Apple's iPad made its way onto Jetstar airlines this week for passengers to rent in-flight on trips longer than two hours. Nice idea, but you're looking in the wrong place if you want to fix air travel, Jetstar.
Jetstar invited ZDNet Australia's travel tech editor, Irene Mickaiel, and myself to board a preview flight from Auckland to Melbourne to check out the iPad as it was given to customers for the first time. Jetstar's iPad is available for a rental cost of between $10 and $15 depending on the flight, and gives passengers access to Hollywood movies, music, ebooks, e-magazines and games, all in the pleasant 10.1-inch tablet the world has fallen in love with.
The deployment of iPads in-flight, while a nice idea, isn't really fixing the problem with air travel: international air travel is still an analog watch in a digital world. Our problems, for example, arose when we moved beyond the departures concourse.
As it was an international flight, kiosk-based check-in was unavailable, as was online check-in, meaning that an analog queue was the only way to inform the airline we were in fact ready to board.
The airport security checkpoint was also unnecessarily technophobic. I run an 11-inch MacBook Air, while Irene uses a diminutive Toshiba Libretto. Despite these two devices coming in under the personal mobility devices due to their tiny size, we were still told to remove them from our bags. I asked the Customs officer why she had demanded to see our tiny laptops. She told us that it's better if there's less in our bags for the x-ray scanner to look at. "I see," I replied.
We then waited an extra hour and a half at the departure gate, waiting for the plane to arrive from its previous journey, with gate staff having no idea when we could board our flight.
It sounds like I'm complaining a lot, and I am, because all of these problems can be solved with the liberal application of decent, well-tested technology.
Make sure online check-in works first time for everyone to reduce your departures queue, or roll out self-check-in kiosks for short-haul international flights. Educate Customs officers that small devices are fine, and that taking them out of a bag so they don't have to concentrate too hard while looking at the x-ray is ridiculous. Meanwhile, give your gate staff — or better yet, your passengers — the ability to track their flight in detail if it's delayed.
Jetstar's iPads are a great idea in-flight, but in-flight entertainment was never really the problem to start with, was it?
Watch the video for a hands on with Jetstar's iPad and a guide into tinkering with things you shouldn't be.
Luke Hopewell travelled to New Zealand as a guest of Jetstar.