How new technology is changing the way we fly
A HOST of technological advances means big changes are afoot in air travel. Chief among these is the widespread roll-out of on-board wifi.
A select number of airlines have offered internet to passengers for several years, but many of Europe's biggest airlines have yet to introduce the service, a particular concern for business travellers.
This looks set to change in 2013. Aer Lingus, among others, is in the final phase of testing on its new wifi service. Internet will soon be available on its long-haul aircraft and all of its short-haul routes should offer the facility by 2014.
Technology is also changing the way we shop for flights. Consulting firm McKinsey recently estimated that online travel sales generate about $100bn (€77bn) annually, one-third of all e-commerce spending worldwide.
Apps and websites that work well can make a real difference to sales; after rolling out new mobile services, Japan Airlines saw sales of domestic flights on smartphones jump by 357pc between 2011 and 2012.
Airline consultancy Skift estimates that 90pc of all airlines will sell tickets via mobile apps by 2015.
There has also been an explosion in travel websites, and deal-finder sights like Skyscanner.net, rather than individual airline websites, have become many travellers' first port of call.
New air travel apps include Passbook, which stores soft copies of boarding passes, coupons and other travel documents, as well as Satisfly, which allows users to choose their airplane seat based on the social network profiles of the people who will be sitting beside them.
Services that were previously delivered by on-the-ground employees are being automated, ultimately speeding up the boarding and de-boarding process.
Skift says that 50pc of airlines provide an online check-in service and 90pc will offer one by 2015.
Other automated services changing the on-board and airport experience include self-service bag drops and passport scanning machines.
Rapidly advancing technology is also changing the aircraft that we fly in.
Plane makers are under serious pressure to increase fuel-efficiency, since rocketing fuel prices are a huge strain on profits and make up a large chunk of airlines' expenditure.
Environmental concerns mean planes now produce less CO2 than ever before while noise is also a concern; some airports in highly populated areas, like Berlin-Tegel, can't operate overnight because of noise restrictions.
These are major design considerations for rival airplane manufacturers Boeing and Airbus and will shape the planes of the future.
But while aircraft are becoming more environmentally friendly, they are certainly not getting smaller.
The recent introduction of large planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner means airports worldwide are redesigning their facilities to make room.