June 24 2009 by Chris McGinnis
I've just returned from my first transcontinental flight equipped with in-flight Internet access.
And I loved it.
I loved being able to stay on top of my emails in real time during the 4-5 hour flight. No email box to clean up at the end of a long day in the air. I read The Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Chronicle online, even though I had a hard copy in my carry-on. I was able to track my flight on a flightstats.com map to verify which cities, rivers and mountain ranges we were flying over. I passed some time on Twitter and Facebook reviewing videos and photos with my family and friends.
Time flew by (literally and figuratively) and I was having a ball. My biggest regret is that my laptop battery pooped out after about three hours and I wasn't able to surf the net for the entire flight.
While I was wowed by the in-flight internet experience, the business traveler sitting next to me read a paperback book, took a nap, ate a sandwich he brought from home, and spent some time up in the galley talking with the flight attendants and other passengers.
So I struck up a conversation with him and asked if he knew all the cool things he could now do online from his plane seat. He smiled and said that he knew all about it and chose not to indulge.
He said that flying is the one time that he's away from ringing phones and colleagues dropping by his office. It's also a time that he's away from the buzz of a household with four teenagers.
He felt that the time he spent on the plane was "his" time; a time where he could get away from it all, read a book, chat with a stranger or take a nap--or not think about anything at all. He said he'd probably never use in-flight Internet because of this. He felt the same way about in-flight cell phone service, too.
And it made me really wonder...how important is it to be connected 24/7? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Does having Wi-Fi in the air, at the hotel and just about everywhere else make you a more productive businessperson, but less of a human being?
Let me know what you think! Please leave your comments below.