Friday 20 April 2018

Your flight connection's getting faster - all thanks to a rocket

Aer Lingus owner IAG is the first customer for broadband in the skies, which rolls out next year
Aer Lingus owner IAG is the first customer for broadband in the skies, which rolls out next year
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work in aviation, but it certainly helps. Late last month one was launched into space from French Guiana - and so what, you might ask? Well, the Ariane 5's payload was the European Aviation Network's (EAN) satellite, which promised to revolutionise on board wifi, and make Europe a global leader in onboard connectivity.

One of the companies behind the plan, Inmarsat, has also released a new survey revealing that inflight wifi is a must for the majority of business travellers (a case of well they would, wouldn't they).

The survey from around the continents found that 39pc of passengers would change their airline if the wifi wasn't up to speed and 61pc consider it more important than your typical seatback inflight entertainment.

The survey also found that almost half of all business travellers think their time is being wasted on a plane if they're not connected and working away. Of those who do manage to log in, 42pc of them used wifi to browse the internet, 38pc visited social networks, 30pc were busy on emails, almost a quarter transferred files via email and 16pc used corporate business tools.

Willie Walsh's IAG - the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling - is the first customer for EAN, which is promised to deliver high speed in-flight broadband that can stream movies or do the demanding tasks possible on the ground. The EAN scheme is in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, with 300 of its ground towers boosting the satellite service.

Maybe it's my age but I'm not so sure about the findings that growing numbers of passengers would prefer to stream entertainment to their own devices. For a few reasons - namely, it's going to cost you; on top of that, you have to do the work yourself of finding entertainment; and more reliable wifi means airlines can pester you to buy products while you're in the air while supposedly relaxing. Either way, expect to see iPads and tablets ahoy around Europe as the service comes on stream early next year.

The news is not so good if you're taking the tablets to, or around, the United States. While the laptop ban is happily no more, America's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is beefing up its rules again, which means a little more pain for passengers. Ten airports - among them Boston's Logan, LAX and Las Vegas's McCarran International, require you to take out iPads and tablets (as is the case with laptops) and have them screened separately. As new roadblocks go, it's not all that bad, with passengers having had to do the same in European airports for years now.

n Need to economise on your personal or company airfares? You're in luck if travelling on business to New Delhi. Etihad's latest sale has the Indian city on offer from €1,824 return in business from Dublin - which is oddly cheaper than the direct-flight Abu Dhabi (€1995).

Other destinations are available, including Bangkok (€2046) and Hong Kong (€2149), plus Australian cities. But you need to rush - you've got till tomorrow to book, with travel dates available from August 14 to next May.

n At the recent sock-in that was the meeting of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, one of the prime items for discussion between the two photogenic leaders was the CETA free-trade deal between Canada and the EU and Ireland's vote on its ratification (as to come into effect, it must be passed by all EU countries).

One sector that would gain from CETA is of course the business travel sector between Ireland and Canada - and that's at the forefront of Air Transat's play for increased foothold in the transatlantic market. And it's a competitive one, with Aer Lingus and Air Canada Rouge (soon to be replaced by Air Canada) on the route.

While Air Transat is primarily leisure-focused, offering flights from €380 between Dublin and Toronto and Montreal (and onward), it's ramping up its services to the business-oriented flyer with its option plus and club class offerings.

Both the Dublin-Montreal and the Dublin-Toronto direct flights leave four times a week, with onward flights within Canada.

Option plus (from €88 return) has some business perks including seat selection, priority boarding /baggage and priority queue at security in Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver. Club class gives all that plus 36" seat pitch and better baggage allowance and on board frills.

EU countries aside, Canada is Ireland's seventh-largest trading partner, with almost 650 Irish companies exporting €1.3bn of goods to it each year. It's a country with many links to Ireland, and 14pc (about 4.5 million) Canadians claim Irish ancestry. Canada is also home to some 70 Irish companies working across a range of sectors.

Sunday Indo Business

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