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Personal Electronics on Planes

Tablets Take Flight
January 22, 2014
By , Managing Editor & Contributor

Remember when Alec Baldwin was thrown off a plane for playing a game on his cell phone? No? Here’s the story. But that was so 2011. With the new FAA rules, PEDs (personal electronic devices) can now be used from from gate to gate. And, to take advantage of this, a top 2014 in-flight trend will be an increase in complimentary or rental electronic tablets – and affordable WiFi.

Coffee, Tea, iPad?
While some airlines, notably American, have offered pre-loaded tablets for a couple of years, more are starting to do so. Hawaiian Airlines now gives out complimentary iPad Minis in Business and First Class (otherwise $15 to rent). Internationally, Finnair introduced Samsung tablets for rent ($14) at the end of 2013, and other airlines following suit are Quantas and Lufthansa.

WiFi in the Sky
Using a tablet as a viewing device is one thing; what about conecting with it? An even bigger trend for 2014 will be a spike in WiFi availability – below 10,000 feet. Currently, Gogo, which supplies WiFi for nearly 75 percent of connected carriers in the U.S., doesn’t access WiFi below 10,000 feet because it uses land-based towers. But, other WiFi providers, like Global Eagle Entertainment on Southwest, connect via satellite, which translates into strong WiFI from takeoff to landing. Already, airlines are beginning to transition: United announced last month that it plans to install satellite-based WiFi on “more than 500 aircraft by the end of 2014.” And, WiFi costs will also dip this year – this week, Delta introduced a new in-flight WiFi Mobile Pass starting at $1.95. Which means not only that Alec Baldwin can use his cell phone onboard. But that he can also freely tweet-rant.

Stay tuned: We’ll be reporting weekly on travel news and trends on Travel Buzz.