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25 June 2015

Airplanes are still not flexible when it comes to working

On a recent flight from Boston to Seattle, I was struck by how difficult it is to actually get work done on a plane. I wanted to have a Skype meeting, but you’re surrounded by people. The noise is distracting - as well as annoying to other passengers - and business calls are typically about confidential information.

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With some flights being six hours long or more just to cross the country, the airline industry has already accepted that a plane does not simply get me from point A to point B. Instead, a plane is a place I must spend time in in order to get from point A to point B. I now expect to be able to sleep when I get tired, eat when I get hungry, and watch a movie when I want to relax. Essentially, airlines realised that people want to get on with their regular lives while on a long flight.

Whilst crossing time zones, I would like to be able to work and spend my time in a productive way. Delta is able to offer in-flight Wi-Fi to more than 400,000 passengers on more than 3,800 daily flights, which is an excellent start. And many planes now offer in-flight beds or private sleeping areas. For the last seven years, the Airbus A380 has seen most of these private spaces changed by the most luxurious airlines including the set up of executive suites, showers, and in-flight bars.

As planes are already offering these types of facilities, I believe the next logical step is for them to become flexible work spaces as well. They could include basic facilities such as a docking station, headset, printer and a private screen.

The world is actually very small, mainly because of how easy it is to fly from one country to the other and to do international business on a daily basis. Airports understand the evolving role of business travel and are adapting to handle it. According to the 2015 Workplace Trends report by Sodexo, the Hong Kong International Airport opened the world’s largest terminal commercial lounge in 2010. Its 15,000 square foot facility is a full-service business centre that supports 300 users with wireless office workstations, projectors, meeting rooms, advanced video conference stations, and tech assistance.

The airports understand this need, so now it is time for the airlines to get up to speed.

Our philosophy at Planon is to enable you to work from anywhere and anytime - whether that is in an office, from home, at a hotel… or on a plane. And until I am able to turn my flights into productive working hours, I will continue to have this type of epiphany during my flights, which seems to be a common theme amongst many of my colleagues.

Fred Guelen
COO and President of North American Operations