Inflight internet changing the way I work - for the better

You would think that, as a technology journalist, long-time tech enthusiast and frequent flier, I'd have been among the first to welcome inflight internet. But you'd think wrong.

I've always enjoyed the long hours of disconnection between take-off and landing, especially on international flights.

Yes, I work during my flights. I scythe my way through the inbox, hammering out overdue replies and cranking out scores of new emails. I write articles, business proposals and such.

But it's all about working without interruption, and with more 'headroom' that a busy day on the ground can allow. That's started to change, however.

World wide WiFi

I'm increasingly jumping on flights to find inflight WiFi is temptingly available, and I'm becoming accustomed to that.

A recent flurry of flights with Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines – all of which have satellite internet onboard – is making sky-high surfing the norm for me, rather than the exception. It's gotten to the point that I notice when it's not available.

Next month's debut of American Airlines flights between Sydney and Los Angeles will add to the tally of Internet-friendly flights, with a flat rate of $US19 ($27) to remain connected without time or data limits.

(AA partner Qantas trialled inflight Internet on its trans-Pacific Airbus A380 services in 2012 but axed the option citing low demand, given that much of the flight is effectively an overnight route when passengers tend to sleep rather than surf.)

Cathay Pacific will also join the satellite Internet set in February with its new Airbus A350 jets.

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A better way to fly

Inflight internet has definitely changed the way I travel for business – and changed it for the better. My long-standing habit has been to use time at the airport lounge to prepare for my inflight work session.

That meant going through a checklist of material to download for reading and reference at 40,000 feet, sometimes also grabbing images and doing other online research. I'd use this for my writing during the flight and, once I landed, send off all my handiwork plus a tsunami of emails.

At the same time I'd collect a bucketload of inbound emails and attend to that either on the way to the hotel or at the hotel. Add inflight internet to the travel experience and everything changes.

Lounging around

My lounge time has become more enjoyable. I still do some work and research pre-flight but it's not at the same pace, with the clock ticking before I board. For example, I can prioritise larger downloads or the lounge's faster connection but not feel stranded if I miss something.

I'm more productive during the flight, especially as I can pick up and attend to new emails in 'real time'. I don't work for the entirety of the flight, of course, unless it's a daytime leg from Australia to Asia or the UK to a Gulf hub such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha.

On trans-Pacific trips to the US I'll generally work for the first few hours of the flight; enjoy a light meal with a movie; then sleep; and follow up with another few hours of work before landing.

On top of it

In any event, I find that I'm more relaxed on landing. There's no wave of emails to send or receive. I feel more on top of things. And best of all, when I reach the hotel I can settle in and make the most of it.

What's your experience with inflight internet? Would you welcome it on more flights, especially on Australia's longer domestic legs such as the east-west route, or are you happy to remain off the grid while in the air? Let us know in the comment section. 

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.

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