By Dianne Bayley
So last week one of South Africa’s domestic airlines – called Mango, even if it doesn’t count as one of your five daily fruits and veggies – became the first local airline to offer in-flight WiFi on a promo flight filled with journalists.
Now, I’m in the communications business and I do love to travel. Combining the two? I’m not thrilled. If the Civil Aviation Authorities give this the go-ahead, passengers will be able to use their smartphones, tablets and laptops to connect to the wireless service, giving them access to the Internet, e-mails, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and more.
Fabulous. Guarantee my first WiFi flight sees me sitting next to the woman who thinks cell phones are megaphones and calls her grandkids to scream out what she was served for dinner. Across the aisle will undoubtedly be the guy who can’t sit and use his phone, so he’ll be walking up and down the aisle trading stocks and bonds. There’ll be the kid who is BBM-addicted tapping away endlessly, and the dingbat who falls asleep while his phone rings loudly in his pocket, right throughout the night.
Of course, everyone who is anyone has an iPad, which means . . . SKYPE! Yeah! Let’s call our mates in a different time zone and impress them with our co-ordinates. “Hey, Babe . . . I’m at 33 000 feet and travelling at 800 kilometres per hour. Sexy, right?” Those passengers who used to sit quietly and Kindle their way through an unintrusive book will load Kindle Reader on their Galaxy Tablets so they can read, take phone calls and Skype.
It’s going to be frantic. Until the novelty wears off, anyone with a smart-anything is going to be calling, texting and Skyping all over the planet. “Look, Mom – can you see the ocean down there? No? Okay, I’ll hold the laptop at a different angle. No? Okay, see that big grey thing? That’s the wing. Look past that. No, that’s the sky. Why is it smoky orange? Oh sh!t . . . let me call the airline steward . . .”
Living down at the bottom of the planet has always meant that flying anywhere is a long, long trip. Outside of screaming children and some adults who believe they’re the only ones on the plane, it’s always been a time to reflect on past trips and get excited about the current one. WiFi on planes is going to change all that . . . unless we can implement the plan a friend and I came up with.
Firstly, people with children usually board the plane first anyway, so why not make a Kid Comfort section at the back of the plane, where they can all play/keep each other awake/not disturb the rest of us?
Then, have a sound-proofed section for all those who want to use their phones etc during the flight. Airlines could even charge more for that section and the WiFi Wonders can play/keep each other awake/not disturb the rest of us.
It’s not that I’m averse to change, or to the wonders of WiFi connectivity. It’s just that there are fewer and fewer places we can go anymore and not get bombarded with someone else’s life, out loud, for all to see/hear. Oooh, look . . . Fred’s just become the Mayor of Mango Flight 591 . . .
Dianne Bayley is a freelance writer and social media manager based in Johannesburg, South Africa.