31 announcement that all electronic device use will soon be permitted throughout nearly every stage of flight, aircraft passengers are wondering why they were ever prohibited in the first place, but not complaining.
While certain restrictions will remain in place — cell phone calls, for instance, are not allowed — the easing of the regulations against wireless data use during flights indicates a general relaxation in the aviation industry towards the previously-supposed danger of electronic device interference with airplane technology. Many have doubted the safety application of the prohibition of device usage for years, but it appears as though with the increase in actual numbers of devices that passengers carry on board planes, doubt has grown into actual policy change.
And research shows that airlines are actually increasing the numbers of crafts with wireless connectivity technology on a global scale. Airlines are adjusting to the growing numbers of passengers that come aboard with wireless-capable devices by building in WiFi or cell connectivity: 21% of the global fleet of aircrafts will have connectivity by the end of 2013 and 50% are projected to have connectivity by 2022.
The U.S. is actually behind the times when it comes to using technology in flight. Emirates airlines is one of a few other international fleets that have paved the way for the loosening of in-flight gadget restrictions when it announced its allowance of in-flight mobile use earlier this year.
The change in the FAA’s policy also presents a big opportunity for internet groups to deliver WiFi to in-flight customers as airlines build out more connectivity capabilities. Soon, services that have fixed WiFi rates on flights could see competition as the numbers of aircrafts seeking to provide wireless to customers increases. So it seems as though the easing of the FAA’s policy could have been brought about by the sheer increase in available and adopted devices as well as the continued building out of the wireless-connected airplane.