Airwaves vs Airlines

Image credit: Jay Cuthrell

Airwaves vs Airlines

On my last Delta flight I was not so surprised to see that my upgrade to first class went through. Since I travel a lot this is, thankfully, pretty common. What happened next was the stuff of wonder an amazement. When I ordered my Delta Instant Nap in a Plastic Cup; Scotch; the response wasn’t rocks or neat but… Dewars or Glenlivet. After my mind reset, I went with Glenlivet – neat – and it came served in a glass tumbler.

Sometimes you just have to travel to make a face to face meeting happen. Or do you?

If you’ve never participated in a Cisco Telepresence session, don’t worry, you will. One of the primary drivers for getting into VoIP for Cisco was that it sold an awful lot of these things that required Ethernet ports to plug into and routers to connect all of it together. So, it’s no small wonder that Cisco has pushed hard for video to become part of the way business meets face to face over distances and time frames previously reserved for cross country trek via jumping on planes, trains, and automobiles.

As a footnote, my personal experience and peers anecdotal evidence points to this becoming more common and as expected as having a phone. Cisco has pushed the protocols standard here and there is a likely benefit to be seen from this in 2-3 years. Couple that with broadband stimulus, greater expectations on service providers, and you’ve got a formula that will have airlines rethinking a lot of things very very quickly.

ahem iPad/Laptop/iPhone integrated cameras ahem

 

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At the same time, there is a new view of the disconnected nature of travel. Road warriors are not just reading books or nodding off after their plastic cup of Scotch. Instead, they are staying connected after reaching a “safe” operating altitude by forking over a little bit more than an egg sandwich would cost in coach. If I see a WiFi sign, I’m going to use it. I’d expect this pay model to fall away or blend into a package or membership privilege just as the value market segments of hospitality have experienced.

 

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Still, the problem with working during a flight is well… it’s just not that comfortable with a laptop unless you are in business class or better. The cramped quarters of a coach experience and the potential for the girth of a fellow passenger spilling over into your mythical personal space is very real. Compounding this is the simple fact that even coach has good, bad, worse, and worst seating options. Additionally, few carriers are competing on service – and that’s an important point.

 

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Compared to the airline club experience, the plane workplace is decidedly awful. Delta Sky Club offers free wireless and wired Internet now. The phones are passable if they work at all and having a DID means you can map this with your own IP Centrex provider or office call leg features. Else, you are dealing with your mobile and risking Skype if the shared broadband segment is saturated. That said it is still a much better prospect for getting things done and the self service and full service mix can be nice.

 

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One area that isn’t going to cut it with travel is carriers that charge premiums that are not aligned with the customer experience. When faced with traveling for a face to face meeting and being pinned into a coach seat and risking injury due to worn equipment surfaces vs. going into a soothing Cisco Telepresence experience meeting room… yeah. Game over.