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June 25, 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 flights of six hours 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, it is a place I must spend time in order to get from point A to point B. I now expect to sleep when I get tired, eat when I get hungry, and watch a movie when I want to relax. Essentially, airlines realize that people want to continue on with their regular lives while on a long flight.

Which means that while 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 the most of these private spaces with the more luxurious airlines including executive suites, showers, and in-flight bars.

Because planes are already offering these facilities, I believe the next logical step is for them to become flexible work spaces as well, including basic facilities like a docking station, headset, printer and privacy screen.

The world is very small, in part because of how easily we can fly from one country to the next and 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 center 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 as well.

The philosophy of 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 work hours, I will continue to have this type of epiphany during my flights, which seems to be a common theme for many of my Planon colleagues.

Fred Guelen
CFO and President of North American Operations