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Major Trends Affecting the Travel Industry (2)

11) In Flight Wireless Takes Off
12) Airports in Middle East and Asia Have Strong Traffic
13) Deregulation Opens Huge Travel Markets in China and India
14) Booking Travel Over the Internet Becomes the Norm
15) Sustainable Tourism and Ecotourism Grow as Certification Standards Emerge
16) Destination Club Membership Growth Is Checked
17) Hotel Operators Challenged/ Pod Rooms Grow in Popularity
18) Cruise Industry Bookings Hold Steady
19) New Technologies Show Promise for Port and Airport Security
20) High Speed Passenger Trains, Including Maglev, Gain New Acceptance
21) Self-Check-In Kiosks, RFID and Other New Technologies Save Labor Costs for Airlines and Hotels
22) Aging Baby Boomers Will Cause Significant Changes in the Leisure Sector, Including Sports and Activity-Based Travel
23) The Future of Travel

11) In Flight Wireless Takes Off

Airlines in the U.S. and around the world are investing in wireless technology to provide Internet access, e-mail capability and, for non-U.S. carriers, cellphone use while in the air. Previously, the technology necessary to provide these services was less than satisfactory and costs were prohibitively high. Today, new satellite technologies are making in-flight wireless a reality. Wi-Fi is already in use on private business jets and for commercial carrier crews. The World Airline Entertainment Association projects that the market for in-flight communications and live entertainment will grow from $50 million in 2008 to $9.6 billion by 2016. Of course, this can be very good news for airlines, as they would expect a healthy cut of this money, and all airlines are keenly seeking new ways to boost revenues.    

In the U.S., JetBlue Airways Corp. acquired LiveTV, LLC, a provider of entertainment as well as e-mail. JetBlue is offering the service on its flights and selling it to other carriers such as Continental Airlines. Alaska Air Group is partnering with Row44, Inc. to test a satellite-based system to provide in-flight Internet connectivity, e-mail and text messaging. In March 2009, the carrier installed the first external antenna, a satellite communications receiver/transmitter and two wireless access points on one of its Boeing 737s. Alaska Air had its entire fleet outfitted with the technology by late 2009.    

Meanwhile, American Airlines and Virgin America were offering in-flight wireless Internet access on some aircraft by the end of 2008, and Delta Air Lines announced plans to have all its planes fitted with wireless Internet access. The cost to users is about $9.95 for flights of under three hours, and $12.95 for longer flights. However, many flyers choose not to use Wi-Fi in-flight if they have to pay for it. Alaska Airlines tested dropping the price to $1 in 2009, only to find usage much the same as when higher prices are charged.    

The bone of contention for in-flight wireless has been and continues to be the use of cell phones. While U.S. carriers continue to bow to the majority of customers who strongly object to the noise, non- U.S. airlines including Air France, Emirates and Ryanair have been testing the service. One technology for in-flight calls, which is provided by Geneva-based OnAir (owned by the Internet technology firm SITA and Airbus), uses a low-power onboard network that captures passengers' phone signals and links them to a satellite for transmission to ground receivers. Airlines can control which services they wish to offer: text messaging, Internet access, telephone calls, etc. Some airlines may choose to define quiet times when phone calls may not be made. By 2010, OnAir claimed 20 customers were using its service, comprising thousands of daily flights to nearly 300 cities. The firm also serves private aircraft and cruise ships.    

Lufthansa, which had problems with its Connexion Wi-Fi service provided by Boeing, is now working with Panasonic to provide improved inflight broadband service, including making calls. The new service, called FlyNet, could cost as much as $100,000 per airplane (which covers installing antennas and other equipment). Lufthansa is betting on the popularity of the service, planning to install it in its entire fleet of 120 long-haul aircraft.

12) Airports in Middle East and Asia Have
Strong Traffic

During the boom, major U.S. airports were seeing more travelers than ever before. However, the global economic recession kept more travelers at home in 2009. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that the number of scheduled domestic and international passengers on U.S. airlines in 2009 fell 5.3% compared to 2008, to 703.9 million. This was the lowest annual total since 2004.    



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