Airlines are turning to innovations to make your flying experience more pleasurable

By Ben Young

AAA World Article

First you buy the ticket. Then you go through airport security. Finally, after boarding, you settle into your seat and hopefully catch a little shut-eye while you’re in the air before heading to baggage claim once you’re on the ground. The basics of flying haven’t changed much since the inception of air travel. But in an effort to get more of your business, airlines are increasingly turning to innovations to make your flying experience a bit more pleasurable. 

When iPads, tablets and smartphones became popular, many thought it would be the demise of inflight entertainment as we knew it. But many airlines doubled down on their offerings to help you enjoy your time. Delta Air Lines actually added more seatback entertainment systems to its fleet, offering you the ability to stream movies, television series, and even some live television stations while you’re in the air. Likewise, United Airlines has added complimentary access to live TV (powered by DIRECTV) on more than 200 of its Boeing 737 aircraft. American Airlines also features live TV on more than 400 of its domestic and 155 of its international aircraft, and it recently upped the ante by adding complimentary in-flight access to Apple Music. The move gives passengers access to more than 50 million songs, playlists and music videos on domestic flights equipped with Wi-Fi.

Delta’s proprietary Flight Weather Viewer iPad app, available to Delta pilots, provides the crew with real-time graphics depicting turbulence and other weather hazards along flight paths. Pilots can use this data to determine how they can more precisely manage the cabin experience for passengers and reduce turbulence whenever possible.

In 2018, Delta became the first domestic airline to partner with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to introduce the first-ever fully biometric terminal in the country at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Terminal F. Facial recognition technology allows passengers to go from check-in and bag drop, through security, and then to board the plane by looking into a camera to verify their identity, eliminating the need to show a passport or paper boarding pass. Delta is implementing the same technology at other U.S. airports, including Detroit and New York’s JFK. British Airways is using similar technology on international flights in Los Angeles, Orlando, and New York.

Delta, United, and American are all working toward making it easier for you to work while you’re in the air by adding high-speed internet services to most of their mainline flights. And this year Delta is testing free Wi-Fi on around 55 domestic flight segments a day on select short-, medium- and long-haul routes in the airline’s efforts to offer free in-flight Wi-Fi as a part of its complimentary onboard entertainment options. While the test won’t support streaming services, passengers will be able to browse, email, shop, message and engage in social media while in flight. 

JetBlue, partnering with Lumo, is building statistical models that will simulate the conditions of a flight to better predict flight delays. According to Bloomberg, the simulation is so detailed that it will consider both the density of planes in the airspace and how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has previously made decisions under similar conditions. Using the data from the simulation, a score for the flight will be created that indicates how likely a flight is to be delayed. This information will help passengers determine if their current flight is the right choice for them to get to their destination on time.