At any randomly selected point, one in 12 airline passengers in the US is using a tablet computer or e-reader. That’s one of the findings reported in a new study on the use of electronic devices on aeroplanes, trains and buses by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University in Chicago. The study also found that tablets such as iPads, Kindles and Nooks account for nearly 30% of all technology used on commercial flights, compared with 13,5% and 12,9% on intercity trains and curbside buses, respectively.
Overall, technology use on airlines increased 23,2% between 2010 and 2011, proportionately faster than between 2009 and 2010, but it still trails usage rates on trains and buses, which have developed more tech-friendly environments. For example, free Wi-Fi has been available on Amtrak’s Acela high-speed trains since 2010, and some intercity buses in the US have seat-side power outlets and mini-workstations in addition to free Wi-Fi.
The study notes that the number of Wi-Fi-equipped planes has dramatically increased in the US. Almost 80% of Delta Air Lines flights were thus equipped in 2011, compared to 38% of American Airlines flights and 34% at Southwest Airlines, but those amenities are paid for. Delta is currently offering a 24-hour pass for a special rate of $11,65. The study also adds that many airlines are now installing power outlets and work stations in terminal areas.
In general — and to no great surprise — technology usage was higher on business-orientated flights (29,9%) than on pleasure-orientated ones (25%). Although researchers said more study is needed to better understand the difference between the types of flights, it’s pretty clear tablet devices are increasingly being used by business travellers in place of notebook computers, which seem cumbersome by comparison, and audio-only devices.
What does it mean for the airlines? The study concludes that with so many people bringing their movies, music and news programmes with them, the need for centralised entertainment systems is gradually declining. How long before airlines catch on and do away with the cost of such systems? Pity the poor unconnected passenger. — (c) 2012 The Economist
- Image: Tomiya Nation/Flickr
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